Arcen Games

General Category => AI War Classic => Topic started by: x4000 on November 22, 2010, 11:32:58 PM

Title: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Vinraith 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
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2010, 11:40:50 PM
Thanks!  I'm looking forward to it, too. :)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: wyvern83 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Invelios 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.  ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: lovekawakawaii 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
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: quickstix 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier 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).
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Lancefighter 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Kemeno 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: zebramatt 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
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: keith.lamothe 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 ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: wyvern83 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.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 09:36:02 AM
Thank you for the responses.  Another option for "drawbacks" that I think is often underutilized is energy cost. 

Was a massive energy cost (200,000 or more) ever presented as a solution to giving the golems a drawback?  The nice thing about energy costs is that they hurt your economy as long as they are "active", but only in a "temporary" way once the cause of the costs has been destroyed.

If Golems were merely given a large energy cost to use, as well as a small AIP gain upon activation (say +25 or so), it could be a good way to balance them without causing too much risk for the players, at least the kind of risk that can't be recovered from.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: superking on November 23, 2010, 09:42:06 AM
I wonder if golems might've worked better if they were non-repairable too
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Nemo on November 23, 2010, 09:44:07 AM
These are the kinds of simple outside-of-the-box ideas that you need to make golems viable.

Yes, they need to be fun but I'd rather not have them locked into the upper difficulty levels.

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.  

I disagree, not every one wants to get punished for using the cool things in a game. Wyvern's idea of an oldschool mode seems like a nice idea, if you liked how they used to be, but I think X's minor faction idea has this covered - just choose the harder one.

On those difficulties, you could probably take 0 golems or 5 golems and the outcome would be the same.

Saying that the outcome would be the same is an oversimplification, if 5 golems doesn't make a difference then they are worthless.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Ozymandiaz on November 23, 2010, 09:56:07 AM
That sounds like a great solution to the fundamental balance problem, and I suspect the "harder" factions for each will be a blast.  ;D

I concur!
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 10:15:06 AM
Quote
I disagree, not every one wants to get punished for using the cool things in a game. Wyvern's idea of an oldschool mode seems like a nice idea, if you liked how they used to be, but I think X's minor faction idea has this covered - just choose the harder one.
I don't like the idea of either being forced to use golems or not being allowed to use them at all.  This isn't a choice, this is an ultimatum.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Arcain_One on November 23, 2010, 11:20:31 AM
Heres some of my ideas:
-Bordering an AI planet with a broken golem increases AI waves to your planet by a small multiplier (+0.2 or about)
-The AI reinforces more on a planet with a broken golem
-Destroying the AI planet with a broken golem removes the additional wave multiplier, capturing the planet (and thus the golem) will yeald an additional 20 to AI progress
-Activating a golem increased AI progress again by 100
-Getting your golem killed or destroyed decreases AI progress by 100

My idea is that the AI knows about the broken golem but cant figure out how to activate it at this time. They also know that it would be devastating in the hands of the humans, thus needing to prevent the humans from gaining the golem. The AI will be threatened very much while the humans use a golem but if the golem is destroyed the AI can relax, hence the increase and decrease of AI progress. But since the AI has seen that humans can use this technology the AI is that much more cautious, via the 20 to AI progress upon capture.

I dislike the supply mechanic. This is Zenith tech, not AI tech, it should not be determined by what the AI has nor what it is doing. This is more valid by the fact that our inner planets are more vulnerable now by counter attack post and using your golem to defend it with should be a viable and practical option.

I also dislike the reinforcement and multiplying waves part, but those make sense. The AI will want to destroy the golem as soon as possible. I just hope it will be toned down.

Another point: how strong should they be? Obviously they should start off by off setting the penalties of using them but if it is 1:1, only being exactly as strong as to equalize the penalties, why would the player use them? Equal penalties will make them only useful in diversion or other high strategies, other wise they will be just for show. I think they need to out weigh the penalties so the player would want to use them but not out weigh so much that it is over powered.

If using golems should be a minor faction then why not let the AI have a few golems on their planets as well? I'm thinking about 1 golem to about 20 planets, that would make a maximum of 6 golems to a maximum 120 planet map. Even better, it should be based upon AI difficulty (very much like the other factions).

Spire should get a similar treatment as Zenith. They seem to be just as powerful. The only issue I have with them is that you can not repair them. Being conservative this will  encourage me to hoard my spire craft and not use them unless I have an emergency. I would rather have a ridiculously high repair cost (and/or ridiculously long repair time). Otherwise they only seem to shine if they are in a suicide fleet. Perhaps they should also not operate under a certain health.

And for a different method instead of using a wave multiplier you could also see my other suggestion: http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=1374 (http://www.arcengames.com/mantisbt/view.php?id=1374)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 11:52:58 AM
Thanks for the thoughts, guys -- while I understand some prefer to have them always be in the game, I'm simply not going to be going that route.  I've been down that road too many times before, and it's simply untenable.  Here's the core key fact:

The golems and the spirecraft are not a core part of the game.  As in, you have to buy an expansion to get either one of them. 

That means that to have it balanced with the golems/spirecraft in the core game in a balanced fashion means one of the following:
A. They have to be some form of self-balancing lame, as in the past, or
B. There has to be some sort of analogue powerful ships in the base game without any expansions, which devalues them, or
C. The expansions have to ramp up the difficulty simply by being enabled, in order to account for the golems' presence.


Suffice it to say, I was one of the players who did not use golems in regular play, and the few times I did even recently were kind of disappointing (an armored golem died waaay too fast, etc).  I've been chasing this for almost a year now, and I've simply had enough with that. 

The minor faction idea isn't just the "simplest idea" for how to solve the problem, I'm pretty convinced it's the only solution. Introducing various penalties and negatives and such are extremely hard to balance, and they tend to just make players not use them at all.

And for those complaining about higher difficulties: you're not losing anything here, you're gaining.  Read my post again, I talked about two minor factions for each.  One that makes the scenario harder, the other which just gives you beefed-up golems without that.

At any rate, I'm not really considering alternate suggestions for ways to make them implicitly balanced with themselves, as I've just been chasing that far too long and I'm convinced there's not a good way to do it.  We've had hundreds of people making suggestions, and I've tried half a dozen or a dozen broadly different approaches, and nothing satisfactory has come of that in a year's time.  That's when it's time to punt. ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 11:57:30 AM
Thank you for your consideration x4000 :D  You've taken us this far, I trust your decision.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 12:01:09 PM
Thank you for your consideration x4000 :D  You've taken us this far, I trust your decision.

My pleasure, and thanks for the trust.  By the way:

If Golems were merely given a large energy cost to use, as well as a small AIP gain upon activation (say +25 or so), it could be a good way to balance them without causing too much risk for the players, at least the kind of risk that can't be recovered from.

That's pretty close to my original implementation for them.  It was about 400k or 600k energy for most of them, and the AIP ranged from +10 to +50, I think, but people absolutely balked.  Actually, right at the start they also had an AIP penalty on death, but then later I took that out and it was just the activation one.  People didn't like that, either.

Golems have been all over the place in the last year, which is why I made the decision I did...
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 12:12:07 PM
Like I said I trust you.  It frustrates me that players disliked the energy cost and small AIP boost implementation, because that seems like a fair trade for a gigantic and powerful superweapon, without causing you to lose too much if you end up losing the golem (and in some situations, you might WANT to lose it to get rid of the energy cost once it's served its purpose).

Still the majority isn't always right, and I wish you would add another mode that simply gave golems an energy cost and small AIP boost (on capture, not on death) as before, but once again I respect your decision either way, and if anybody knows what's best for the game, it's you.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 12:20:11 PM
Well, there are a lot of things we might could do, but there are also time constraints at the moment.  If some people are just absolutely unhappy with the new options when they are out, then perhaps a third minor faction with more the design you suggest might be added.  But the problem isn't that the majority didn't like it, it's that I can't think of a single person, ever, saying that they used the golems in practice during real games.  I know I didn't.  That might sound like exaggeration, but it's literally true. 

Everyone knows I'm not one to just kowtow to the majority, but when things are unanimous or nearly so, I figure it's worth a look.  The main problem with the energy/AIP approach is that it's such a detour.  To get that much energy spare requires taking a bunch of extra worlds, and by the time you've done that your AIP is even higher.  And that's time the AI was retrenching, too.  By the time you actually are able to use the golem, you could probably have just killed the AI, was the feeling.  It felt like a long detour just taking you back to where you already were, in essence.

Granted, that was also with the reinforcement/wave boosts in there, but the power of the golems was previously such that that was more for the effect of the massive battles than actually as a true nerf (it was a nerf, but not as much of one as it was in recent versions).  It's complicated.

The other nice thing about having these as minor factions is that they can afford to be a bit too awesome without it having wrecked the entire core game.  Builds a bit of a firewall there, which I very much like.  I don't have to have quite the same stress about having wrecked the core game experience with the addition of a new feature that is always-on if players have X expansion, in other words.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: SRombauts on November 23, 2010, 01:23:59 PM
As a new player, I have no great experience of what may be or may not be Golems, I only captured one yesterday...

I understand that permanent AIP cost may have been to costly to handle for most player, as it could have been for me. I prefer that a Golem enrage the AI or something like that, kind of temporary AIP cost only during the time you actually use Golem.

In the other hand, I am not really happy of having some "Golems for newbies", and I am not sure I will be able to handle a hard game before long :(
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 01:53:28 PM
Did you ever try putting the energy cost for taking a golem at 200,000 or less? Now obviously, that may be a little low, and you certainly don't want to be giving them away for free; but between that and the ai progress increase, I feel as though that would be a strong enough disincentive to prevent players from taking them willy nilly. From the way you explained it, the only energy constraints you had tried were between 400,000-600,000, and even I agree that's a little excessive.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 02:08:32 PM
Hmm.  I may need to go ahead and do three tiers of golems/spirecraft, given the comments here.  We'll have an easy, medium, and hard set of them to hopefully appease folks.  For the medium, the drawbacks would be things like energy costs, etc.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: CoyoteTheClever on November 23, 2010, 02:17:11 PM
So how is the AI going to be beefed up? Lets say I'm playing a game with both AI's at 7.0 difficulty. Will enabling the harder Golems or Spirecraft faction just boost this up to 8 or 9? Or will it change the difficulty in a different way?

I'd argue that if you are going to go with this route, you should make unique challenges presented by the AI when these options are available, or maybe even add in a third AI created by the two AI's upon discovering golems or spirecraft and wanting to have a means to deal with them.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 02:20:18 PM
It's not going to alter the core difficulty of the AI in any way.  But new kinds of waves and AI events will present themselves that will cause new challenges.  I haven't decided on all the exact specifics yet (usually that shakes out in implementation), but things like periodic attacks by roving opposing golems, etc, would certainly make an appearance.  Details to come soon, it will depend on what seems most fun and what I can code in a few hours; bear in mind that things like "a third AI faction" are like saying "just add a second knee in the left leg."  It could probably be done, but the risk of complications is high and it's of questionable value when you consider the purpose of the leg. ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: CoyoteTheClever on November 23, 2010, 02:46:02 PM
 :D Fair enough, admittedly when you explain it like that, the third AI idea sounds kind of silly, though I meant it to be like a kind of minor AI that specialized in means to deal with Golems and or Spirecraft. I like the idea of special waves and new events though, and really, that serves the same purpose my third AI idea would have but is obviously more elegant a solution, this is definitely a great way to make enabling golems and spirecraft feel like the game changer they should be. Can't wait!
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 02:48:13 PM
Awesome!
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: superking on November 23, 2010, 02:48:42 PM
how will golems work with people who only have the zenith remenant? dosnt affect me, I'm just wondering
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 02:50:07 PM
Well, the golem stuff is all only related to TZR, and the spirecraft stuff is only related to LotS.  If you have only one or the other, you'll see only the stuff related to whichever one you have.  If you have both, it will be more of a mix (if you enable both minor factions at once).  It's all compartmentalized.

So, really what this means is that our expansion from January is about to get some new features. ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: snrub_guy on November 23, 2010, 02:52:15 PM
Sounds fun, and I love the ideas of extra events and stuff. A Golem showing up in a wave occasionally sounds Fun.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Oralordos on November 23, 2010, 03:15:58 PM
I have to say that it sounds like you came up with a very good answer to the problem. Letting the player choose which of the three he wants is definitely a good idea. The Golomite AI will be getting harder soon I'll bet though.
Sounds fun, and I love the ideas of extra events and stuff. A Golem showing up in a wave occasionally sounds Fun.
Yes that definitely sounds DF Fun.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: keith.lamothe on November 23, 2010, 03:18:20 PM
Yes that definitely sounds DF Fun.
No, that's when the AI storms you with massive Elephant Golem waves while you try to finish your Orbital Magma Cannon.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Nemo on November 23, 2010, 03:25:14 PM
Yes that definitely sounds DF Fun.
No, that's when the AI storms you with massive Elephant Golem waves while you try to finish your Orbital Magma Cannon.

I actually build those things now, lol, though the unit cap of 2 seems awfully small now that starships, guardians, AND golems will all arrive in some of these Spire event waves.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: LintMan on November 23, 2010, 04:06:34 PM
So, if I understand what's being proposed:

The players can pick one of two Minor factions:

- "Easy" minor faction: Normal AI, score penalty, but most of the restrictions/penalties for using golems/spirecraft are removed.

- "Hard" minor faction: Beefed-up AI, no score penalty, "some" of the golem/spirecraft restrictions/penalties are removed.

So the next effect being that most of the previous restrictions/penalties will go away, with the choice then of a score penalty or a beefed up AI?  This sounds great to me; both factions are appealing.  Two thumbs up.

As for a "Medium" or "oldschool" option, which would presumably bring the old restrictions back, with the normal AI and no score penalty: Meh.  I can't see myself ever using that one.   It seems to me that this option would result in the same balance debates you have now in addition to new balance debates over the Hard faction.

Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 04:13:13 PM
LintMan, that summarizes it up well.  As for the middle tier, that's mostly just for those few players who were already happy with the idea of the way the ships worked at some point in the past (well, with restrictions in general, if not the current ones).  There aren't many of them, but rather than antagonizing them it's easier just to add a third minor faction that only they would use.  That one might also come with a minor score penalty, too, as it is likely to be a bit in the player's favor (just not so much so as the easier one).
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 23, 2010, 05:57:48 PM
X, I just want to thank you so much for your consideration. It's not often that a developer will go out of his way to appease only a small portion of his player base. I am truly baffled, thank you so much.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 23, 2010, 11:12:21 PM
It's my pleasure. :)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: unclean on November 24, 2010, 06:16:53 AM
I'm beating a dead horse here, but did you ever try angling Golems as short term but ultimately unfeasible superweapons? For example, making them fairly beastly but saddled with a decently high global wave multiplier and a very long repair time so that there'd really only be a short window of opportunity for them to wreak havoc?
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Ozymandiaz on November 24, 2010, 08:10:27 AM
how will golems work with people who only have the zenith remenant? dosnt affect me, I'm just wondering

Perhaps wrong of me, but I auto-get any new installement to AI war and tend to think of it all as one game ;)
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: x4000 on November 24, 2010, 09:20:10 AM
I'm beating a dead horse here, but did you ever try angling Golems as short term but ultimately unfeasible superweapons? For example, making them fairly beastly but saddled with a decently high global wave multiplier and a very long repair time so that there'd really only be a short window of opportunity for them to wreak havoc?

Not that specifically, but I can't see players really being overly enthused.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 24, 2010, 10:12:50 AM
I'm beating a dead horse here, but did you ever try angling Golems as short term but ultimately unfeasible superweapons? For example, making them fairly beastly but saddled with a decently high global wave multiplier and a very long repair time so that there'd really only be a short window of opportunity for them to wreak havoc?

Not that specifically, but I can't see players really being overly enthused.
Not really, I've never been a big fan of "great power temporarily".  The biggest reason I stopped playing Bioshock was because the developers actually let you take over the "big daddy" units (giant mech like robots that kicked ass), but only for about a minute, and only in rare cases.  It was actually more heartbreaking to have such a powerful ally temporarily and then have him turn against you again, than it would have been to just never have the ability to "convert" him to your side at all.  It's probably the reason I stopped playing that game.

I was also a big fan of Supreme Commander 1 and 2 (as well as Total Annihilation, the developer's original RTS game) and I can't imagine how much it would ruin the games if your "experimentals" were short-lived units that were only meant to be used once.

Some other places I've seen the kind of "short lived power units" are Dungeon Siege (not very successful as RPGs go) and World of Warcraft with the Warlock Infernal and Doom Guard, which were eventually both made into simple player spells after enough people complained.

In general, though it may be a good balancing technique, it tends to be a very frustrating mechanic for players.

I'm interested to see if a moderate energy cost (~150,000-200,000) and a small AIP Boost would give players an incentive to take them without feeling they were way too much of a risk.  It being a new game mode and all, the pressure is a lot less on Chris to make the "perfect solution", and there's a lot more room for balance error since if people are unsatisfied with it, they can simply turn it off.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: RCIX on November 24, 2010, 03:02:58 PM
As a player, i really liked SC's experimentals, but as a game designer, I really hate them. It's impossible to give players a weapon of great power without it degenerating into a race to get that weapon, and if you make it not so great or more of a support unit (like SupCom2 did with it's experimentals) then the players whine about how it's not powerful enough :P
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 24, 2010, 04:02:54 PM
I actually think Experimentals in SupCom 2 were balanced pretty damn well.  You can call them a "support" unit, but in many cases, they were the main DPS force of an army, using smaller units as a "shield" to protect them from taking all the hits.  In this scenario, the smaller units were the "support" and the Experimentals were the main source of damage.  Megaliths were known for this purpose, especially in a 2v2+ situation where one person could rush them (I had a friend who could have 2 of them by 6 minutes and 30 seconds, which is nearly unstoppable if you aren't prepared for it).

In some situations they were weak, granted, but in some situations they were also extremely strong.  I definitely wouldn't just write them off as support 100% of the time, as many of them did more than enough damage to take out entire armies alone.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Kron on November 25, 2010, 01:40:20 AM
Hmmm... This is a really interesting discussion. I'm sorry I missed it.

Altogether, I find myself agreeing with Wingflier's initial points. Setting up the system so that you can enable Golems in game (which simultaneously enables tougher AI forces), doesn't really seem to fix the "economy of choice" issue I was bellyaching about.

You don't pick between Golems or not; you have to either decide to play without Golems, or play with Golems and grab as many as you can.

... However, at the same time, I do like the concept of building separate 'versions' of the game tailored for each class of superweapon. It's a neat way to isolate out the different balances.


So I suppose my hope is this: that with the new superweapons-as-minor-factions mechanic, the game balance in that subset of AI War games is tweaked so that Golems are still somehow optional and not an objectively great thing to grab?
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Vinraith on November 25, 2010, 02:21:27 AM

So I suppose my hope is this: that with the new superweapons-as-minor-factions mechanic, the game balance in that subset of AI War games is tweaked so that Golems are still somehow optional and not an objectively great thing to grab?

Have a look at the latest patch. What you're describing is what the "moderate" option is for.
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: Wingflier on November 25, 2010, 02:32:33 AM
Quote
So I suppose my hope is this: that with the new superweapons-as-minor-factions mechanic, the game balance in that subset of AI War games is tweaked so that Golems are still somehow optional and not an objectively great thing to grab?
Quote
Three new minor factions have been added to The Zenith Remnant (nearly a year after the expansion's release -- crazy, right?). The purpose of these is to provide a more satisfactory range of experiences with golems to match player tastes, rather than the old "there are always three there" method. The three minor factions are:

    * Broken Golems (Easy)
          o Massive broken golems can be found around the galaxy, ready for humanity to capture and repair them. Once repaired, they represent enormous power to use against the AI.
          o The EASY version of this minor faction simply gives you the golems with nothing in the way of benefit to the AI. Consequently, your adjusted score is also halved.
    * Broken Golems (Moderate)
          o Massive broken golems can be found around the galaxy, ready for humanity to capture and repair them. Once repaired, they represent enormous power to use against the AI.
          o The MODERATE version of this minor faction gives you the golems at a moderate energy cost and with a small AI Progress increase upon repairing them from their broken states. Consequently, your adjusted score is also reduced by 1/3.
          o Using the moderate version will automatically disable the easy version if the easy version is also selected.
    * Broken Golems (Hard)
          o Massive broken golems can be found around the galaxy, ready for humanity to capture and repair them. Once repaired, they represent enormous power to use against the AI.
          o The HARD version of this minor faction simply gives you the golems with nothing in the way of benefit to the AI. However, whether or not you choose to capture any golems, the AI will be launching periodic large waves with golems of their own -- so you're highly advised to get some golems in order to survive.
          o Using the hard version will automatically disable the easy and moderate versions if either of them is also selected.
          o Important: So far the hard version just works like Easy, it doesn't actually spawn the waves yet. That will come in a future version.
The "tweaks" you are referring to will really only affect the "moderate" game mechanics, since the other 2 options are not meant to "punish" players for taking a golem.  I think Chris has come up with a good solution though, and I'm excited to see how it works!
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: orzelek on November 25, 2010, 03:31:00 AM
It maybe quite nice with small drawback that that nice golems will also kick our ass now harder ;)

I'll see if it gets me to actually care about golems and consider them something worth having around :D
Title: Re: What's coming for spirecraft and golem balance.
Post by: zebramatt on November 25, 2010, 05:16:30 AM
Not that I give a monkey's about the score, but I'm not sure the moderate difficulty of Golems need carry a 1/3 reduction.

Essentially what you would have is:

Easy = Score penalty
Moderate = Energy cost & AIP penalty
Hard = Wave size/frequency penalty