Author Topic: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids  (Read 1019 times)

Offline ewokonfire

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[AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« on: August 19, 2016, 09:06:01 AM »
So, the following is a poorly thought-through idea for a new, substantially different way that Advanced Hybrids could impact the game.  I dunno if it would really work in practise (as there is no way to test it), but I'd like to think there's the grain of an idea here.


So, for each intensity point of the plot, one Super Hybrid spawns somewhere in the galaxy at the start of the game.  Each is individually named from a suitably intimidating pool of names, and starts off adjacent to a hybrid facility that is specific to it (I will refer to this as the hybrid's 'Phylactery' from now on).  To start out with, they're not considerably stronger than a standard hybrid, but they can evolve and upgrade their modules much faster than standard hybrids as time goes on.  Each also has some kind of individual 'personality' made up of a few traits randomly selected from a set (so for example, Jennifer the super hybrid is more aggressive than normal, prefers needler modules to other weapons, and prioritises irreplacable structures on player planets).

The player can, of course, take on these super hybrids as normal.  However, killing one doesn't take it out forever.  Instead, a certain amount of time later it respawns at it's phylactery, minus a chunk of experience.  The only way to take one out forever is to kill it normally and then go and destroy the phylactery (which is a tough, well-armed structure that the AI is willing to invest considerable resources in defending).  I'm also considering whether it would be better to do it the other way around (phylactery is invincible while hybrid is respawning, you have to take it out while the hybrid is active and then chase it down before it can rebuild it).

The idea behind this change is that it allows for what is effectively 'recurring villains' in a campaign.  Emotionally I think it would be a great high to finally deal with an annoying hybrid once and for all, and the strategic depth would be reasonable, especially with the individual personalities.  Anyone got any thoughts, or is this as stupid an idea as I suspect it might be?

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2016, 02:20:52 AM »
Interesting ideas, overall.

At the core, I think it could totally make a plot or a minor faction of its own: given intensity X, there is X buildings seeded in the galaxy (re)spawning one big enemy each. Hunting down the building and the enemy might be an interesting task. Which one to hunt first is of little importance, however: it can be enemy first or base first without big gameplay change. If the enemy rebuild its base several minutes after it being destroyed that would bring some !!fun!! and require some planning and strategy.

A personality for each sounds interesting, but that needs much more work. You said only "aggressive" (what weapon it prefers is rather irrelevant and what it targets merges into its personality). You'll need to flesh out that part of your design. Does aggressive mean Threat-like or suicide-attack/respawn/suicide-attack/etc? We can have a truly aggressive making suicide-attacks and a "threatening" who joins the Threat Fleet. I can also imagine a "defensive" personality with a Special Forces -like behavior. However, I feel the personalities would be rather limited and not very interesting because many moving parts of the game already do them.

In my personal notes, I tried to revamp the hybrids and my main point was: give them a brand new role, something nothing else do in the game. Threat? Done by Threat Fleet. Mobile defense? Done by Special Forces. Even revenge is done by the Reprisal mechanism. My best idea was "rebuilding". As nothing in AI War recaptures neutral planets, it's a free role. Hybrids could be revamped into that role, supporting the Threat and CPA and quickly recapturing and entrenching the position with new guard posts on metal deposit.

In your idea, the fact they are hybrids is only partly relevant. Your goal isn't to change what are the Hybrids, but it doesn't clic with what currently are the Hybrids. It comes from their harass perk but doesn't truly use it. Your idea can be applied with Zenith, Dark Spire, Dire Guardians, Shadow Nemesis or Human Pirates; it would be technically identical. However, the problem with the Hybrids is that they don't have a core role anymore. They were designed in a time where Threat and Special Forces didn't exist yet and had a role, but not anymore, IMO.

TL;DR:
Your idea is technically interesting.
You need to flesh it out (or embrace its simplicity and scrap the "personality" part).
It doesn't connect with the Hybrids in particular.
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Offline ewokonfire

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2016, 01:57:05 PM »
Note: I wrote this post in a fairly scattered way.  If it doesn't make any sense or contradicts itself, I'm sorry.

You've certainly given me some stuff to think about.  You're right, there isn't really a reason why it needs to be linked to the hybrids at all.  In fact, referring to them as champions might make more sense due to the respawning, but it isn't a big deal.

The main reason why I want the personality element is so that the different supers in a game feel distinct from each other.  If they all do the same stuff then there is no reason to prioritise killing any one of them before the other.  However, if they're doing different things (so some act like threat, some show up to defend priority planets, some help rebuild structures on AI planets, some join in with waves), then deciding which phylacteries to destroy first (something I was intending would take a considerable amount of effort) is an interesting choice (although you'd probably take them all out before the end of the game anyway unless they gave AIP on death (which isn't something I think plots should do and is my main beef with Astro Trains)).  Also, I don't think that weapon choice is irrelevant for something like this.  It probably wouldn't affect your destruction priorities, but (for example), switching out a bunch of Needler modules for some drone bays does change the approach to fighting it.  It's not a huge deal either way, but having weapon preferences would make them feel that little more varied.

What all of this means is that I think this would fill an interesting new role in the game.  Sure, no particular super is doing anything that isn't already done by something else the AI has, but what this plot is doing is allowing the player to choose which of those areas is most important to weaken.  This is distinct from hybrid hives (where destroying spawners weakens all classes of hives simultaneously) and from the AIs general army like threatfleet and Special Forces, which you can't permanently weaken except by lowering AIP.  As far as I can think of, nothing in the game right now allows you to permanently weaken the AI in this way.

On reflection, I think building-first destruction with the ship attempting to rebuild it is more interesting than the other way around.  For bonus 'fun', there could even be a 'power surge' mechanic to give the now-vulnerable ship a decent last stand.

tl;dr: You're mostly right.

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2016, 06:28:32 PM »
As far as I can think of, nothing in the game right now allows you to permanently weaken the AI in this way.
Special Forces. Destroying all SF GPosts (at least in alerted planets, I think) permanently reduce their ability to reinforce.

they gave AIP on death (which [...] is my main beef with Astro Trains)
Let's talk about Astro Trains here for a minute, shall we? After all, one more *derailed* topic won't change the face of the forum, right?

My opinion is that it needs much more player agency. I mean that players must be empowered with a clear mean of altering the state of the game. Right now, trains' routing is barely predictable and players have nearly no control over them. I would be okay with the AIP cost if I could clearly see the result before. In other words, I want to see what I'm paying for. I remember the idea to make trains only travel from station to station if they are on adjacent planets. That would make understanding of train routing crystal-clear, and the players' action would be "cut the rails". Then an AIP cost to force the player to cut only the interesting rails would be acceptable. Also, cutting a graph is already something interesting to make with Special Forces and planet capture (and Hunter plot to spice it up).

Now let's get back to Hybrids.

The main reason why I want the personality element is so that the different supers in a game feel distinct from each other.
Sure. That's why you need to flesh it out. Same thing for the preferred weapon. Take the time to mature your idea and bring precise gameplay mechanics (well, you're not forced to, but I think you can only make it real by crafting something rich and accurate). Drone bay was a nice idea. My main concern was the current use of AI modular units: having a bit of everything isn't interesting at all. For example, I would prefer Neinzul Starships spawning only one kind of drone with clear advantages and weakness, or one average unit instead of many (supposedly) different ones mixed for, in fine, evening things out. All that to say: please, clear differences. Make a sniper, make a brawler, make a drone-sieger, etc. That is interesting. (Same thing for behavior. Make they stand out!)

Oh, hey, didn't I tell this is only my opinion and you're totally not required to listen to me?
Well, I say it now, then.

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Offline ewokonfire

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2016, 05:41:05 PM »
I understand that the personality system needs fleshing out, but I'm not convinced that I'm the guy to do it.  I simply haven't played enough AIW to evaluate what ideas would be workable and what wouldn't without any way to test them.  I was mostly just putting this out there to see if anyone else thought it was an interesting idea in theory.  I do certainly think that if (when?) the moddable version of AI War exists, then I might be able to plausibly develop this a lot further, with the ability to hopefully prototype ideas fairly quickly and see if they work.  For example: A super that builds up mini-drones like a Hive Golem, then looks for a planet with some kind of battle (either a wave hitting a human world or a human assault on an AI world, based on whether it's offensive or defensive) to release them before fleeing to AI deep space to rebuild it's forces: is that fun to play against, or just so unpredictable it's annoying?  I don't know, and I can't find out until AIW2.

But anyway, I think there almost certainly is a decent number of different, meaningfully distinct things that these could do.  For example, it's not a massive leap to go from the aforementioned hive-thing to something that would amount to a Spirecraft Penetrator, but the two would serve nicely different purposes.  Also, seeing as most people would be unlikely to crank this all the way to 10, I suspect that even only about 10-15 different types would feel like boundless variety.

However, here is a provisional list of possible personalities that I can think of right now (this is as independent of weapon choice as I could make it):

Special Forces Sargent (just hangs around with the specs and joins in with what they're doing)
Threatener (Acts like threat and joins with AI aggression)
Wave Support (Waits for a biggish wave, then attacks the planet at the same time)
Hit-and-run (Enters a planet with something happening on, does something (drones or sniper fire, probably), and leaves)
Avenger (Lurks on neutralised AI planets, gradually rebuilds defenses and attacks human stuff entering it)
Mobile Eye (Gets a considerable bonus to strength compared to others, but won't engage human forces unless they're overwhelming on an AI planet)
Sieger (Mounts long-range weapons or drones and counter-sniper coverage, sits on the edge of gravity wells and whittles down human defenses)
Transport (Sacrifices raw power for awesome defense and a transport ability.  Tries to get AI fleets past defended human border worlds to squishier planets)

Considering I thought of all of those just before going to bed, I think 10-15 shouldn't be too unreachable.  Some of the above might suck.  But multiply those ideas by all the meaningfully different modules they could potentially have (guns, shields, snipers, spiders, drone bays (with plenty of options for what the drones can wield), tractor beams, orbital mass drivers, ion cannons, reclamation weapons, mini warheads, tackle drones, plasma siege cannons, attrition emitters, mini wrath-lances, munitions/armor/speed boosters, contruction stuff for rebuilding AI planets...the list goes on, probably) and it's already possible that nobody would ever see the exact same set of supers that someone else did.  And you're right, having them be specialised is much more interesting than having each one mount roughly the same generalised mish-mash of guns.  (Damn, now I can't wait for AIW2 when I can test these out)  Thoughts?

Moving back to Astro Trains because they're an interesting topic, I think that you're absolutely right with player agency.  I've barely ever played with them on because halfway through the time I tried them I realized that I wasn't able to do anything about them.  This is why I think that despite all their flaws, Hybrids are by far the best existing plot.  They do both of the things that I believe a plot should do: they make the game objectively harder, but they can be dealt with by the investment of player resources and effort (I believe it is possible to entirely remove them from the game, but correct me if I'm wrong on that bit).  Astro trains get the first bit right, but not the second.  One possible solution (that just occurred to me and is probably terrible) would be to spawn a finite number of them but increase their health/armor each time one is destroyed.  I don't know how this would work with nuke trains and similar, but it would at least allow the player to reduce the threat they pose as the game goes on and they get a bigger fleet (that can thus take out tougher trains) and it would allow for an element of choice in which ones to leave alive and which to destroy.  Thoughts?

Offline Cyborg

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2016, 06:53:17 PM »
I agree that astro trains are among the most interesting units in the game. However, very underutilized and so much more could be done to make them more fun. Over the years, many suggestions have been given, and most of them are about making it a mechanic where you can actually manipulate them into doing something worthwhile instead of just being annoying little ants.
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Offline Pumpkin

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Re: [AIW2] A new take on Advanced Hybrids
« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2016, 04:36:00 AM »
I do certainly think that if (when?) the moddable version of AI War exists, then I might be able to plausibly develop this a lot further, with the ability to hopefully prototype ideas fairly quickly and see if they work.
Just as I do.

Transport (Sacrifices raw power for awesome defense and a transport ability.  Tries to get AI fleets past defended human border worlds to squishier planets)
Your ideas are very interesting. Why did you start your post with "I don't know if I can do it"?
For that specific transport "personality", I would see something inspired by the Starcraft II Terran "doom drop". While I bet it would be hard to get the AI load units into transports, I think this one can use your hive idea and be like a raider who, instead of going for targets under FFields, rushes through Human frontier worlds and unload tons of drones in backwater Human territory (a bit like what the hostile Neinzul Roaming Enclaves do, but more intentionally).

Hit-and-run (Enters a planet with something happening on, does something (drones or sniper fire, probably), and leaves)
Sieger (Mounts long-range weapons or drones and counter-sniper coverage, sits on the edge of gravity wells and whittles down human defenses)
Those are interesting. I can see something like what a Human player would do: get snipers or drone spawners on an enemy planet, stay afar, dodge fleets and besiege defenses. Retreats when menaced would be interesting too. One can have fast combat drones, sniper or spider shots. Maybe one can have a plasma cannon with reasonably long range. That could make four distinct personalities.

And you're right, having them be specialised is much more interesting than having each one mount roughly the same generalised mish-mash of guns.  (Damn, now I can't wait for AIW2 when I can test these out)  Thoughts?
Told you so! ;D

(I believe it is possible to entirely remove them from the game, but correct me if I'm wrong on that bit)
I think it's true. Killing all Hybrids and all their facilities would basically remove them from the game. However, I think there is several facilities on AI Homeworlds, so winning the game might be easier than removing the Hybrids from it.

Moving back to Astro Trains (...) I don't know how this would work with nuke trains and similar, but it would at least allow the player to reduce the threat they pose as the game goes on and they get a bigger fleet (that can thus take out tougher trains) and it would allow for an element of choice in which ones to leave alive and which to destroy.  Thoughts?
Most plots and MF do that kind of thing, and even the base game: there is an opponent, you can kick it. Special Forces, Hybrids, etc. What is interesting with, for instance, the Devourer Golem and the Astro Trains, is that they can't be fought in the usual way. I don't want Astro Trains (or any other new MF/Plot) if they are just killable pain. The two AIs basically are that sort of things (and the end goal). What must be (ultimately) interesting with your Hybrids/Champions/"Super" idea is how can they be fought (each has one factory somewhere and destroying it get rid of the Super; neat and new). Personally, I see no big difference between the Neinzul Preservation Wardens and the Human Marauders (their spawn rules are different, but they're basically "killable pain") and that sucks. So, yeah, for Astro Trains, I would even say "make them plain indestructible". Currently, they are "mostly indestructible", which might lure players into thinking they can be dealt with in that way, but they respawn endlessly. They are not supposed to be fought that way, and that's why I think they should be indestructible. They are supposed to be rerouted instead (just like the Devourer Golem must be dodged). And there the plot falls apart: players have barely no agency on that.

While I'm thinking of it, maybe instead of having "rails" and a constraint of adjacency (trains can only go to stations 1 hop away), clearly displaying which stations are link to which might solve that. For example, Sabotage Hacker's devices display their nearest target. I think something like that for ATStations would solve the problem: if each station basically say "I'm close enough of stations on planets A, B and C" (I can send trains to A, B or C), players would get agency back. Similarly, if each ATStation clearly says "trains can only travel to stations X hops away from their current station" and lets the players do the computation (mentally create the subgraph to be partially cut), it's ok. And AIP cost stays to force players not destroy them all.

While I'm think of it (yeah, I know...) AIP cost of ATStations might be crescent: destroying the first costs barely no AIP, the second a bit more, etc, and the tenth costs more than a nuke.
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