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General Category => AI War II => AI War II - Gameplay Ideas => Topic started by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 02:27:40 AM

Title: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 02:27:40 AM
Research is confusing for me.

1) I don't think energy collection and metal generation researches should be in the game at all.
My opinion is that it's a noob trap. A player should learn to not waste ressources.

These researchs tell the player that it's ok to be wasteful.
They take valuable research point away from what the player should unlock: ships & defenses.
They create balance issues, in the sense of what is the "right" amount of metal & energy changes drastically depending on if you unlocked those or not. What could be balanced at energy collection "0" probably won't be at "3".
They create balance issues in the sense of other components (player stations) play the same role. You need more energy ? You have economic stations.

I don't think it's a point of "being balanced properly", as over the years I mostly found these mechanics of resource income upgrade to be "working" (emphasis about quotes) when either they don't exist or that they're cheap enough to be fully upgraded in "no brain mode". I strongly believe in a game design where resource income is predictable (more base, more income).
 :)

2) Tech unlock costs.
Ummm. Again. This is AI War. The optimal way to play is going to be to reduce AIP at the minimum. Assuming a default galaxy of 100 planets, with 8 exploration per "liberation", that means that we get a total of about 13 planets under the player control in end game. Which in turn gives the player about 26k tech. Let's say 40k with data nodes and the starting boon of 10k.  :P

Upgrading a (random) ship line to level 4 costs about 3k + 4.5k + 6k + 7.5k => 20k.  ::)

In my current game I got about 12 tech upgrade lines to choose from, not to mention about 10 "structure" ones (forcefields, stations...).
As a player, I WANT to play around with more than 2 techs in a game that proposes me with 20 options. At least half.

I wanna plays with my toys !!!  ;D

3) Hacking. I'm not exactly sure of how many ARS there is in a game, but basically if I want to hack every single ARS and merc point there is, I got less than 100 points left. Not to mention that I'd like to use said mercs, but they cost hacking points too.

I'm supposing that I should unlock GCA & IGCs... but IMO they cost too much to hack and cost too much to capture (in AIP). As stated above, AI War strongly discourage, via AI progress, and when you get high AI progress, you can't defend efficiently structures that can die. In my experience, they will eventually die.

4) My other issue on this point is that if I do get GCA for more turrets, I don't have the energy to power them. As I didn't buy resource upgrades. They're kind of pointless to me.


Conclusion:
I'm not sure what is to be done there. I feel trapped. In my current game, I explored 83 planets, captured 10, and I still got 10 GCA, 2 battlestations, 8 new fleets not unlocked yet, half a dozen capturables, and 3 factions to investigate... Am I playing too conservatively or something ? Due to having unlocked only 2 techs to level 3 my defenses are barely holding as most of my fleets are "lvl 1 useless", and I got about 123k power left, so not enough to power any kind of defenses if I did capture more turrets. As a result, it takes FOREVER to clean up waves. My AIP is rather high, 180.

I get that we're supposed to make choices, but I feel like I play 10% of the game.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: BadgerBadger on September 14, 2019, 02:37:10 AM
I always like econ tech; I used it in AIWC and in AIW2. Maybe I'm a noob, but I like having lots of resources.

If you are devoted to a low AIP strategy then yeah, you're hamstringing yourself in terms of resources, and trying to win a super low resource game. If you want more resources, take more planets. This is the basic tradeoff.
 
But the game shouldn't be designed around one person's style of play, it should empower many styles. If you feel trapped by your low AIP style, don't play that way! The Low AIP style can work, but as a counterpoint, Zeusalmighty just finished an epic game where he earned 1800 AIP (but only had 1000 due to all the reduction). https://forums.arcengames.com/ai-war-ii/aar-bubble-bloodbath-(aka-'controlled-chaos')/

Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 03:13:29 AM
It's not just a question of "it's a playstyle". Because it's really not. It's THE playstyle that the game mechanics are pointing players toward.
Game mechanics describe how the game is played and what new players will do.

To put simply: reducing AIP feels way stronger than whatever you get for capturing one or more planet. 2k knowledge and 30 hacking is 1/4th of a late game research and 1/4th of hacking an GCA, a little energy and metal (if you can defend it). So I need 4 of them. Getting 4 planets at about 100 AIP is a whopping 80% increase in the stat that tells me how difficult the game is. At 200 AIP, it's a 40% increase. That means I get about 10% stronger for a boost on my side that's 4 to 8 times larger.

Also, what I am going to capture ? Capturing 3 more fleets with a fleet power of 4 is useless to me, I already got half a dozen fleets with level 1 ships. And if I aim to capture new fleets, I don't choose the location of the planets I get, so, as a whole, I can't defend them. So I'm stuck with capturing planets with no value whatsoever just so I could get 1 research that will boost one or two 20 strength fleet to 25 strength.


As a player, I don't feel it's worth it.
You can say whatever you say about other player's playstyles, yet fact remains: this is the playstyle that the AIP mechanic pushes players to.



PS: What this guy is doing in this playthrough is having fun with boosted minor factions on difficulty 7. It wouldn't have worked at all at higher level of difficulty. Dyson sphere 10 as an ally. Hostile to all factions are beneficial to human players because unlike the AI, humans avoid neutral zone of conflicts.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: AnnoyingOrange on September 14, 2019, 06:45:13 AM
A player should learn to not waste ressources.

Metal and energy are not wasted if you put them to use, especially if you're running out of energy.

As a player, I WANT to play around with more than 2 techs in a game that proposes me with 20 options. At least half.

Then conquer more planets.
If you want to keep AIP low, you'll have less tech to work with and a weaker economy: that's the entire point of AIP, giving the player one reason not to conquer the whole map and unlock everything.

Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 10:29:53 AM
@orange badger told me the same thing. I answered.
In a nutshell, maybe you are right. But, it does not feel worth it.

Let's try this. Here is how I see the game currently.
5 to 10 planets = 1 maxxed tech. Out of 20 possible tech maybe? Out of 30? I don't have my computer here and cannot check.

So if I conquer half the game (which is insane aip) I got 6-7 techs out of what is available.

There is no tutorial currently but I'm pretty sure I saw some pop-up stating I should skip planets I don't want to capture. Plus, aip mechanics. From that my impression is that expanding should only be done if worth it. Contrary to most 4x where expanding is brain dead decision. You always want to. Here the tips and game difficulty mechanics tell you to be careful.

So, taking this into consideration... The game should reward you more for expanding, or punish you less. It should tempt you.

My current game had pretty low difficulty, yet I have some  trouble expanding. And defending. The effects of aip are seen and felt there. I  feel like getting aip higher might push the limit from fun to chore.

While conquering more stuff could be the right answer, I point that the current state of the game does not convey this impression at all, to me at least. If it's the right answer... If my way of playing is as legitimate as others, then I shouldn't be limited to 2 techs. And have 75% of my fleet being lvl1 useless. Nor feel that I shouldn't take this fleet because it's a 4 fleet power fleet, that will only have the effect of reducing my xp gain of my stations and stronger fleets while being next to useless in a fight. Yet I do.

If my way of playing the game isn't intended... Then the game should tell me that clearly and point me toward a funnier game. It does not,at least to me.

Sorry if I get my point across as confrontational. Am I getting clearer here?
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on September 14, 2019, 11:00:42 AM
2) Tech unlock costs.
Ummm. Again. This is AI War. The optimal way to play is going to be to reduce AIP at the minimum. Assuming a default galaxy of 100 planets, with 8 exploration per "liberation", that means that we get a total of about 13 planets under the player control in end game. Which in turn gives the player about 26k tech. Let's say 40k with data nodes and the starting boon of 10k. 

Upgrading a (random) ship line to level 4 costs about 3k + 4.5k + 6k + 7.5k => 20k. 

In my current game I got about 12 tech upgrade lines to choose from, not to mention about 10 "structure" ones (forcefields, stations...).
As a player, I WANT to play around with more than 2 techs in a game that proposes me with 20 options. At least half.

Techs upgrade multiple units, and some units are affected by multiple Techs i.e upgrade both once, and that unit is now MK3). Both mobile combatants and turrets benefit as well. So getting units that benefit from things you already have is a part of it. Grabbing Fleets of MK1 units that have no investment, or you don't plan to is naturally going to lead to you being strained.

You start with 15,000 Science here, not 10,000. I admit I'm confused as to this:

Due to having unlocked only 2 techs to level 3 my defenses are barely holding as most of my fleets are "lvl 1 useless"

I'm unsure as to how you only have 2 Tech lines to MK3-4, with 37,000 Science total, unless you picked the two most expensive lines only (Light and Heavy, which is because they are some of the most common to find).

PS: What this guy is doing in this playthrough is having fun with boosted minor factions on difficulty 7. It wouldn't have worked at all at higher level of difficulty. Dyson sphere 10 as an ally. Hostile to all factions are beneficial to human players because unlike the AI, humans avoid neutral zone of conflicts.

He has 3 AIs. Each of which are 75% that of a single. A Difficulty 7 AI has an income multiplier of 2x, so each of his are 1.5x, totalling 4.5x, which is nearly a Difficulty 9 AI. He also has to destroy three AI Homeworlds, each with their own spike in AIP. They also have their own Warden Fleets, meaning it's harder to trick them.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: BadgerBadger on September 14, 2019, 11:04:18 AM
Well, also keep in mind that there are more AIP reducers by default in this game. I started a game with all the defaults and I have on the map the ability to reduce the AIP by 340, not counting the superterminal. So you can completely negate the AIP gain from at least 17 planets. And you can change the seeding rate for AIP reducers in the game lobby if you want more.

And you can also just hack planets you haven't captured for more science... So those 17 planets I can capture "for free with AIP reduction" gets me enough hacking to then hack a bunch more planets for their science (and you can also hack the spire archive for a bunch more science on top of that). 

And you do have to capture a bunch of planets just for exploration to find things. You can't be as minimalist about AIP as one could be in AIWC; the same principles about keeping AIP low do still apply, but not as strictly as in AIWC.

Also, you say you want the game to tempt you; well, you really sound like you want more science and hacking points. Consider yourself tempted!
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: zeusalmighty on September 14, 2019, 11:23:48 AM
but as a counterpoint, Zeusalmighty just finished an epic game where he earned 1800 AIP (but only had 1000 due to all the reduction).

I had more science than I knew what to do with in this game. Tech affects multiple units, generally, so you get a lot of value from a small investment. This encourages spreading science around on cheaper mark upgrades.

I played super low AIP mind you, keeping AIP 70 - 120 for 80% of the game.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: zeusalmighty on September 14, 2019, 11:28:26 AM
PS: What this guy is doing in this playthrough is having fun with boosted minor factions on difficulty 7. It wouldn't have worked at all at higher level of difficulty. Dyson sphere 10 as an ally. Hostile to all factions are beneficial to human players because unlike the AI, humans avoid neutral zone of conflicts.

Working just as efficaciously on my diff 10 game with no minor factions other than trains =P
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 12:03:49 PM
I thought I was clear. Apparently not. I am not looking for advice on how to win the game. I'm looking to improve the game do players, including those that don't go to forums, can have fun. So the game itself point them toward what is fun and good ways to play.


I don't have access to my game here. So I can't tell you which lines I got. I do have 9k left. I probably raised heavy. Not sure which one I raised. Doesn't change a thing. Again it's too low to have fun. Most of what I've got is lvl 1 useless. I tried a game by levelling more stuff at level 2 but that way felt weak. Also the xp mechanic is pointing you to get few elite fleets rather than large amount of underdeveloped cannon fodder.

What is attacking me, however, are wave fleet with power at 15-20. My defences have about 6-10. So, as it starts to take forever to wipe them, I stopped conquering stuff. Also I got about 150-200 threat waiting around. The game is clearly telling me aip is high enough. It's telling me stop right there. So thats what I do.

Am I supposed to ignore the game interface telling me I'm outnumbered and outgunned by the ai mobile fleets? It's fair to assume that the immobile forces can be higher. However, the mobile part?
Am I supposed triple my power levels, to compare to the ai power levels, before assuming aip is high enough?  How am I supposed to know this? The game gives no hints. And, again, an answer in a forum ain't what I'm looking for.

Oh yeah. My power level.

Out of the 9 transports I got, after reshuffling a bit, one fleet has 37 power. Most lvl 5 planets have in excess of 100... Cause it's only a lvl 5 game. One of my fleet had 11. Other fleets have less than 6. One of those is useful ad it has autobombs and the parasitic autobomb (forgot the name). They're stupid op,  if a bit costly in metal.

Am I strained because I captured too many fleets? Possibly. Yet without combining said fleets with the same research so my first research boosted 3 ship lines in a single fleet,  I would not have been able to clean those lvl 5 world's. And get the autobomb fleet.

The autobomb fleet + the 37 fleet are the only one making a dent in the enemy defenses. The others can,  barely,  pass reinforcements in skipped planets and threat. And clean waves.

I didn't get turrets as they are mostly badly placed for capture. And I don't have energy for placing them anyway.

I followed the game rules. They blocked me.

@badger except my point is... I don't feel tempted at all.
Also, 2k research for 30 hacking point is not worth it. As stated above I'm trying to get the remaining hacks and therefore short of hacking points. I got all aip reducers I could get safely. Nice tips but no.

 Actually I think that I'll never use any option but hacking for more ships & turrets. I don't understand why the other options are there. I tend to want to play without wasting stuff and frown, as a whole, over temporary boosts. Reducing turret power? What's the point? You will kill an ai core later or. There is no reason why you would need help killing a lvl 5 planet, if the game is balanced correctly. That is irrelevant to the topic. Let's go back:

I don't blindly want more hacking points and research. I want the game to be balanced so that playing as the mechanics of the game hint you to leave you room to have fun.

My opinion is that the game is currently failing to do that. I'm under the impression that you try to convince me to get more planets. That's not my issue. If that's the standard way if playing, the game should point it out. Not people on a forum. 

Something as dumb as an ig color indicator stating that 300 aip is low, 500 high could be an answer. Assuming it's true. I don't think it's enough though.

If I had a simple solution here I'd propose it. I don't. I knew starting this topic the that people would probably not see this as an issue.
As it currently is, this issue is no draining the fun out of this game.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: zeusalmighty on September 14, 2019, 12:20:10 PM
Apparently not. I am not looking for advice on how to win the game. I'm looking to improve the game do players, including those that don't go to forums, can have fun. So the game itself point them toward what is fun and good ways to play.
out of curiosity, do you refer to the objectives tab at all? You want the game to give you clear directives this should be the go-to resource. I know my objectives but new players should be encouraged to use this. If the objective menu isn't helpful, feedback from an inexperienced player would be welcome
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: BadgerBadger on September 14, 2019, 12:25:38 PM
kasnavada, could you upload a save game so we can see what's going on more clearly for you?
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 12:25:57 PM
PS: What this guy is doing in this playthrough is having fun with boosted minor factions on difficulty 7. It wouldn't have worked at all at higher level of difficulty. Dyson sphere 10 as an ally. Hostile to all factions are beneficial to human players because unlike the AI, humans avoid neutral zone of conflicts.

Working just as efficaciously on my diff 10 game with no minor factions other than trains =P

Thanks for pointing this out. Yet...

 :P
Winning 10 is a bug.
 8)

Good luck!

It's still going to end up impossible later!  8)
And getting the entire game at low aip kinds of goes my way too. Not much of a surprise. Still, nice to hear.
I did underestimate having 3 ai though. Sorry.

@badger in my current game I've reduced 80 aip. I cannot get the 4 things to blow up which gives -140 aip reduction because they are not all explored. I'm missing one or two. I cannot get the - 80 aip ones because their location are 3-4 jumps away (i think) from where I am and are in a bad location to defend. They'll probably blow up.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 14, 2019, 12:33:03 PM
I don't have my computer here. Can't upload.

About the objectives tabs...
There are 30 objectives of so? It does tell you to capture stuff, reduce aip and so on but gives no indication of what the impact of doing it is. I occasionally look in it for stuff. I  like the list but it is not what I'm looking for. It doesn't tell why either. Even if it's mostly logical.

I don't think it explains what a good action in the game is. Not sure that it should. Or can.

It gives a list of possible actions.


And... Sorry for the numerous typos. On my phone atm.   ::)
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 on September 16, 2019, 10:01:58 AM
I think that a key takeaway, for me at least, is that it's not clear "how much is too much" when it comes to capturing planets. This is not a new thought or new problem, and the first game also had it. People who experiment a certain amount find what is comfortable to them, but those with limited time and a certain amount of risk aversion wind up playing low AIP games out of fear. Plus out of a general pack of clarity thst they can turn a low value fleet into a high value powerhouse with a few more planet captures.

A good example: capturing one more planet is stupid, in a lot of scenarios. The benefits are definitely not worth it. Capturing FOUR more planets, particularly a certain set of them, will be brilliant and make everything easier.

The ability to see past the futility of the one planet capture to see the benefit of four planet captures is hard. A lot of people wound up with mid-game paralysis in the first AI War partly because of this.

Color-coding the AIP to explain what is dangerous and what is not would certainly be welcome, I agree. But as noted, thst only goes so far. I think that the obvious benefits of capturing planets are too few at the moment. Aka, we need a clear reason that capturing four more planets is a really good thing, and then the extra benefits of doing that become obvious once you have done so.

I don't see this as an education issue, as the game mechanics themselves do encourage players to not take planets, and so any education is basically saying "ignore your instincts and the subliminal messages of the mechanics themselves." So while I do see the color coding of AIP as a good idea potentially, that falls under education and thus doesn't get at the core issue.

I think this takes me back to the Four Horsemen concept, except something more flexible. We need a reason for fighting the AIs to be easier once you've taken more planets, DESPITE the AIP being higher. This sort of mechanic will make it obvious to players that this is a balancing act, and what range they should be balancing into, and not an "optimize to the minimum AIP" game. Though those playstles should not be invalidated.

So, ditching the four Horsemen for a variety of reasons, here's a new concept:

1. Add a new "Overlord CoProcessor" mechanic, or something to that effect, where the Overlord normally gets a 5x boost to health and attack power, but for each of 25 planets you destroy the command station on, it loses part of that power until you get it down to what it is now. So you still CAN fight the AI with fewer planets taken (by you), but it's harder to do. And the game makes this obvious.

2. Add a new "mark level floor" for player units. By holding 6 planets, you will have all your ships at a minimum of Mark 2, regardless of what else is going on with your upgrades. By holding 15 planets, minimum of Mark 3. By holding 25 planets, minimum of Mark 4. And no more than that. For a lot of advanced players this won't do much except shore up some otherwise unused extra ship lines. But for everyone else it gives a clear benefit not just to taking territory, but to holding it.

3. Anything else I'm missing? I think some flexible systems like this could go a long way to making it clear that capturing stuff is valuable beyond just unit counts and whatnot. I was thinking that maybe the number of fleets you have could buff all your fleets slightly or something, as one other idea.

Hopefully what I'm driving at is clear, even if these specific mechanics aren't the best yet. I do see this as a serious issue with both games, as I've seen players who don't have a ton of hours in one of them, but do have a lot of critical thinking skills, get led down the wrong path repeatedly and have a less fun time because the game mechanics themselves are clearly telling them to do something that people on the forums then day "nah, ignore that." It creates a distinct feeling of discomfort for those people, and they wind up abandoning those games mid-game over and over. I remember RCIX having similar issues back in 2012 and I couldn't figure it out at the time. I think now it's more clear to me.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on September 16, 2019, 10:43:22 AM
2. Add a new "mark level floor" for player units. By holding 6 planets, you will have all your ships at a minimum of Mark 2, regardless of what else is going on with your upgrades. By holding 15 planets, minimum of Mark 3. By holding 25 planets, minimum of Mark 4. And no more than that. For a lot of advanced players this won't do much except shore up some otherwise unused extra ship lines. But for everyone else it gives a clear benefit not just to taking territory, but to holding it.

I have a possible concern about this. We've had the issue of people being able to beat Difficulty 10 by capturing the entire galaxy for a long time, and it only now seems to be going away. My first thought upon reading that is it might return.

The rest of this topic...I admit I don't understand it at all. I've no idea what the actual problem is, the only answer I get when I read the topic is a situation caused by particular Tech and Fleet capture choices with little synergy, hence my answers earlier. Reading your post Chris...still confused.

Maybe I don't have the perspective to be helpful here? Shrug.

The one thing I can comment on now maybe is the Tech Costs. They're all still for the old Mark scaling, no adjustments were made with the new one. The lower Marks are notably less impactful than before, but the problem I ran into is...if I make them fair costs (i.e much cheaper) to the power, then for units that benefit from multiple lines it makes getting higher Marks of those super cheap, and I have no  ideas on how to handle that, if at all. People seem to both consider this scenario, and the current costs fine in Discord when I've brought it up.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 on September 16, 2019, 11:26:41 AM
2. Add a new "mark level floor" for player units. By holding 6 planets, you will have all your ships at a minimum of Mark 2, regardless of what else is going on with your upgrades. By holding 15 planets, minimum of Mark 3. By holding 25 planets, minimum of Mark 4. And no more than that. For a lot of advanced players this won't do much except shore up some otherwise unused extra ship lines. But for everyone else it gives a clear benefit not just to taking territory, but to holding it.

I have a possible concern about this. We've had the issue of people being able to beat Difficulty 10 by capturing the entire galaxy for a long time, and it only now seems to be going away. My first thought upon reading that is it might return.

I think that the risk of that is definitely there, but I consider it kind of an inevitable part of the arms race that is this game.  If you capture TOO much stuff, then the AI needs to be aggressive enough and capable enough to actually take you down. Aka your power should definitely be growing, but if you start going past some sort of threshhold then it should just royally be kicking your teeth in (like the first game did).

The benefits that the AI is getting from AIP are one thing, but when contrasted with how much you gain from extra fleets and whatnot... something is off in the late stages of this if capturing planets indefinitely is a cost-effective thing to do.  It should be a matter of constantly losing ground, and having trouble winning on anything more than difficulty 5 or 6 if you're capturing too many planets.

That may mean that the AI needs to scale more sharply past a certain AIP, or something along those lines, or it may mean that the AIP reduction and AIP floor were too generous previously.  Or that the hunter simply wasn't getting enough priority past a certain point to actually kill you.  I see these as all things that can be balanced for the very-late-game with ultra high planet capture counts, and I see them as being slightly disconnected from the rest of the game's balance.

The reason for that last statement is that if things increase linearly, then the game gets crazy hard when you take a middling amount of planets OR the game is stupid easy still when you take a ton of planets.  Instead it needs to be mostly linear in increase to a point (as now), but then start increasing exponentially past a certain point.  Some very low exponent. ;)


The rest of this topic...I admit I don't understand it at all. I've no idea what the actual problem is, the only answer I get when I read the topic is a situation caused by particular Tech and Fleet capture choices with little synergy, hence my answers earlier. Reading your post Chris...still confused.

Maybe I don't have the perspective to be helpful here? Shrug.

Basically, it's the carrot and stick here.  You get smacked with a stick every time you take a planet, and you FEEL that.  It's scary.  The game warns you that if you get smacked with the stick too many times, then you're going to get absolutely smashed by a tree-size log.   The stick will stop being something you can bear at some point, and will be something that obliterates you.

So how far do you test things?  How much warning will you have if you get "in too deep?"  How will you even realize you're in too deep until you're dying?  If you do die, was it because you were in too deep on planets captured, or was it some other mistake?

That's all very unsettling, and it leads to a lot of players trying to optimize for very low AIPs, regardless of other things going on in the galaxy.

Meanwhile there are a variety of carrots out there. Things you can capture that will make you stronger.  BUT a lot of them start out weak, and gain strength together when you capture several things jointly and upgrade them all.  It's kind of like a "three for the price of one" deal at the store, but you don't get told that it's that deal until you have bought all three; then suddenly two of them are free.  Instead you look at the price of one and say "that's not worth it," and two and say "that's still not worth it," and don't realize that once you get three it's suddenly SUPER worth it.

That's what is happening with techs and fleets a lot of the time.  Don't have much science to spare, and there's a low level fleet you can capture?  Not worth it!  What good is a 5-strength fleet, anyway?  Oh, but if you capture a second planet nearby that also has a weak fleet... well, that's more science, sure, and they share some techs between them, but it's still not enough to really make them powerful... is it?  Oh, but near to THAT is another planet with an IGC that will make both even MORE powerful, and also has enough science to get both upgraded.

Take one planet and you've got a crappy fleet and a bit of science but not enough to do much with.  The AI comes out ahead.  Take two and you have two crappy fleets that you can upgrade slightly, but not in a way that will obviously be more than the AI gains.  Take the third planet and your science amount tips and  suddenly you have two largely mark-4 fleets with huge strength between them.  So it was absolutely your win, despite the AI getting so much stronger.  But being able to see that far into the future and predict that is hard.

The natural tendency of players being "don't frivolously take things," since the game does explicitly state that... the message can come across as "don't take things."  The game never explains what "frivolous" means.  It's more or less just "it depends."  So people naturally tend to look at planets mostly in isolation, and think about if a specific fleet or capturable is worth it.  If not, in isolation, then it must probably not be worth it in a global sense, either.  Except that the truth is often the opposite.

So what winds up happening is, on the forums we say "eh, for that game setup you should probably take about X planets," but even there we're kind of eyeballing it because it is indeed really subjective and highly variant.  But once people know "okay, I think in my situation I can take 15 planets without getting murdered by the stick," then they feel free to do that and wind up finding those "buy three for the price of one" situations by accident.  That furthers their understanding and leads them to find more such things in the future.

The problem comes for people who never visit the forums, or who are especially good at calculating the direct value of things.  They can't see why you'd increase AIP so much, because in the short and even middle term it just doesn't make sense.  The synergy doesn't kick in until too far in, and so there's nothing for them to go on that would lead them to ever reach it.

What I'm proposing are some mechanics that make it obvious that you need to have X number of planets, and NOT just from an "eh it depends and is subjective" standpoint.  Basically an added thing where the existing endgame is harder if you don't get more planets.  That way you can still rush the endgame at any time (as with Breath of the Wild, people beat Ganon without doing all the Divine Beasts all the time), but it's harder and requires more expertise.  The natural thing that the game would lead most players into is capturing 20ish planets or so, at which point they have discovered several "buy three for the price of one" situations quite by accident, and the overabundant fear of AIP increases is replaced by a desire to try for some balance and to look at planets as part of a larger whole rather than on their individual merits quite so much.

I'm naturally a turtle in RTS games in general, so I absolutely get this whole mindset that people are coming to it with.  I'd be the same way if I was coming to the game blind.  Interestingly, I'm pretty aggressive  in turn-based strategy and tactics games, because I can see the results of my actions so much more clearly. In the case of the tactics game Three Houses, I'm actually even MORE aggressive than usual because I have a couple of rewinds despite units having permadeath on.  It gives me a chance to see what happens if I overextend a unit in certain scenarios without it being something where I have to savescum (going against the ethos of the game) or suffer a terribly permanent loss.

AI War is a tricky game for turtles in general, because it is inherently a game about brinkmanship to some extent.  You push further into the galaxy to get more stuff, making it possible to win.  But the more that you do that, the more likely your own defeat comes.  So forth the cautious player, they'll be VERY careful how much they extend themselves.  There's no rewind button, they don't know how long it will take for a bad decision to catch up with them (could be hours!), and everything about the game screams "don't be greedy when taking territory!"

So with that in mind, I want a mechanic in there that strongly encourages you to to take a certain number of planets -- but not hold them -- and which legitimately makes the endgame easier than it otherwise would be (aka the current difficulty...ish), and which thus leads them to finding lots of tools to play with.  It's something to guide them past the fear that the AIP mechanic gives, and it provides a mechanic that makes it clear that this is a balancing act beyond just capturing fleets.

But then I was also pairing that with a mechanic for HOLDING planets that I felt like would also encourage things like securing your hinterland (not worth it on paper, at the moment, but in my revised version you'd be contributing to a weaker overlord and a higher mark floor for yourself as WELL as securing your back door).  I feel like these sort of mechanics, or something like them, are needed as a way to encourage players to push past their fear of the AIP in order to attract them with an equally-tangible carrot (something numeric and immediate, like a weaker overlord or higher mark floor, versus something nebulous like the potential power of a fleet that is currently very weak that you might capture).

It's not super relevant for players who already play in the "middle ground" way, because mostly it won't have any effect on their games at all.  Aside from the mark floors giving them a bit of a boost if  we did that.

For people who play ultra-high-AIP games it also wouldn't have much effect on them.  For them we might need some sort of nerf already, as discussed above.

But for people who play low-AIP games, they'd need to either be very good, or very focused on AIP reduction.  It wouldn't be as much a matter of a low-capture rate for them.  Although if they're inclined to do a low capture game, they can still do it... but it becomes obviosus from the game mechanics that they're making the endgame and potentially other parts of the game harder by keeping the AIP low.  So it's a different form of brinkmanship, I guess.  Those people then should feel like they're being clever and playing in a really unusually frugal way that might be harder, NOT like they are being clever and playing the "correct" way while missing a bunch of game content, which is essentially what has happened to a number of people.

TLDR: I want to add some extra carrots for taking more planets so that there's a counterpoint to just keeping AIP low by not taking planets.  And I want it to have a certain planet count in mind, so that it's not just "take all the planets," but rather "hey, taking 20-25 planets will make the endgame way easier and also make XYZ other improvements, so that's probably intended and okay despite the dire warnings about AIP."

The one thing I can comment on now maybe is the Tech Costs. They're all still for the old Mark scaling, no adjustments were made with the new one. The lower Marks are notably less impactful than before, but the problem I ran into is...if I make them fair costs (i.e much cheaper) to the power, then for units that benefit from multiple lines it makes getting higher Marks of those super cheap, and I have no  ideas on how to handle that, if at all. People seem to both consider this scenario, and the current costs fine in Discord when I've brought it up.

I've been really on the fence about some of those units that get upgrades from a bunch of different techs.  If we made it so that there were fewer of those, and/or so that those were comparably pricey and some of the "only ever one tech by itself" techs were cheaper, then we could potentially balance this better.  I'm not sure there's actually a problem right now, but I do think that it makes it so that this is one of the "buy three for the price of one" situations that are less obvious.

I'm not sure we need a chance here, but I've been mulling it for a while.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 16, 2019, 01:47:00 PM
==> @Badger & saves
The saves, in the situation I exposed.

I ended up capturing 2 golems & rushing for the AI. It made for a lot of back & forth as I always starved for metal.


==> @Chris => I'm in line with the analysis part of what you're saying.
"Convinced" about the end-goal. I like it, and, I'm not fond of the low API route. It's your game, your choice here IMO (captain obvious here...). Leaving room for everyone is cool & all, but after a time, it's getting impossible to stretch that much. And, if someone REALLY wants to do a "TALL" game where he controls 3 planets, he can mod it.

So if there is going to be a "standard" way of playing the game that means "you take 50 planets" and that's it, fine be me. You did put up some actions to reduce low AIP games (specific mechanics against deep striking, core processors and so on). I wasn't really fond of them, to be honest - they felt more like "you have to take those planets" rather than "you want to take those planets".

I'm not convinced about the proposed solutions, however.

More carrots ?
How about something like "each fleet (somewhat) boosts the level of the ships / turrets it holds ?" For each "heavy" ship line, all heavy ships get +10% to stats (so a lower boost than the one research currently gives, but powerful nonetheless).
Capturing a new thing gives an XP bonus, like 50% of a level to the present fleets and 10% xp to absent fleets ?

Pfff, I'm not convinced. As stated above, I don't have a clear-cut solution. AIP as a mechanic "scares" me, so to speak.


==> Back to my game.

Going back to my game, it's as Chris said. I got the AIP reductions I could get, I got a few planets & golem, I searched my 3rd tech to level 3... That raised my AIP from 180 to about 240. That made the 4 fleets I had in defense (4 6 9 7) that were fighting strength 15 fleets stronger. Strong enough to beat the now strength 50 waves. So same power compared to the AI.

My other fleets 1 - 8 (main fleet), 2 - 3 - 5 (mobile factory and some protection so as they're pretty much defenseless) and golems (0) did most of the fighting. Sadly, in a "fight" situation they spend millions of metal insanely fast, which led to some waiting. It's better than in AIWAR1 IMO, so good job here. So I boosted metal production so I would wait less.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on September 16, 2019, 01:51:38 PM
I...think I get it now? This topic makes a good bit more sense now.

I've been really on the fence about some of those units that get upgrades from a bunch of different techs.  If we made it so that there were fewer of those, and/or so that those were comparably pricey and some of the "only ever one tech by itself" techs were cheaper, then we could potentially balance this better.  I'm not sure there's actually a problem right now, but I do think that it makes it so that this is one of the "buy three for the price of one" situations that are less obvious.

I'm not sure we need a chance here, but I've been mulling it for a while.

One thought I've had: The current Techs are...mainly what the unit is, in terms of ability or weapon, i.e Raptors are naturally Ambush, Bombers are naturally Fusion, Raiders are...well, Raid, then things like Mirages, Tesla Corvettes, etc come in to it in slightly less direct ways. The other two Techs are Light and Heavy, both hull based. It could be changed so each unit has two techs, one for ability/weapon, and one for the hull. Make the hulls really expensive, so late game, and maybe 3-4 types, Light, Medium, Heavy, Sneaky, etc.

Then they're that kind of late game synergy boost, but you can't cheaply go up to max Marks early on. Then we could make the normal Techs cost appropriately.

Some units do benefit from two ability/weapon Techs though, and then for Hulls several make sense for the units too. There's then also the Turrets.

Regardless, thanks for that big explanation! Very helpful.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 16, 2019, 02:10:23 PM
Quote from: RocketAssistedPuffin on Today at 10:43:22 AM
Quote from: x4000 on Today at 10:01:58 AM
2. Add a new "mark level floor" for player units. By holding 6 planets, you will have all your ships at a minimum of Mark 2, regardless of what else is going on with your upgrades. By holding 15 planets, minimum of Mark 3. By holding 25 planets, minimum of Mark 4. And no more than that. For a lot of advanced players this won't do much except shore up some otherwise unused extra ship lines. But for everyone else it gives a clear benefit not just to taking territory, but to holding it.

I have a possible concern about this. We've had the issue of people being able to beat Difficulty 10 by capturing the entire galaxy for a long time, and it only now seems to be going away. My first thought upon reading that is it might return.

I think that the risk of that is definitely there, but I consider it kind of an inevitable part of the arms race that is this game.  If you capture TOO much stuff, then the AI needs to be aggressive enough and capable enough to actually take you down. Aka your power should definitely be growing, but if you start going past some sort of threshhold then it should just royally be kicking your teeth in (like the first game did).

If you're afraid about that, I do have a quick fix.
The AIP cost for taking out a IA station are fixed (15, so 20 per planet, counting the warp gate).

Make them cost 1 AIP / destroyed AI station.

If the cost is below 15, show it green, yellow from 15 to 20 (or whichever number of planet you wanna the player to stop at), red above that.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: BadgerBadger on September 16, 2019, 02:25:11 PM
So in the first save game, you have a planet adjacent to you w/o any defenses with a Major Data Center, which reduces AIP by 80. So you could take that and 3 other planets without a net increase of AIP, which would be worth 8K science. Since you are sitting on 8K science already, that's more than enough to do a bunch of upgrades. Also there are a number of distribution nodes nearby which are also worth science and hacking.

And keep in mind that you'll need to take a number of additional planets just to explore enough to find the AI Overlord, so you'll be getting a bunch of science that way.

You have built almost exclusively military command stations, which generate almost no energy or metal. Swapping a few of the planets on the inside of your perimeter over to Logistical or Economic command stations would alleviate the energy and metal starvation problems.

In the first save game, it looks to me like you are comfortably winning and can do basically whatever you want. You probably only need to take enough planets to explore to find the AI Overlord, then just win the game. And from the second game that looks to be what you did.

I'm confused as to your problem; you had lots of science and access to a lot more w/o increasing the AIP (due to the Major Data Centers you didn't seem to want to capture).
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on September 16, 2019, 02:27:25 PM
One thing found in those saves are your Command Station choices. The first save has a lot of Military, but no Turrets. The main two things of Military are the doubled amount of Turrets they get from Global Command Augmenters, and the fact they have no Energy Collector.

You have so many Militaries, protecting random planets with nothing of value on them that you have no Energy. Since you have no Energy, you can't actually use their effect of having higher Turret counts, so strangely you would've been able to have better defenses in this case by going Logistics on more of these, keeping Military for the planets with capturables like the Augmenters.

The Tech choices affected it too. Light Tech doesn't affect any Turrets, and while Fusion does, because you didn't capture any Augmenters, you would never have them, so until you started getting Disruptive, your limited Turret count was always Mark 1.

So essentially, going mass Military meant no Energy, which meant being unable to build Turrets, which meant you struggled to defend without the mobile Fleets, despite the Military. Because of that, it seems you didn't want to spend AIP to capture something like an Augmenter, since you couldn't defend, which naturally made defending even harder.

Then due to that, you didn't capture a Major Data Center, which would've had a large AIP drop, nor the Intra-Galactic Coordinator, which would've helped with your weak mobile Fleets.

So...it just seems to have been a knock on effect from the Command Station choice. Perhaps Military needs to state it has no Collectors at all in the description text?
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 16, 2019, 03:38:32 PM
You have so many Militaries, protecting random planets with nothing of value on them that you have no Energy. Since you have no Energy, you can't actually use their effect of having higher Turret counts, so strangely you would've been able to have better defenses in this case by going Logistics on more of these, keeping Military for the planets with capturables like the Augmenters.

Ummm. You're right... I probably would have been better with logisticals as border.

Was that an intuitive choice ? Well. I failed it. The game tells you the military stations are perfect for border worlds - so I used them at borders. The game tells you that you have to skip worlds - so you'd end having lots of borders. Most of my stations died 3 times over. Sooooo going with a weaker station so that it's stronger ain't intuitive to me, even if it's what the end result is.

If that's the role they should have, then stations don't have the right names... to me logistics are behind the lines, not in front of the enemy. Maybe economical / border / fortified would suit their role better ?

Actually, as much as I could see the point in having "logistical" stations in AI WAR 1 because the ships where rebuilding often very far from the frontlines, now that ships are build at fleets, they have low logistic value. And since fleets double as transports, and since transports are fast, I don't see the point in making them faster.

So in the first save game, you have a planet adjacent to you w/o any defenses with a Major Data Center, which reduces AIP by 80. So you could take that and 3 other planets without a net increase of AIP, which would be worth 8K science. Since you are sitting on 8K science already, that's more than enough to do a bunch of upgrades. Also there are a number of distribution nodes nearby which are also worth science and hacking.

Yeah... I don't have the same view at all.

First of all, 8k research is 1 to 3 upgrades. It's not "a bunch".

Second, every station I got was destroyed 3 times over in my playthrough. The game brutally told me multiple times that everything that ain't permanent dies. The AI went directly to the homestation multiple times for minor brownouts... And, I've kind of played a lot of AI War 1 before, it's an issue I'm quite familiar with. I tried a few things in my previous games to test and found the hard (and glorious) way that Chris didn't forget to recode the part where the AI goes for the throat.

In short, what the game told me is that Major data center ain't a 80 AIP reduction, it's a 20 AIP increase. I could have gotten the superterminal... except nope, it's 5 jumps away. I'd have needed 2 hours of gameplay to get their, more or less. But going there doesn't help me get stronger, there is nothing of value on the way. I'd have gotten it on a higher diff game. Here it's 5 so I didn't bother.

Coupled with what I said above... Maybe military stations should provide the same amount of defense as what a logistical station does, but would protect "capturable" assets by provide invicibility to it until the station dies.

This would reinforce what RocketAssistedPuffin said and point players to be better about their station choices.

Quote
And keep in mind that you'll need to take a number of additional planets just to explore enough to find the AI Overlord, so you'll be getting a bunch of science that way.

Yeah, that's kind of why I provided the second save. The number is 4. Coupled with the 8k I had left, I used some of the hacking to get one more tech to level 3. Which led to a defending stalemate, as the boosted fleet compensated for the increase in wave strength, but that's it.

In the first save game, it looks to me like you are comfortably winning and can do basically whatever you want. You probably only need to take enough planets to explore to find the AI Overlord, then just win the game. And from the second game that looks to be what you did.

I think that's the main issue here.

I don't feel that way at all in this situation. I've had stations blown up left and right in previous hours. My total strength is about 100 I think ? And I just spent a lot of time reducing threat from 200+ to 120. I also got these instigator stations pop-up left and right - destroying those is annoying. And threat building too. I did feel on the tipping point of getting back some control - like, maybe I can get this golem... and NOPE some threat or wave emptied my metal, again. I have little energy and no metal reserves at all.

Basically, if the AI, which usually is good, had just grouped all his threat and plunged into the homeworld, I'd have no way to stop it.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: Asteroid on September 16, 2019, 07:19:32 PM
What I get from this discussion especially after the saves analysis is that kasnavada focused exclusively on the offensive to the detriment of his economy and his defense, and it didn't work out. It's normal for a good strategy game to let you fail if you make the wrong choices, but of course the game could do a bit more to push you toward the right path.

A tried and true technique for this is... quests. If taking those 3 or 4 planets together would make you that much more powerful and make the AIP gain worth it, give the player a quest to do it! Attach some fleet XP gain to the quest completion or some other minor reward to give the player further incentive. New players like following quests because it frees them from the analysis paralysis, and it'll lead them to experience naturally that what they captured forms a powerful combo! Just make sure to make quests front-and-center in the UI - the current Objectives view has way too much stuff in it. You need a choice of 1 or 2 quests at a time, max.

I think this would work much better than some general reward to take X planets, which takes us right back to the problem that, if you picked the wrong ones, you're still gonna end up overwhelmed by the AI at some point.

Regarding the choice of stations, how about we get rid of the energy collectors and have everything come from the station itself? It would make what you're getting more immediately obvious. (Can always leave the energy collector as a cosmetic "outcropping" of the station that helps visualize how much energy it's giving you.)

The reason for that last statement is that if things increase linearly, then the game gets crazy hard when you take a middling amount of planets OR the game is stupid easy still when you take a ton of planets.  Instead it needs to be mostly linear in increase to a point (as now), but then start increasing exponentially past a certain point.  Some very low exponent. ;)

I believe that an exponential effect of AIP even from the very start is a very good idea. It would make the response feel more real rather than being just a multiplier on the AIP. Also AIP reduction when at high level would make a huge difference and therefore feel even better.

Quote
Meanwhile there are a variety of carrots out there. Things you can capture that will make you stronger.  BUT a lot of them start out weak, and gain strength together when you capture several things jointly and upgrade them all.  It's kind of like a "three for the price of one" deal at the store, but you don't get told that it's that deal until you have bought all three; then suddenly two of them are free.  Instead you look at the price of one and say "that's not worth it," and two and say "that's still not worth it," and don't realize that once you get three it's suddenly SUPER worth it.

Carrots are good for your eyes and we should all eat more, especially if there's a three-for-one deal ;) . But more seriously:

I feel like Fabricators giving you level V ships directly really helped in this regard, because you got something powerful immediately instead of having to think long-term without knowing anything about the game (initially). You also had to hold the system, which provided you a forward base from which to do further exploration and conquest. Deep raids are especially intimidating to new players, or at least they were to me. But once you have your forward base and gate-raided and/or neutered the neighbours, you often realise it's not that hard to hold. Makes you bolder for further expansion.

Quote
TLDR: I want to add some extra carrots for taking more planets so that there's a counterpoint to just keeping AIP low by not taking planets.  And I want it to have a certain planet count in mind, so that it's not just "take all the planets," but rather "hey, taking 20-25 planets will make the endgame way easier and also make XYZ other improvements, so that's probably intended and okay despite the dire warnings about AIP."

I think taking generic territory is already incentivized enough by economic, research and hacking points gains. I don't really see how adding a fourth "minor reduction to AI power" benefit would help a player who already has a problem thinking long-term.

I suppose fixed thresholds (at five planets get X reward, at 10 get Y reward) would work better, but then aren't you muddling the message of what the game is about a bit too much? It's about not capturing everything blindly, but you should still capture a lot to win, just make sure to ignore this rising AIP score... what? Simple directives work best.

Quote
I've been really on the fence about some of those units that get upgrades from a bunch of different techs.  If we made it so that there were fewer of those, and/or so that those were comparably pricey and some of the "only ever one tech by itself" techs were cheaper, then we could potentially balance this better.  I'm not sure there's actually a problem right now, but I do think that it makes it so that this is one of the "buy three for the price of one" situations that are less obvious.
Something that could help tech is a reverse research view, i.e. show all the units you have followed by all the ones you could acquire, and show for each of them which techs could improve them, with upgrade buttons right there if you want to do it.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 17, 2019, 12:47:55 AM
So with that in mind, I want a mechanic in there that strongly encourages you to to take a certain number of planets -- but not hold them

Wait.

I'm not supposed to hold them ? With the current mechanics I feel like I have no reason not to.

Here is a mechanic (to be refined) which would :
- Currently, taking a planet costs 15 + 5 AIP.
- The AI recapturing a planet gives the player back half of the AIP for capture, so 10 AIP.
- The player recapturing a planet recaptured by the AI (my head hurts) costs the same as what was given to him when the AI recaptured it (so 10).

This could also work if AIP costs were not fixed, for some reason.

That way, the player knows he's supposed to give back some planets to the AI if he can't hold it. As a bonus, if you have a bad passage in the game and lose lots of planets, AIP goes down, and difficulty goes down, which hopefully lets the player in a easier situation.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: Asteroid on September 17, 2019, 10:43:55 AM
Wait.

I'm not supposed to hold them ? With the current mechanics I feel like I have no reason not to.
You hold just enough planets to support your fleets economically and have forward bases to rebuild from, and strip the research and hacking from a number of others before abandoning them - less territory to worry about so less AIP from gate-raiding, turrets less spread out...
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 on September 17, 2019, 11:37:28 AM
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/

I can't respond to everything, but here are some thoughts:

1. Glad that the issue that I'm laying out here is clear now to more folks, although I think that people are also jumping on kasnavada in some ways and kind of missing the larger point.  Yes there should definitely be more variance and/or there are certain things that he could in theory have done differently, but I see that as a bit of a separate issue from the FEELING that he's had that he shouldn't take more territory because it isn't worth it.  I'm concerned about that not just because he brought that up in this context, but because it has been a running theme since 2009.

2. Based on some of kasnavada's comments, it's possible that in his situation the AI needs to do a better job of just killing him and getting it over with.  That's hard to really say if that's accurate, or if it's his general sense of being beaten-down based on the back and forth history of his game, though.  Clearly looking at his saves with and without context of what he's been through in it gives really different emotional reactions, which is... actually very interesting in its own right.  But I'm not sure what to do with that information.

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. The problem, to me, is that there is a big overarching number that indicates "you should take few planets."  There is currently NO corresponding big overarching number that indicates "oh, but you should take at least X planets."  As a consequence, people's natural psychology works against them.  It creates an unpleasant feeling of uncertainty that drives some people away.  No mechanics that aren't "a corresponding big number of some sort that is as clear as AIP is" would surmount the psychological hurdle that I've observed in people.

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 wouldhave 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.

5. Why shouldn't you hold every planet you take?  Some planets are too expensive to hold.  You only have so much energy, and there are also metal costs that are recurring if you take losses, or the opportunity cost of putting a fleet somewhere to keep a planet from being lost over and over again.  But you DO need to capture so many planets in order to get the science from them, plus whatever other upgrades, so naturally you'll wind up capturing more than you can afford to hold.  That won't always happen, and is heavily dependent on the map type and other factors, but it definitely happens a lot.

6. Puffin, you had a pretty cool idea for how to redo some of the techs so that all ships have two tech lines (hull and weapons), and the hulls are more widely applicable but more pricey, and the weapons are cheaper but much more limited.  I had to think about this a lot, but I do think that this would create an interesting amount of tension in its own way, too.  For people like kasnavada who presently feel like all the techs are out of reach because they all average a similar cost (mostly), this would provide new "obvious cheap" techs that would probably make even a single planet feel more valuable.  I expect that it would contribute to  a "good kind of angst" about what to unlock.  So this seems like something to do, if you feel like tackling it!

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.

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.

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:

---------
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!

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.


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."

I want for the UI to inherently communicate the balancing act that is this game.  It doesn't do that right now, and no amount of adding new things to capture or tutorials or tooltip text is going to fix that.  We need HuP or something similar, to make it mechanically clear and immediate.  HuP is inherently kind of redundant, which is actually kind of the point: I'm not looking for the game to be radically different than it is now for people who know how to value the stuff they can already capture.  I'm looking for the interface to communicate that value as clearly as it communicates the fear of AIP.  Right now the UI itself is lopsided.

And before anyone suggests it: making the HuP just be a visual estimate with no actual benefits to you is something that I think people would see right through.  Not to mention that it wouldn't have that tangible feel and sense of relief that I imagine that this would give.  Getting science dumps when you're looking at 3 planet's more of HuP is something that creates yet another tangible goal that isn't there if HuP was just tracking your other conquests.  And let's face it, leveling up and getting windfalls just plain feels good. That's an important thing to counteract the scariness of taking territory when you see the AIP rise, which inherently feels bad.

Right now there are too many cases where the game gives you something that is ambiguously good (hope I picked the right fleet) or definitely bad (well, the AIP went up, that's definitely bad, I hope it was worth it for what else I got). I think that we need something that is unambiguously good (yes, I'm that much closer to my next windfall from HuP payout!  I wonder how I'll choose to use it, but it will be sweet to have it!).

Thoughts welcome. :)
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 on September 17, 2019, 11:52:23 AM
Oh, I also was thinking that mercenaries could become completely driven by HuP.  Right now I really never use mercenaries, but being given them as a reward would be a good thing.

What I'm thinking is that:

1. No more merc beacons.

2. A random new merc outfit unlocks at each big HuP windfall point.  Each merc group would have a max and min HuP it would unlock at, to keep that balanced.

3. Each time you hit a HuP windfall, you'd get a "merc credit" with each merc unit you already have.  Up to 3 in total.  As long as you have at least one merc credit with a merc group, you can call them at any time, for no metal cost.   This makes it not compete with my regular economy, and gets back to the AOE3 "home city cards" feel I've been kind of hankering for with these.

5. By the same token, letting the players have multiple merc credits (3), BUT making it so that they lose further credits beyond that if they don't spend them means that the attitude of "I'd better hang onto my mercs until I REALLY need them" can go away.  Instead there's a "well, I may as well call this one now, since I'm coming up on a windfall where I'll have a wasted call for them, anyway.  So how can I best use them right now?"

To me this is something that would make the mercenaries finally useful/usable, and  get rid of yet-one-more-capturable as well as tying the HuP into one of the major mechanics of the game (as evidenced by sidebar prominence) that is currently really an underused mechanic in general and doesn't currently deserve the interface space it takes up.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: RocketAssistedPuffin on September 17, 2019, 12:31:32 PM
Whatever form HuP takes, I really like the imagery of it being...well, pocket remnants smaller than yours coming out of hiding, as they see there being an actual chance to win. Kind of how the HRF and Marauders warp in from deep space.

Essentially like the old Colony Rebellions! Inspired to rise up, but in this case they're not requiring rescue on a planet across the entire galaxy.

I really like the idea of...things kind of like StarKelps player Trains? A growing Civilian/Militia aspect, although heh, that's definitely not in the time scope.

Just...the concept, idea, of the reasons behind you getting more resources, higher Mark ships etc is because of Humanities scientists, engineers, labour workers etc all rallying behind is really cool to me. A visual representation kind of, of that would be awesome.

Mercenaries I think even fit into this, being militia style (we were defending these scientists, but they're under your care now, what do you want us to do?).

Currently, even though I had that concern noted earlier, I've swung right into being all for this.

One last thing, I did in the past try the idea of Colony Rebellions that would boost the HRF faction - it was themed in a way that they were in stasis, and had to be hacked to disable the device. I wonder if that'd allow for a bit of Hacking or AIP cost for some HuP, in the theme of above.

EDIT: Occurred to me just after that...this feels like the Nebula factions in Ancient Shadows. You complete a Nebula, or gain the experience in Alt Champion Progress (interestingly, by doing things like capturing ARS', which is...kind of like this?) and you get a base with resources, and extra units.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada on September 17, 2019, 01:21:51 PM
Wait.

I'm not supposed to hold them ? With the current mechanics I feel like I have no reason not to.
You hold just enough planets to support your fleets economically and have forward bases to rebuild from, and strip the research and hacking from a number of others before abandoning them - less territory to worry about so less AIP from gate-raiding, turrets less spread out...

My view is way off yours. Less territory means less metal and energy. Energy.... more or less, whatever, depending on the defenses you put there. Less metal means... less metal. It's a net loss. Enough to rebuild means, to me, "the maximum I can get". If you ain't starving for metal you're not aggressive enough, or you don't have enough fleets in the first place.

If you can't hold the planet, or if it's not useful as a forward base or something, there is no point taking it in the first place.

That said. It's only one opinion.

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.

Hum, I wrote about those here, not sure about other topics. I tried to phase it neutrally. In my game, instigator base are the cause of major threat spikes.
Thing is if they spawn "right" or spawn "wrong", they can either be 7 jumps deep in enemy territory where you've not cleaned anything yet, or just a matter or a simple trip with some destroying in the middle.

I don't have an opinion on this for now.
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.

Not against, not convinced.
I think you got the right idea when telling the UI is "lopsided" in favor of the AI currently.

But, it's not only AIP. It's also fleet power.
Your fleet power is shown on the screen. The enemy also is. In AI War I, you had abstract numbers to compare. It was not obvious that you'd be stronger or weaker and you'd go for it and make your opinion.

Here, you being stronger or weaker is shown. And it's wrong. Because your ships rebuild, and are capable of taking on much stronger forces.



Also, my point of view about research. Sadly, it's a bit (a lot) late, and I don't think that redoing research is a good idea - it works somewhat. I feel like the research costs are just way to high given what they give. I didn't have this feeling in AI War I (and just checked), researches are in the 2k-4k range, mostly.

In AI WAR I, ship health is most of the time proportional to level. Ship attack also is. Sometimes ships have other benefits. And you get a new cap. So, getting a level 2 ship means (to me) getting from "strength 1 to 5". Getting to level 3 means getting to "14". Or 30 if you had the advanced factory.
You could get 3-6 lvl 2 ships from 1 planets. Or you can get 1 lvl 3-4 ship line for 1 planet.

In AI War II, I'm not sure about the mechanics, but... it seems you get mostly 40% attack, 25% health, and increases the cap by... not sure how much. From 20 to 40% it seems. BTW, upgrading the ships doesn't show that the caps increases. It should. I don't know why I forgot this.
Back to subject... getting one tech, makes all affected ships / turrets about 2 times as strong ? For each level ? After a few tests it seems that the strength boost gets lower at higher level. Let's assume it stays double, even if it seems less.

As a whole (maybe I'm wrong about this), I generally have 2-6 ship lines / turrets / flagships affected by one research.

Results:

In AI War I, I take 2 planets, I make a "ship line" go from 1 strength to 30. I have quite a lot of research to spare (AFAIK most lvl 3 research cost about 4K). Taking 3 planets means making 4 lines go from 1 to 30, a 116 strength increase.
In AI War II, I take 1 planets (lvl 2 tech), and make 4 ship lines go from 1 strength to 2, so 4 becomes 8.
In AI War II, I take 3-4 planets (lvl 4 tech), and make 4 ship lines go from about 8 strength to 16, so a 32 strength increase.

Results without maths:

In AI War 1, I take 2 planets, one of my ships goes from BAD to GOOD, and I got spare research.
In AI War 2, I take 3-4 planets, I take 3-4 lines of stuff from "MEH" to "GOOD". And I do not have spare research. Half of said stuff is potentially not useful at the moment.

It feels less useful. Even if the "real" power behind this is probably the same. Also, grouped research means that all your bombers get stronger (for example), but do you really need 3 types of bomber to get stronger ? Probably not... you probably want 3 different types of ships to get stronger.

But, that comparison is unfair, they ain't the same game. So, it sure is part of why I feel uneasy, but I'm not sure it needs changing.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 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.

---

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.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada 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).
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada 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 ?
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 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.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada 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.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: Asteroid 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 (https://forums.arcengames.com/ai-war-ii-ideas-for-maybe-later/(deprecated)-considering-the-removal-of-ai-progress/msg206212/#msg206212). 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 (https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=21659):

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:
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 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.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: kasnavada 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.
Title: Re: Research (also hacking, which I think of as research)
Post by: x4000 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.