Author Topic: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)  (Read 3874 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #30 on: September 17, 2019, 01:51:01 PM »
Puffin, thematically I also like the idea of this being "people coming out of hiding to help you."  And we could indeed make that the theme, in flavor text for the  units and when you get the windfalls.  Maybe mercenaries needs to be renamed to something else, now.  And you can summon "the same" mercenary outfit morethan once at the same time, perhaps, but it's just two different groups that have the same fleet design but came from two different places, thematically.

Maybe these are "Refugees" instead of mercenaries.  But they're refugees that can actually come and help?  I dunno.

As far as making this like the stuff in AS with new structures and all that, I want to make minimal changes to the actual game itself, and definitely not get into something like Player Trains right now.  Maybe someday, but at the moment that's just really beyond the scope.  Right now I'm mostly just trying to make the UI something that encourages the right behavior, and which gives occasional windfalls to help keep people motivated in yet another way.

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kasnavada, in terms of taking planets you can't afford to keep, that's always been a pretty key part of AI War for a lot of players, but it does vary from person to person.  This game does rely on it more than the first one, though.  Aka, there are more things that you need to capture but probably can't hold, because there are more things to capture in general.

Understood on the frequency of instigators, I'll wait for now on that.

On the subject of techs, there is a big difference in this game versus the first game in that techs don't increase power so ridiculously much.   There were a lot of problems with that approach in the past, so we rebalanced it.  There are release notes from a couple of months ago talking about that.

As far as fleet power goes... I mean, we had numbers in the first game also, and they were somewhat misleading in both games.  Some ships are better against other ships, for instance, and there's no way to represent that.  Even if there are two groups of 5 strength on two planets, you can't immediately predict which will win because things like forcefields, and inherent strengths of some ship types versus the respective group will throw things way, way, off.  Add on top of that your ability to rebuild more ships, and sure the numbers are a rough guideline at absolute best.  Plus the fact that you can engage part of the enemy's forces at once, before all their strength even comes out, means you often have a pretty big advantage when attacking.

Given everything is relative and so much also comes down to how ships are used and which ships fight which ships, I'm not sure of a good way to make that any more accurate than it currently is.  It's kind of either showing this, or making you play blind with no rough thoughts on strength, though.  There's not a real number that can summarize these any better than it already is, in my opinion.  I suppose this does come down to making the limitations of the strength count more apparent in the game, but beyond that I'm not sure wholly what to do.

It would be interesting to experiment with Puffin's new tech ideas, maybe they would help with the feeling you've got.  I wonder if HuP would also help in the end or not.
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Offline kasnavada

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #31 on: September 17, 2019, 02:37:18 PM »
I'm for a rework of mercenaries.
I tried them, but... I don't really get what they're supposed to do. You don't control them, it seems ?


About fleet power, for me the issue is that... as far as I can tell, they're accurate (if you forget the reconstruction part). Which is probably going to sound counter-intuitive.

In AI War I, you knew that 600 ships of one type came in. That ship had a hull type and most of the time, you had a ship that countered it, moved it there, and watched the fireworks (even if you had only half of the number of ships they had, or less). Due to hull types, in AI War I, it was shown fast that you could beat a fleet 3 times stronger with the right ships. So in AI War I, I was confident that I could beat up 3 or 4 times my strength due to good positioning and / or good ship types. For defenses, after a few waves, you knew that your X turrets, could block Y enemies, with Y far in excess of X.

So if a wave of strength 15 comes, as a new player, the impression I got is that you need about 15 strength to beat it. As with fleet, the number is accurate "as a new player" when not trying to trick the enemy. Also, the alerts on the top of the screen show "enemy strength, your strength" - this implies to me that I need equal or more, but need to act if it gets higher than where I am now. I mean, due to the other here, and my experience on AI War I, I know it's false and that I NEED to get to the point where it's ok if the enemy strength is 3 times higher because I build me defense correctly (which I didn't do in my save). But subconsciously I don't. My subconscious tells me I need to be higher than the enemy by the metric I'm shown.

On some planets in AI War I I had thousands of enemy ships spawning and didn't care a bit, I was sure that my defenses could handle them. If I did put the "strength view" via the map options, I'm pretty sure that I would see that my strength would be way lower than the AI.

To help the player know its limit, I'd put ship count by default rather than fleet strength because it's LESS accurate. At first, a newbie will try to beat lower number of ships, and win. Then push. Until he's confident that he can beat larger numbers. Because, as you said, it's rather obvious than ship count is not accurate. Ship strength, however, carries the idea that it is accurate (despite it not being the case).

Offline kasnavada

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #32 on: September 17, 2019, 02:38:55 PM »
Also, on a completely separate note, you're ok with streaming the game even if in alpha/beta/EA ?

Offline x4000

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #33 on: September 17, 2019, 04:20:39 PM »
Yep, you don't control mercenaries.  I'm wondering if instead them being something you can control, but not rebuild, might not be better in the current situation.  As the game has evolved, the increasing number of un-controllable third parties to play with has gotten more frustrating, not less.  There's already other factions that make sense as un-controllable that you can ally with, which wasn't so much a thing when mercs were originally concepted.

For power, as far as showing ship counts go... sure, I could see that being a thing.  I could see us having a toggle that shows ship counts instead of power, I dunno.  I have a feeling a lot of people would get rubbed the wrong way, though.  And I'd never want to take away the strength display, just make an option to do one versus the other.

And as for streaming, absolutely okay on that.
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Offline kasnavada

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #34 on: September 17, 2019, 05:16:03 PM »
Ok then, big thanks to everyone on this topic. I'm more or less done - no more feedback on my part.

Some of you probably took some of my answers in a bad way, sorry for that. The feedback I got did help me get better, so thanks again. I just hope this discussion let a few things pop-up and that ultimately it makes the game better.

See you around.

Offline Asteroid

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #35 on: September 17, 2019, 07:18:44 PM »
Taking a break from the lighting work, since I'm in an environment right now where I can't accurately see the colors anyway.

Will just drop this here for fun, as an aside: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-wwii-propaganda-campaign-popularized-the-myth-that-carrots-help-you-see-in-the-dark-28812484/
Thanks, that was an interesting read. Clearly you haven't eaten enough of those yet, or you'd see the colors ;) .

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3. Yes, in an ideal world it would be great to have quests/missions, and at one point I was going to do that instead of tutorials, even.  However, that's something that I ultimately feel like starts feeling repetitive and also undercuts the sandbox nature of the game.
If the missions are procedurally generated (i.e. detect three capturables nearby that are likely to create synergy) and attempt to suggest things you'd do anyways, they won't really become repetitive. Besides, advanced players could simply turn them off.

TBH you almost already have missions with your Objectives panel, it's just that they are useless for new players because there are too many of them which is paralysing, and useless for experienced players who'd rather look at the map and prioritize from there.

Now if you had a maximum of three at a time with a constant on-screen reminder of the active one like incoming waves, it would be a different story.
You can also have a couple "Basic missions" which send you off taking capturables that combo, and "Advanced Missions" which are more abstract but are guaranteed to be something advanced players will want to do: getting two ship lines to Mark III for example.

A more subtle way of giving "missions" is spawning time-limited resource caches or consumable bonuses on the map, that "happen" to give you resources if you do what the mission would've told you to.

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4. It's actually possible that, had the psychological hurdles been balanced out differently for kasnavada as he played, that he would have been a bit more aggressive in some ways simply by nature, while having a core of economic things since he would have felt safe to have that with a shell in there.  In some ways I think people are fussing about his strategy while not really considering what factors led him to make those choices.  Bear in mind that this is a smart guy (as is everyone here), and he's been led naturally to this strategy based on his years of playing a lot of Arcen titles.  I don't see this as a failure on his part or a failure in tutorials, but rather a conflict in the core mechanics themselves.  There is a core unbalance in the very central mechanics, in that there's one big scary number that says "don't take too much," and so that leads to all sorts of things since there's also no big scary number to say "you haven't taken enough yet."  There's supposed to be a tension in the game between those two feelings, and for people who read the wiki or the forums enough, that already exists... but it's a mental construct they have by reading outside source, NOT something the game communicates to them on the screen inherently.  That, to me, is a big problem from which a lot of other things are stemming.


He did mention that the fact that you see neighbouring planets' strength and your own strength, as well as the threat strength building up everywhere, contributes a lot to being intimidated. The strength computation isn't a very good indicator of the amout of trouble you're in, as well laid-out defenses can usually take out a higher strength opponent. kasnavada also pointed out that your fleets rebuild during the battle, which makes them much stronger than an equivalent AI force.

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7. There were some comments about Instigator bases popping up constantly, I wonder if those are being too frequent at the moment?  I'm not sure how much feedback we have on that.
They can spawn on Lvl IV+ worlds early in the game, which makes you feel pretty powerless about dealing with them and could actually make you lose. Though with some experience and if they're close to a wormhole you can take them out with a quick massed strike, pulling out before triggering a retaliation wave.

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8. When the AI is repeatedly destroying the command stations of a player, I wonder if something should change in the AIs favor.  Right now it's leading to this kind of stalemate situation when it should lead to a loss instead.  I wonder if causing the AIP floor to go up by 1 for every 5 (command stations it kills or flagships it cripples) would be something that adds a slow-burn sort of consequence that eventually breaks stalemates.
Not sure yet how I like that mechanically. But thematically, how do you explain that? The AI crushed you like a bug but suddenly thinks you're more important because of it? AIP increase from losing human cities or cryogenic pods also leave me scratching my head BTW, even though I understand the mechanical purpose of it.

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9. Overall I've seen nothing but resistance to the idea of having some form of "AIP counterpart" that is a good-thing-based-on-taking-planets.  A lot of other things are being suggested that won't really be very discoverable for players, and/or still don't sit in the AIP counterpart seat (as really the whole "gaining strength and metal and science and fleets" doesn't even sit in that seat, since it's too abstract and diffuse), and/or is something that is time-intensive to create and then test.  I think that a lot of what I was suggesting was also coming off as a bit disonnected from AIP, frankly, so I get where the resistance is coming from (I think).  With that in mind, I have a new proposal that I think most accurately sums up what I think needs to happen in order to make the game mechanically and immediately clear:
Well, obvious question then: do you even need AIP sitting up there all gamey and scary, which is prompting you to add *another* number to counterbalance it? Can't it be a hidden mechanic, with some randomness built-in so you don't try to "guess the number"? It would change things so that instead of looking at a number, the player evaluates how much the AI is pissed off by what looking at what is actually happening on the map. As a bonus you wouldn't be making gamey exact AIP computations to figure out how much you need to reduce it to turn off exogalactic wormhole strikes.

EDIT: lol. I just found this thread. I think you must be feeling like you're living GroundHog Day or something with the same topics cycling over and over.

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Human Progress (HuP)

This would be a new thing, shown prominently on the interface right next to the AI Progress (AIP).  The idea here is that you would see the HuP rising, and the AIP rising, and it's clear that one is good for you and one is good for the AI.  It's clear that there's a central tension here.  At core, I think that this is the thing that needs to happen most of all in order for players to immediately understand "this is a balancing act, not a resource-minimization game."  Right now the UI itself is communicating something false.

So what would be the purpose of HuP? I'm thinking that it would be something kind of along the lines of AIP, but also with its own flavors:

a. As HuP rises, you'd have a mark level floor that would gradually rise.  At some level your mark level floor becomes 2, and so on.  Same as the AI with AIP.  That makes inherent sense.

b. As HuP rises, I think that being able to get more resources out of existing planets COULD be an interesting thing.  Aka things like having the max science and hacking points per planet go up by 5% for each 50 HuP, or similar.  This is a lot like how the AI gets more reinforcements and budget as its AIP goes up. This would also lead to some annoying backtracking to gather science, though, potentially, so I'm not sure how I feel about that ultimately.  We'd need some sort of other way of going back to planets to get science and hacking points if we did this.

So maybe, instead, you just get a lump sum payout of science and hacking points for every X HuP you hit.  Windfalls are fun!

Or just a % bonus to all production, i.e. each point you gather actually gives you 1.05 points.

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c. I think that certain hacks should potentially be gated behind the players having a certain amount of HuP.  By the way, HuP would be shared between all players in multiplayer.  Essentially I'm thinking that things like hacking the dyson sphere for powerful units should be something like "minimum 200 HuP."  And we should have the Overlord be WAY more powerful now, but have a series of hacks (maybe 4?) that weaken it in different ways.  Each of those hacks would require a certain amount of HuP in order to do them.   And in the future we could gate other things behind HuP if we wanted to, as well.

Or we could just make the overlord get weaker as HuP rises, to a certain point.
You'd have to find a good rationale for gating those if you want to enable suspension of disbelief. I imagine HuP could represent human morale or overall population support, but why would the Dyson sphere or Overlord care?
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All right, so how do we GET HuP?  Things that we want to encourage players to do:

a. Players would get the same amount of HuP from destroying a planet that the AI gets in AIP, I'd say. This would be the biggest source of it.  But you'd only get the amount from the command station, not the warp gate, so you'd be losing ground if all you ever did was take planets with nothing on them.  And this plays nicely into gate-raiding being something that helps you but raises AIP without raising HuP.

b. Players would get some HuP from capturing ANY fleet, any GCA, etc.  Some would give more than others, I'd say.  This is where the players get the HuP to balance out or exceed what the didn't get from warp gates.

c. Destroying certain AI weapons, like alarm posts and similar, might come with a small HuP reward?  This kind of gets us into "optional implicit quests" territory, which I like.


Overall the message of the game can then become something along the lines of "you probably can't win if AIP gets too far ahead of HuP, and once HuP gets beyond (some number) it's diminishing returns in general, and once AIP gets beyond (probably same number) it's dangerous to the point that you might lose anyhow."

The overall idea seems that you can look at HuP and AIP side-by-side and see if you're winning. I find that kind of misleading. You can only compare comparable things - in the case of the AI, it gets X strength in waves and reinforcements that scales directly with AIP. With how you're describing HuP, the human player gets a number of small bonuses that don't automatically translate X strength. In other words, the AIP to AI Strength relationship is way more direct than the HuP to Human Strength relationship. It seems like a risky proposition to line them up and say with a straight face that the comparison is meaningful.

The problem is also that if the game is still challenging and interesting, you should lose on difficulty 6-7 if you destroyed too many planets or AIP-raising buildings like alarm posts just for the HuP, acquired the wrong set of capturables (say, mostly fleets like our topic starter was doing) and picked the wrong planets to hold. But you might get to this losing situation even though the HuP is telling you you're clearly way ahead of the AI and should win! I hope you like the smell of torches and pitchforks in the morning.

One interesting solution would be to make AIP good for you as well as being bad:
  • For instance as the Milky Way AI systems come back to life to deal with the new threat (you), dormant encrypted resource nodes, factories, weapons and utilities disseminated on all planets come back to life. You can't reactivate them yourself, but if they activate in your territory you're the one that gets the benefits. So you're pissing off the AI, but paradoxically the angrier it is, the more beneficial structures reactivate for you on the planets you captured.
  • You could attach any of the systems you listed above to AIP directly, I'm sure a thematic justification could be found for each one.
  • This should really capture the "pushing your luck" feeling.

Barring that, I think it's better to give small incentives to do certain things that might help you, without promising implicitly that it'll win you the war like HuP does. Here are some additional draft ideas:
  • My Nemesis idea could take the some of the focus away from global AIP to what's going on locally, by making which warlord/miniboss sub-AI you're currently annoying the most more important than the big picture - because it diverts more AI reinforcements towards that area. It also makes other areas weaker, which you can exploit to expand a bit easier.
  • Taking a page from Risk, give a bonus for holding any complete "constellation" of space, i.e. contiguous named groups of stars that divide up the map. Hopefully one that'll be somewhat easy to hold due to chokeholds. This could play into my Minibosses idea - defeat the miniboss and hold its whole territory for a resource bonus. But even standalone it gives you a mid-game objective to pursue that distracts you from your existential worries about rising Global Warming AIP.
    The idea is that you won't be able to hold more than one or two of those territories, but it naturally pushes you to try and acquire a fortified territory with a minimum of entry points so you can build economic stations.
  • SimCity-like Advisors (text-based, don't think we have time to make animated faces that talk to you). These wouldn't necessarily give you resource bonuses, but would try to identify weaknesses in your setup and suggest things to build/capture/etc. Make them a bit goofy so the player knows he can't trust them 100%. - This is basically a reward-less version of quests that advanced players will ignore by default.
  • Without any HuP mechanic, you could still have a prominent display of Overlord strength next to the AIP, and provide means to the player to lower it. This at least gives the player a global indicator of progress that directly corresponds to something on the map, and it's a "feel good" number that progresses in the good direction rather than a feel bad number.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 02:24:22 AM by Asteroid »

Offline x4000

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #36 on: September 19, 2019, 04:52:36 PM »
kasnavada, your feedback has been very helpful -- thanks for that!

Asteroid --

1. I think that if AIP also gives you good things, that could... get confusing.  But I see the rationale.

2. My goal with having HuP up there at the top as well as AIP is not to say whether you are winning or not, but if you're on track or not.  But even that could be kind of misleading.

3. Having the intel sidebar be any more concise than it is right now isn't really an option, because it's actually a useful second view of the main map that shows you by category what is available to you.  You don't have to search the  map manually to see if you've found a new fleet or whatever you might want to capture.

4. However, what the intel sidebar is NOT, and why it has been renamed, is an effective "objectives" screen.  It's telling you about possibilities, not really giving advice.

5. Giving good advice is hard.  Everything is so context-dependent.  Even something like HuP is going to be misleading in terms of people misinterpreting it.  And it's more major of a change than I am super excited about making right now.

6. Giving ACTUAL little missions, as you suggest (and as I was originally thinking of prior to the current rash of tutorial thinking) would have a few benefits:

a. They can last a certain amount of time, be at least somewhat intelligent about the current context, and not be construed as JUST being advice.  They're actually an end unto themselves, and possibly conflicting.  I'm thinking here somewhat of the three contradictory advisors in the recent Jurassic World citybuilding game.

b. Missions are the sort of thing that can be inherently a bit tutorial-y without actually just being tutorials, and if they're kept to always being three at a time, then that's pretty straightforward.

c. Missions can then link into the in-game wiki, etc, too.

7. I'm definitely not considering removing AIP at this point, but I could see some things that maybe only unlock once the AIP is high enough or something, maybe.  I'm not sure if that's needed in the short term, though.
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Offline kasnavada

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #37 on: September 19, 2019, 05:20:57 PM »
About HuP, I'm really not convinced. Sounds like a big change to me.

One of the last times I spoke up here, I was speaking about how combat didn't feel great in stars beyond reach. From my point of view, you started, a few weeks after, a huge rework which made the game into territories, but ultimately led nowhere. :-[ HuP sounds like it could be the same situation again to me.

While I hope I'm helpful, I'd be wary on overreacting on what I said. So... maybe you should run a completely separate topic on it to gather other opinions on HuP.

Offline x4000

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Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
« Reply #38 on: September 19, 2019, 05:30:34 PM »
Yeah, ultimately I've decided to lean away from that, for many of the same reasons you said.

Some of what you were saying are things that the new tech changes should help, and the changes to command stations and energy reactors should also help.

Other things that you were saying might be best helped by the missions thing we were talking about in the last posts.

HuP is very much a bridge too far.
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