Author Topic: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?  (Read 3519 times)

Offline x4000

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Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« on: July 05, 2013, 09:14:30 AM »
Original source: http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=11926


From Vehementi:

Bandits love money, so make them appear more often if the world is richer!

It's easy to get a massive economy going and ensure that bandits will never again be a threat even on hardest settings. The game then becomes trivial as you put all the monster caves and bandit camps on farm status.

Make it like AI war where the more successful you are (in this case, economically - number of total towns in the game or perhaps # of resources produced etc.) the harder it gets.


From me:

I think that this is something that needs discussion on the forum, as this is no slight change.

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With AI War this makes a lot of sense (the AIP) because a lot of it is a grand strategy game. So you are very deliberately capturing planets and territory, and most of the AIP increases come from there.

But Skyward would be more like AI War on a single planet, or like a traditional RTS, in terms of the flow of the overall game and economy. In those sorts of circumstances, I feel like that's rubber-band AI. If AI War penalized you for how many resources you gathered, or how many ships you built, that would be super frustrating.

Instead you have free reign for that sort of thing, but then have to deal with retaliations from territory expansions. That makes a lot of intuitive sense to most people, whereas people get super frustrated at Mario Kart (rubber band AI).

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All of the above said, balancing a game that is essentially solitaire needs to have some pushback for certain activities. Trying to achieve a "perfect" balance for a game like this, where there's no pushback, means that for many people it will either be impossibly hard or far too easy, with no middle ground. So that's no good either.

Skyward already has a number of systems of pushback, and I'm curious why these are not really working for you (although from your post I have some idea, more on that below):

- Score: To get score, you have to have guys -- and particularly _buildings_ -- die. You also have to use a fair plenty of god token or mythological token uses.

Question: if the score is not causing pushback, is this because:
a. You're playing on a low score gate?
b. You're getting runaway score from the other imbalance?
c. The score gates are simply too low under the hugely revised rules, and need to be increased in general?

Comment: This game still needs to be balanced even when people are playing without a score gate, so this is only somewhat relevant. But a lot of the most interesting challenge can come from the score gates I think.

- Self-Flagellation: To get score in particular, but also just to achieve a number of other things, you'll wind up shooting yourself in the foot a lot. This was a core premise behind the game, and actually turning off score gating really flies in the face of this quite a lot. Hmm.

Still, there are a lot of cases where something big and nasty gets on your leg and you have to take a shotgun to your leg rather than just brushing the thing off. Metaphorically speaking. ;) The bandits and the ally camps and so forth are intended to be in that group, but it sounds like they are not serving that function.

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Since this is all multivariate, it's hard to know what all factors are contributing to what you are seeing. However, if you are farming ally camps and bandit keeps, I could see those as being problematic and causing the whole table to flip over, so to speak. You mentioned the health of ally camps making them unlikely to ever die before, which I thought was interesting.

I think I will make a few changes based on this, which should help:

- Firstly, make the units from the ally camps into "fanatics" that will ignore the yellow bandits and be ignored by them. This way they only threaten the enemy towns, which is the point.

- Secondly, I think your idea of a ramp-up is a good one, but not in regards to the economy probably. On hard or expert difficulty (maybe on expert difficulty plus a new insane difficulty), having these get progressively stronger with each few turns they are on the map seems like a good idea.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2013, 09:22:03 AM »
Further thoughts:

In the past, Bluddy in particular was mentioning his desire to see more consequences for expansion in terms of number of towns.  The general response to him from other players and myself was that "having lots of towns is pretty much the game."  THAT said, with some of the more recent changes to allow for denser towns, plus the coming changes in the first expansion that will allow for larger towns, having some sort of mechanism in place there might be interesting.  The trouble is that I don't want to stomp all over the existing normal modes of gameplay, so it would probably have to come in the form of a bonus rather than a penalty.

Also I would point out that certain activities in the past were exploitable, like putting up lots of mountains or lakes to block enemies from your towns and then just farming the heck out of those farms.  We implemented bandits that could pass those barriers, and then bandits that could destroy those barriers so everyone could pass them.  This was a lot more popular than just removing the ability to place mountains and lakes, as well as more effective (since that sort of thing can happen anyway even without you placing them directly).  My goal with changes of this sort would be that sort of flavor: making a game out of the former-exploit, where you can still do it, but it's harder and comes with its own risks and rewards that are interesting and not exploity.  In other words, expanding the scope of what is valid to do in the game, rather than shaving off exploitable stuff and making the game smaller by extension of that.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2013, 09:26:04 AM »
Okay, already here I am with an idea that might please both Bluddy and Vehementi regarding numbers of towns:

- One thing that contributes to runaway success once you pass a certain threshold is the amount of resources that you can store up.  If you have 1000 of each resource, then you are pretty golden.  But if you have a resource cap where you can only store 100 of most stuff, then a smaller dip in your economy is more damaging.  Granted for things like diamond the cap would have to be much smaller to be meaningful.

- So, mechanically-speaking, an interesting idea would be to start with a fairly large resource cap when you have one town, and then steadily reduce that as you get more towns, and then sticking at one low value once you have around six standing towns for a single faction.

This could be kind of funky to explain in-game, though.  Among some other challenges.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2013, 09:29:34 AM »
Another idea that is perhaps better: have each town center consume a soul every turn.  Call them "offerings" or something.  If it would push your soul count below 0, it just sticks at 0 without any consequence.  But now you have no souls.

Thus if you want to have a lot of souls, and by extension be able to afford either the soul abilities or lots of mytho units, you either have to have LOTS of death, or you have to have few towns.

Thus if you had a massive amount of towns, you couldn't pursue a mytho-only strategy (or at least not easily).

That reminds me: I need to make it so that units from ally camps don't contribute souls to your cause, so that you can't just farm them.

Anyway, this strikes me as a potentially interesting idea.

Thoughts?
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Offline vehementi

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2013, 12:49:32 PM »
I was exaggerating a bit when I said things were on farm status - I'm not literally camping the things waiting for units to kill, but whenever a bandit fort pops up I casually drop a frost giant or minotaur on it.  In god stage it's more like drop lots of light elves and centaurs because of the increasingly deadly melee bandits, but it's the same idea.  Usually a unit can't kill a building in one turn so I just repair anything I don't want dead.  It makes it even easier that enemies can't shoot into my towns, so I could have 9 light elves chillin' in the town as a super turret without any possibility of something hitting them until they get through my outer buildings, which is hard because I can heal them.  So in the end, the bandits etc. are just free points and a great way to keep my mythos from wrecking the other faction.

Ironically I think playing on hard mode makes it easier to safely reach the score gates because you rely more on killing bandits than blowing up the other friendly faction.  I.e. more units in the game (the bandits) can die without it hurting a particular faction and causing imbalance.


The soul drain per city would be really weird.  If I lose 1 soul per turn for a city, that means I need 5 barracks per city outputing units, assuming they all die, just to break even (5 units created and destroyed so 5 souls generated, per 5 turns = 1 per turn).


You mention in a scary voice the dire situation of losing a building but really, a building is worth like a few wood.  Who cares?  The most annoying part is having to spend a few actions to build land tiles to the next town location.  Some math:  4 tiles + town center (30 stone) gives me 24 more tiles to play with.  So the cost of losing 1 building is the cost of rebuilding that building + (5 actions + 30 stone)/24 + 1 action.  I'll trade that for a soul to drop a frost giant on my enemy any day!

I agree that bandits scaling with success would suck but I think that just making it gradually harder doesn't solve the problem either.  If you ramp it up to be a fixed (e.g.) 3% more bandits per turn, but my economic capacity grows my ability to deal with bandits by 10% per turn, then we're back to square one with runaway success.

Caps will alleviate the problem but you can still get into the situation where you have so much resource production you just don't care.

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2013, 01:28:28 PM »
Thanks for remembering me Chris!  :D

Here are a few thoughts: First, it's probably not a good idea to give points for killing bandits. I was kinda surprised when I saw that change. I think something needs to be done about that because bandits should never be your only focus.

The second thought was triggered by the idea of towns consuming souls. What if towns consumed a whole bunch of different resources? Food, wood etc. The more towns, the more trade and the more people you have, and as a result, those pesky people tap into your resources and take them. This means that it's usually better to increase the production of one town rather than build another town to produce more of the same thing. Additionally, a town without soldier production could be considered 'fattened': the people are lazy and use up more resources (this is an incentive to produce human soldiers). A town with diamonds/incense becomes an upper class town, and again uses up more resources. Finally, a town that sees no battles for X turns also starts consuming more resources. As a god, you want to have enough towns and people for what you require, but you don't want your people getting too comfy (or plentiful) either.

Offline nas1m

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2013, 01:44:29 PM »
Okay, already here I am with an idea that might please both Bluddy and Vehementi regarding numbers of towns:

- One thing that contributes to runaway success once you pass a certain threshold is the amount of resources that you can store up.  If you have 1000 of each resource, then you are pretty golden.  But if you have a resource cap where you can only store 100 of most stuff, then a smaller dip in your economy is more damaging.  Granted for things like diamond the cap would have to be much smaller to be meaningful.

- So, mechanically-speaking, an interesting idea would be to start with a fairly large resource cap when you have one town, and then steadily reduce that as you get more towns, and then sticking at one low value once you have around six standing towns for a single faction.

This could be kind of funky to explain in-game, though.  Among some other challenges.
I would go for the first part, but omit the second one here.
Simply lowering the maximum amount of resources that can be stored will mitigate this issue a lot imho (see AI War).
I would simply go for lowering the amount of resources that can be stored across the board.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 01:52:47 PM by nas1m »
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Offline nas1m

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2013, 01:52:04 PM »
Another idea that is perhaps better: have each town center consume a soul every turn.  Call them "offerings" or something.  If it would push your soul count below 0, it just sticks at 0 without any consequence.  But now you have no souls.

Thus if you want to have a lot of souls, and by extension be able to afford either the soul abilities or lots of mytho units, you either have to have LOTS of death, or you have to have few towns.

Thus if you had a massive amount of towns, you couldn't pursue a mytho-only strategy (or at least not easily).

That reminds me: I need to make it so that units from ally camps don't contribute souls to your cause, so that you can't just farm them.

Anyway, this strikes me as a potentially interesting idea.

Thoughts?
I like the idea of towns consuming resources, but I agree with Bluddy and vehementi that having them  consume souls feels slightly - weird and counter intuitive.

I really like the idea of corruption in towns increasing the amount of resources consumed. Maybe apply this only to the most remote towns (e.g. by automatically making one town the capital of a given faction and calculating distance from your central hub of power?) to reign in excessive expansion but only start this if a given number of towns is exceeded? Bigger empires have their toll you know ;)...

EDIT: Add I am against Bandit deaths not giving points ;D,
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 01:57:52 PM by nas1m »
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Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2013, 02:19:39 PM »
1. No rubberbanding. I played a game without rubberbanding, and compared it subconsciously to Mario Kart (a game with what is most assuredly some really hardcore rubberbanding) and I realized that the former game was actually far more fun and your input actually made a difference. A bit of pushback is okay, but if you are runaway successful then you SHOULD keep that huge lead unless you screw it up or something really bad happens. It is immensely unfun to just have that artificially taken away from you.

2. I kind of dig the idea of a 'soul upkeep' or maybe even a just plain resource upkeep, for more commonly used resources. Souls makes a lot more sense gameplaywise, but only really if you can make it make sense in the world. You could also have resource storage limits, but I would suggest that you allow players to expand that limit by building very fragile warehouse structures... So, say, you can store up to 50-100 or so of every resource per town center, and an additional +20 or so for each warehouse. The problem here, is warehouses are probably worth very few points, no souls, and have next to no health. You put a part of your town incredibly at risk by doing this, so you have the possibility of running away wildly successful with the potential of it all going horribly wrong very easily. It also secures a more strong position in terms of survival, but weakens your score position. Pretty nifty.

3. I think bandits should give points, and the reason I think this is strictly because they are living things that you fight, and kill, and causing chaos gets you points. If score requirements need to go up more as a result of bandits giving points, then let it be done. The thing is, I think it's important for mechanics to not feel completely arbitrary. If bandits are strictly there to get in your way and prevent you from actually getting at the side that does give points towards causing chaos (and yet, killing bandits somehow doesn't cause chaos?) then it'll likely cause more frustration and confusion among some new players for no real sensible reason.
It's kind of the idea of Trojan Nodes in AI War. In addition to being a savescum thing, all they really did was somehow 'delete' your resources. There wasn't any sense or reason behind it. The mechanic was weak, arbitrary, and the game flow was better and smoother as a result of that being removed. I get that the idea was risk/reward, but I personally never understood how we could just 'lose track' of 300k m/c.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2013, 02:21:18 PM by LaughingThesaurus »

Offline nas1m

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2013, 03:37:04 PM »
2. I kind of dig the idea of a 'soul upkeep' or maybe even a just plain resource upkeep, for more commonly used resources. Souls makes a lot more sense gameplaywise, but only really if you can make it make sense in the world. You could also have resource storage limits, but I would suggest that you allow players to expand that limit by building very fragile warehouse structures... So, say, you can store up to 50-100 or so of every resource per town center, and an additional +20 or so for each warehouse. The problem here, is warehouses are probably worth very few points, no souls, and have next to no health. You put a part of your town incredibly at risk by doing this, so you have the possibility of running away wildly successful with the potential of it all going horribly wrong very easily. It also secures a more strong position in terms of survival, but weakens your score position. Pretty nifty.
I like this idea!

3. I think bandits should give points, and the reason I think this is strictly because they are living things that you fight, and kill, and causing chaos gets you points. If score requirements need to go up more as a result of bandits giving points, then let it be done. The thing is, I think it's important for mechanics to not feel completely arbitrary. If bandits are strictly there to get in your way and prevent you from actually getting at the side that does give points towards causing chaos (and yet, killing bandits somehow doesn't cause chaos?) then it'll likely cause more frustration and confusion among some new players for no real sensible reason.

I could (and have) not put my standpoint concerning this matter into words better than that.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2013, 04:21:06 PM »
Okay, already here I am with an idea that might please both Bluddy and Vehementi regarding numbers of towns:

- One thing that contributes to runaway success once you pass a certain threshold is the amount of resources that you can store up.  If you have 1000 of each resource, then you are pretty golden.  But if you have a resource cap where you can only store 100 of most stuff, then a smaller dip in your economy is more damaging.  Granted for things like diamond the cap would have to be much smaller to be meaningful.

- So, mechanically-speaking, an interesting idea would be to start with a fairly large resource cap when you have one town, and then steadily reduce that as you get more towns, and then sticking at one low value once you have around six standing towns for a single faction.

This could be kind of funky to explain in-game, though.  Among some other challenges.



Rather than me throwing another idea in the pot, a push for consensus is probably better, it lowers the ideas to the one essential one that most or all of us can live with and achieves what its supposed to... to that end i would say, that i prefer having a resource cost rather than a soul cost. and instead of having a cap, perhaps having the towns 'use up' more resources, like a cost of running the town, so that larger towns cost more to run and having more towns increases the costs of running all of them achieves what the cap was intended for, which is to make resources scarcer as the game gets farther along and the player advances into the higher ages. Anyway, this is my suggestion and i cast my vote for resource costs making a difference in trying to curb the runaway resources available.

p.s.  LaughingThesaurus mentioned having a mechanism where lots of resources are still available, but at an increased risk, sounds like a very workable idea as well.

-Teal


Offline Pepisolo

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2013, 04:58:51 PM »
Quote
You could also have resource storage limits, but I would suggest that you allow players to expand that limit by building very fragile warehouse structures... So, say, you can store up to 50-100 or so of every resource per town center, and an additional +20 or so for each warehouse. The problem here, is warehouses are probably worth very few points, no souls, and have next to no health. You put a part of your town incredibly at risk by doing this, so you have the possibility of running away wildly successful with the potential of it all going horribly wrong very easily. It also secures a more strong position in terms of survival, but weakens your score position. Pretty nifty.

Seems like the most interesting solution to me. A resource cap, but with the ability to expand that cap by constructing warehouses. So, if you want to become a hoarder you have to at least prepare accordingly and try to keep those structures safe. If you lose the warehouse then you lose the excess resources.

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2013, 05:28:46 PM »
Not only that, but you lose those spots in your town as well to city ruins. ;)

I actually considered a high cost of city upkeep as an idea, but with regular resources... towns already make regular resources. As a result, you need resources to make a town, which costs resources over time even after it's built, but you need to spend resources to get more resources so that you can run that town. It either makes expansion really really hard, or it effectively reduces your income (which you can accomplish with an income reduction.

Offline Misery

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2013, 04:22:57 AM »
Ok, quick and likely misspelled post here as I'm at a con and posting via the iPad.

Definitely, something should be done about the ease of resource hoarding, not to mention that its still pretty easy to get towns that are "behind" the front line, where only the occasional bandit fort will ever threaten it; a threat that can quickly be extinguished with a myth unit or two.  Add this to the fact that its also easy to get into a situation where even your front line cities aren't getting attacked, and... Yeah.

One thing that occurs to me about this is the bandits themselves.  They are meant to be a threat, which makes sense, but often what they actually are is more of a stopper.  The game's basic concept at the heart of everything else is the idea of red VS blue, with you trying to keep both alive and both fighting as much as possible.   But when there's bandits around, it very often ends up being red & blue Vs bandits, with the red and blue armies not clashing very much as a result.   Which also means that buildings arent getting attacked very often, and thus resource generators are not being threatened, AND it also means that its easy to be in a situation where you can safely use your AP points for a few turns to expand, without having to worry too much about the front lines.  The numbers of human units also contribute to this.  The fewer there are, the less chance there is for things to go out of control. There's the soul system, but I still feel like there should be more incentive to produce human units.  That would increase the chaos quite a bit, if the player was encouraged to produce more units than are necessary to take down the bandits.

On top of that, bandits giving score also contribute to this.


Dunno what to suggest as a solution to this one, but the whole "too many resources" and related issues like easy "safe" towns have been a problem that I've hoped to see a solution to for awhile now.


And hopefully I'm making sense here.

Offline Pepisolo

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Re: Pushback against certain types of runaway success?
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2013, 08:51:58 AM »
Quote
Here are a few thoughts: First, it's probably not a good idea to give points for killing bandits. I was kinda surprised when I saw that change. I think something needs to be done about that because bandits should never be your only focus.

Actually, a simple change that might work here and satisfy both camps would be to award bandit deaths only half points. This is me currently assuming that the game doesn't already give less points for bandits as I can't fire the game up to check at the moment. This kind of makes sense too, it's still a death and a little chaos, but it's clear to the player that that the other side is the main focus and not the bandits, so you'd expect to get more points for killing a faction unit.

Other quick ideas.

Maybe have a bandit class of something like raider. These guys would make a direct bee-line for towns and actually reduce resources per hit. Kind of makes sense to me. Bandits are really interested in loot primarily over conflict. This should make bandits more of a direct threat when it comes to resources.

Another additional mechanic to this could be that the percentage of raider resource steal per hit is reduced by the presence of military buildings in the current town. So a town with two barracks and two archers would suffer a lower resource steal than a completely undefended resource only town. Not only does this promote the use of units it does it in a thematic way. If I were a raider and I saw that a town had lots of military buildings then my raids would be a lot more discreet versus a completely undefended town.

Actually that's it for now... 
« Last Edit: July 07, 2013, 09:14:34 AM by Pepisolo »