Author Topic: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.  (Read 7287 times)

Offline x4000

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What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« on: November 22, 2010, 11:32:58 PM »
The Spirecraft are soon going to become a pair of minor factions: one that is easy and one that is hard.  Actually, same for the golems.  Some of the weaker spirecraft, as well as most of the golems, will also get significantly beefed up.  Thus the easy minor faction will give the benefits with pretty much no penalties (except to adjusted score, heh), which is great for beginners or people who just want to play around with the golems/spirecraft; while the hard minor faction will beef up the AI in general -- not in response to anything the player does with golems/spirecraft -- so that all that extra firepower of the golems/spirecraft will become needed rather than overkill.

And then some of the negatives of golems and spirecraft (supply restrictions, non-repairability, etc) will be lifted.  They become more unmitigatedly-awesome in both cases, but only available in scenarios that are way harder to begin with, if that makes sense.

It solves the impossible problem of trying to merge superweapons into the base game without making cheap tit-for-tat relationships where the AI gets beefed every time you use the superweapon (thus no longer kind of negating the point of it and creating a disincentive to ever want it). 

Basically, the normal game is balanced without golems or spirecraft, so throwing them into the normal game simply doesn't work without making them some form of lame.  The solution finally hit me today to just make them solely part of alternate scenarios where the AI is an absolute terror and you need those superweapons to be balanced against the AI in the first place.  Then they can truly be superweapons like people want, and it becomes fun and interesting new scenarios for players.
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Offline Vinraith

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2010, 11:37:37 PM »
That sounds like a great solution to the fundamental balance problem, and I suspect the "harder" factions for each will be a blast.  ;D

Offline x4000

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2010, 11:40:50 PM »
Thanks!  I'm looking forward to it, too. :)
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Offline wyvern83

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2010, 12:08:46 AM »
A very elegant solution, one with a lot of potential. I never would have imagined the minor faction mechanic could have been used that way.

I much appreciate the easy/hard pair concept, I look forward to trying both of them.

Offline Invelios

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2010, 12:48:30 AM »
This is a very interesting way of solving the problem, and I think it has a lot of potential. I'm glad you are including an "easy" option for players who just wanna mess around with them. Working on my first semester of college, I don't have that much time to dedicate to AI War, and therefore haven't really improved much in the game. I would have been upset if Golems and Spirecraft where only available to you if the AI was beefed up, because it would take a long time for me to get to the level where I could handle a strong AI. Having an easy and hard option is a great solution that can satisfy the new players as well as the vets who are much better at the game and like a challenge. I hope this turns out well.  ;)

Offline lovekawakawaii

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 01:06:05 AM »
Fantastic idea. What a great resolution. Can't wait to see the AI's true strength with double tap spirecraft golem difficulty 10
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Offline quickstix

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2010, 01:11:46 AM »
Great idea. A very simple solution that would appear to address many of the long running discussions on the effectiveness of Golems (and now the Spirecraft). The Golems have had a long case of being really neat, but not needed and too expensive to win the game in my strategically conservative fashion.

Offline Wingflier

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2010, 02:43:28 AM »
Though I understand your solution, and agree that it is definitely the easiest way to solve the problem, I'm also a little disappointed with it.

It seems as though your reasoning for changing the way they were in the first place, is that most of your AI War players were "too strategically conservative", and were therefore never using the golems, in an effort to take the path of least resistance towards victory.  I also almost feel that you were worried too much about what your players were or were not doing when you made this change.  Sure, a lot of people complained that taking a golem was "just not worth it", but what difficulty were they playing on?  When you have so much leeway and room for error while playing against the AI on the lower difficulties, of course people are going to have the option to be "strategically conservative".  In fact, I hear it's a very common thing to be able to beat the expansions with no triangle ships at all on lower difficulties, does this mean you should leave this as a strategical norm and make a new mode where you HAVE to use fleet ships to win?  Of course not, you feel as though fleet ships should be an integral part of the game, so you therefore nerfed the Starships, tweaked the Guardians, and are now in the process of buffing the fleet ships.  

This change is basically showing me that you don't want golems to be an integral part of the game, because you are not changing the game to make them an option, you are simply adding modes which either FORCES the player to get them, or gives them the option to at their leisure (without any consequence).

This probably goes without saying, but for most balance changes, shouldn't the changes be geared towards the game at the highest difficulties?  When the player isn't being forced to use every resource at their disposal, and execute every strategical advantage they have over the AI, there will be a massive amount of room for error and "conservative play".  What you call being "strategically conservative", I call not being challenged enough.  Of course AI War gives players the option to make the game as easy as possible or necessary, but if using a lower difficulty, should these players really be complaining when they are allowed to be "strategically conservative"?  The fact of the matter is, there will always be a "threshold" of game difficulty that allows players to be as conservative as they want (more conservative as it gets lower).  Attempting to balance game mechanics around this phenomenon is a recipe for disaster.

I don't make this post to criticize, I make it as a result of experience.  I've played a lot of different games in my time, that have been balanced in a lot of different ways.  The casual and "competitive" crowd are both important (equally important actually), but the difference between the two crowds is that you can not balance the game around the casual crowd, because they are not playing the game to its fullest extent.  Do you see what I mean?  In Chess, most new or inexperienced players (from my experience) don't use the "castle mechanic" (switching your King with your Rook).  This is either because they don't know about it, or they are to inexperienced to see its strategic value in the game.  Should the "castle" be changed to where you can switch your King with any piece on the first row as an incentive for more players to use it?  Of course not, that's ridiculous.  The game is not meant to be played on a level where "castling" is not an important strategic option, and therefore the game will not change in order to placate bad play.

In my opinion, all golems really needed to become a very important choice on the higher difficulties (once again I will reiterate that there are a lot of important things you can get away without on the lower difficulties), was a significant increase in AI Progress upon capturing them.  The most important thing to consider would be how much the AI Progress would need to be raised to give players a marginal advantage (on the harder difficulties), while still putting them way behind if they ended up losing the golem.  This is a TOUGH CHOICE for the player.  It increases the depth and strategical value of the game.  Do I take the golem and get significantly ahead?  Or do I avoid the risk that I might lose it and become way behind?

I urge you to please make another mode that does not change the AI "difficulty" as it were for having them in the game, but that simply increases the AIP by a certain amount when you use/capture them.  This is the mode that actually gives players a choice, instead of forcing them to capture golems or lose, or not really making a difference whether they decide to or not (to be clear, these are not choices, they are simply alternative game modes).

Please note that I am not trying to criticize, I only care about the direction that the game is headed, and I have now seen a developer decision that I believe has removed a ton of depth from the game in an effort to balance it for lower level play (which can't be balanced).
« Last Edit: November 23, 2010, 02:53:40 AM by Wingflier »
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Offline Lancefighter

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2010, 02:51:18 AM »
I agree with the direction this is going.. its not a removal of choice so much, it is just the creating of some choices before the game even starts. In addition to your bonus ship and general starting position, you now will choose if you will need to use golems/spirecraft or not.

Its not that dissimilar to the way one plays a game of civ 5 nowadays - if you didn't plan your entire game around which victory you were going for, including civilization and everything, and stay that course from turn 1, your just making things difficult on yourself.
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Offline Wingflier

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2010, 02:57:25 AM »
Quote
I agree with the direction this is going.. its not a removal of choice so much, it is just the creating of some choices before the game even starts. In addition to your bonus ship and general starting position, you now will choose if you will need to use golems/spirecraft or not.
Actually I disagree with you there.

The two new game modes do not "add choices", they simply give different choices than before.  

The first option, which makes the game marginally harder then adds golems, isn't really giving you a choice, because it doesn't matter whether you take the golems or not to win, it's just a leisurely option the players are given.  Technically there is a "choice" there, but it has no relevance on whether the game is won or lost, and is therefore about as important as whether you play with music on or off.

The second option, which makes the game extremely hard then adds golems that you have to take (or lose), is FORCING the player to take golems, and is therefore removing choices from the game.

So I guess you could say they "add choices", but the choices are very superficial, or not there at all.  They certainly don't add to the strategic and tactical depth of the game the way golems were originally intended to do.
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Offline Kemeno

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2010, 05:25:10 AM »
Wingflier, you make some good points, but I think there is almost no way to make golems having an AIP cost work in a way that will make golems worth taking, and I think this was proven in the months following the release of the Zenith Remnant when golems were very expensive (AIP-wise) superweapons.

The problem is rooted in how deeply AIP is tied into knowledge and wave size. Every 20 AIP is a planet I just gave up. A planet gives me (at least) two things. It gives me a tactical or economic benefit on the map (perhaps it is a choke point, or perhaps it is a lightly defended system that I can put an economic station on), but perhaps more importantly it gives me 3000 knowledge to spend on *renewable* ships. One planet by itself is enough for me to unlock an mkII ship design, and 2 will get me an mkIII fleet ship.

AIP also ties into how strong the waves the AI is sending against me are, and in turn what portion of my standing fleet I need to commit to defense.

I see it like this (slightly oversimplified):
AIP -> Knowledge -> Replenishable Ships

Looking at the game from this perspective, I think that balancing the golem with an AIP cost is more or less impossible. The problem is this: Why would I take a super weapon that will make the game unbeatable if I lose it instead of taking x planets and getting a replenishable supply of warships, if the game is beatable either way? One way seems to make the cost of a tactical error far too high, almost irrespective of the AIP cost (which, by the way, is pretty much always going to be > 0, since I need to capture/secure the golem system in the first place).

The new system won't completely remove the cost of taking a golem; I'd still be paying 20 AIP to take a planet that probably isn't favorable strategically or tactically (but at least I'd get something out of it). I am going to have to defend the system while I'm trying to bring the thing online, and there will probably be a wave multiplier while I do it, unless I destroy the warp gates surrounding the golem system, which comes with even more AIP cost. I'm going to be hurting if I lose it (but hopefully? won't be in danger of just losing the game outright). So, I think this system for dealing with golems is a perfectly acceptable one, and I would argue the same for spirecraft.

Does the new mode "add choices"? We don't know yet. The easy minor faction seems like it's sort of a sandbox-type mode anyways, and isn't going to be all that balanced. As for the harder mode, it depends on how many golems are seeded and how much tougher the AI is - if there are a several or more of them throughout the galaxy, then picking the ones to add to your fleet is certainly going to be an interesting decision (even if it's different than the decision you're suggesting). With spirecraft, I think it certainly adds interesting choices, since you're going to have to pick and choose what systems have the right rocks to make the spirecraft out of - and you need to balance this against all the other factors that you normally consider when you're taking a planet.

Offline Wingflier

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2010, 05:44:10 AM »
Quote
Looking at the game from this perspective, I think that balancing the golem with an AIP cost is more or less impossible. The problem is this: Why would I take a super weapon that will make the game unbeatable if I lose it instead of taking x planets and getting a replenishable supply of warships, if the game is beatable either way?
First of all, I didn't say "unbeatable", I just meant harder to win if you lose the golem.  However, there are ways to make the golem useful in a way that (outside of being a powerful force on its own), would make players think twice about taking it.  What if, for example, golems could carry 500 units a piece, and didn't take extra damage by going through "unsupplied" wormholes?  Suddenly you have, because OF the golem, a very practical way of actually being able to SKIP taking out planets, and therefore saving yourself some AIP and the pain of losing a ton of fleet ships and time because of the golem.  Suddenly, the golem is an awesome way to actually SAVE yourself from losing forces and AIP in the process, and may even pay for itself in the long run!  Even better, what if golems gave AI planets, supply?  Suddenly, you could actually build mobile forces, production stations, shields, and defenses, on any planet of your choosing, even without having supply!  These are the kinds of simple outside-of-the-box ideas that you need to make golems viable.  The couple ideas I came up with (I think) are very good because they give the golems some very unique abilities, while putting them at great risk in order to take advantage of them (creating the dichotomy of choice for the player).

As far as AI Progress, I agree with you that there is no easy way to determine how "valuable" a golem is vs. how much the player should "gain" if they take one.  That's where trial and error comes in.  Over time, the developer could make it so that, in higher difficulties, the golem was extremely useful for the player, while punishing them significantly, but not nearly as significantly as they were being benefitted by having them.  The mistake I saw was that the developer tried to do this, but was asking people how useful the golems were on LOWER difficulties.  Why are you asking people that can use practically any combination of ships to win the game, whether the golem is necessary or not?  On those difficulties, you could probably take 0 golems or 5 golems and the outcome would be the same.  So of course in that setting, where your strategical options aren't being tested by any reasonable amount, golems are just an unnecessary risk.

Another problem I have with this change is game coherency.  Why WOULDN'T the AI get upset when you activated one of the golems or spirecraft?  It's obviously extremely powerful technology that they are choosing to not even mess with, so I think it's a bit far fetched at very least least to assume their attention with you wouldn't grow dramatically when you start toying with that.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2010, 08:51:38 AM by Wingflier »
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Offline zebramatt

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2010, 06:14:55 AM »
I always thought Golems might be improved by the removal of the reinforcement and wave boosting penalties and introduction of a Rebelling Human Colony -type mechanic: at semi-random intervals you would received a warning informing you that the AI had begun repairing a Golem, which would be complete in, say, three hours - if you didn't get there first. As the clock ticked down the AI could receive an ever increasing boost to reinforcements at that planet, making it increasingly difficult to seize off the AI. With sufficient health and firepower boosts for the Golems, having the AI use them against you could've been a hell of a big deal.

That said, this way sounds good too!  ;D

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2010, 09:10:40 AM »
Wow, this sounds great :)

Sounds a bit like how I balance the Spire capital ships in the Fallen-Spire minor faction: brutal overwhelming AI attacks ;D

Hopefully we'll have learned enough from my experience with that to avoid demoralizing the players too much ;)
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Offline wyvern83

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Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2010, 09:30:46 AM »
Sure, a lot of people complained that taking a golem was "just not worth it", but what difficulty were they playing on?  When you have so much leeway and room for error while playing against the AI on the lower difficulties, of course people are going to have the option to be "strategically conservative". 
Actually, the people I remember talking about the finer points of Golem game balance the most were not people playing on lower difficulties but the opposite. Many of our more active posters play in the 7-8.3 range consistently as far as I can tell from what people are posting. (excluding myself, I prefer level 6 on average.)

The casual and "competitive" crowd are both important (equally important actually), but the difference between the two crowds is that you can not balance the game around the casual crowd, because they are not playing the game to its fullest extent. 

Your statement that some of us are "not playing the game to is fullest extent" glosses over the fact that that is not the same as "not playing the game to the player's fullest extent." Not all of us are created equal, nor do all of us find the same challenge level, per their own ability level, to be fun.

Please note that I am not trying to criticize, I only care about the direction that the game is headed, and I have now seen a developer decision that I believe has removed a ton of depth from the game in an effort to balance it for lower level play (which can't be balanced).
By making alternative scenarios available x4000 can balance the game any which he wants to meet a wide variety of skill and preference.   

I also care, and I respect that you care, but I think this is the right way to go. Having said that, I think your idea for an 'old school' option is a good one for people such as yourself who would prefer it.