Author Topic: Organic Design (No AIP, no HaP, no magic moving)  (Read 396 times)

Offline Pumpkin

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,195
  • Neinzul Gardener Enclave
Organic Design (No AIP, no HaP, no magic moving)
« on: September 03, 2016, 12:26:36 PM »
Organic Design

[ Introduction ]

Reading many interesting ideas out there and observing that AIW2 won't be just an engine upgrade, I spent some hours trying to piece together a coherent proposal for a more "organic" handling of AIP and HaP. I also extended the idea of "fair" and "non magical" ways for the AI to sends units in the game from Elestan.

[ No Warp ]

Neither AI not Humans can make warpgates.
Only a very nasty AI Type or Plot can use the old warped waves or reinforcement.

Ways for AI units to enter the battlefield:
* Exogalactic Wormholes
* Exogalactic Gate (artificial exogalactic wormholes, rare, irreplaceable, key targets; between 0 and 3 per galaxy, depending on difficulty; 2 at "normal" difficluty)
* Local Production (See [ Local Production ])

Ways for AI units to move long distances:
* Astro Train Transport (See [ Astro Trains ])
* "on foot"

-> Reinforcement

New ships are either "guards" or "threat". The first just try to join a planet to reinforce (by train or on foot). Preemption is now just an "aggression" ratio (AI with 100% aggression have all its new units in threat mode; with 0% all in guard mode).
Awoken guards switch to "threat", as usual. Guards in transit whose destination isn't available anymore turn threat.
Alerted planets are more likely destinations for guards.
Barracks disappear, unfortunately.

-> Waves

No more waves. Instead, Exogalactic Strikeforces with Starship or Dire Guardian as leader, emerging from an Exogalactic Wormhole (or Gate), routing toward a target, ignoring force estimation (threat may follow if the estimation change). "Fair": predictable if Human scouts are smartly disposed; can be intercepted with fleet or beachhead in AI territory.
CPA would be just periodic release of several guards and reorganisation of threat as several coherent threat fleets. (Threat fleets' units have a colored outline similar to FRD for game readability.)
No timer but warnings: "Guards have been released against Humans" when CPA triggers; "Threatening fleetgathered at $PlanetName" for each scouted planet with a Threat fleet leader on it.

Problem: reinforcement crossing Human territory: impossible? (Might be okay: Homeworlds never isolated.)
Consequence: Players ability to completely cut and isolate parts of AI territory.
Mitigate: Astro Trains able to cross Human territory.
Mitigate: AI may target more heavily planets cutting route to isolated territory (AI "dislike" unreachable territory).

-> Exogalactic Budget

AI has an exogalactic budget (Reinforcement and Exogalactic Strikeforces). That budget is given by the Core to its servants based on how Humans seems threatening. It is calculated on quantity of Human and Neutral planets (maybe Neutral weight less) and the number of CSG destroyed (so one per non-A-prime network plus one per A-prime generator).
The only way to decrease that is to forfeit planets: scrap OCStations and let the AI get the planet back. See [ AI Rebuilders ].
(Capturing an A Prime planet then releasing it increases less the budget than taking and keeping the planet. Is this balance with Knowledge gathering on neutral planets?)

-> Special Forces

Special Forces are reinforced with a portion of the exogalactic budget (SF ships bought with that budget emerge from exogalactic wormholes or exogalactic gates). Another part of the Special Forces are created by local production. See [ Local Production ].

-> Old Warp Stuff

The Raid Engine becomes the Warp Engine, which triggers every X minutes when alerted.
The Counterattack Guard Post becomes the Warp Guard Post, which triggers when destroyed (and protects its OCStation).
They are able to bring AI ships directly from the exogalactic budget on its planet when/while triggered, causing a small debt as the budget is almost spent when earned.
The Troop Accelerator becomes the Guard Warp Engine, which directly warps the guards destined to its planet. (Maybe redundant next to the new Exogalactic Gate.)
The new Hacking response is detailed in the [ Hacking ] chapter.

[ Astro Trains ]

-> Routing

The Astro Train Network is a subgraph of the galaxy (uses same vertices and edges but not all). Used vertices are marked with an Astro Train Station. Used edges are marked with routes of beacons (destroying them would be useless as the trains don't need them to move, that must be clearly explained somewhere).
The only action players can do on that graph is removing vertices, aka destroying stations. All edges (routes) connected to a destroyed station automatically disapear.

Ideas to make destroying stations non-trivial:
* Making them protected by their local OCStation (like CSG). The cost is then tied to the cost of an OCStation.
* Tying it to a regular (but expensive) device destruction (See [ Vengence ]).
* ??

-> Traveling

Astro Trains can freely go through Human territory if the "rails" go through.
Astro Trains are not harmful per se (no weapons or tractors).
Astro Trains are indestructible (not just tons of HP).

-> Regular and Special Trains

Regular trains are tied to one "rail": they endlessly go back and forth between two stations.

Special trains spawn from an exogalactic wormhole, move from station to station toward one particular station, do something special and go back.
The "Astro Train Network" galaxy display shows stations reachable from exogalactic wormholes or not with different colors. (It also shows "rails".)
These special trains do "special delivery". (Used by several other mechanisms.)

A Plot (or AI Minor Faction) may add destructible, interceptible, harmful Astro Trains as "Special Delivery for Human Territory".

-> Role

Moving AI stuff around.
AI units may load into stations, be picked up on the next train passage, and be unloaded on destination station.
Metal must be moved from AI extraction sites to AI production sites. (See [ Local Production ].)

[ AI Rebuilders ]

Hybrid Hives?

The AI has a dedicated force that can build OCStations in accessible neutral planets and Guard Posts on empty metal spots in accessible planets.
As the exogalactic budget partially depends on the number of Human and Neutral planets, this is a way to actually reduce it.

[ Local Production ]

The AI has several planets with either a production or an extraction site. They are all on planets with an Astro Train Station on it.
Extraction sites are places where the AI can extract metal (from the planet itself, in the background, or asteroid present as object in the game, depends) and load it in the local Astro Train Station.
Production sites are places where the AI can produce units without using the exogalactic budget.
Production sites can have one structure among the following: Advanced Factory, Advanced Starship Constructor, Xenoship Constructor (for guardians), Dire Guardian Lair, Special Forces Factory.
They can all build without incoming metal (they are supposed to have a small, local extraction site) but each time an Astro Train delivers metal, they gain a temporal, significant productivity boost.
Produced units are assigned to the guards or the threat depending on the controlling AI's aggression setting. Xenoship Constructor produces only guardians, always sent to guards. Special Forces Factories always assign their production to Special Forces.
Dire Guardian Lairs rarely appears at normal difficulty and never below, but are more frequent at challenging difficulty. At challenging difficulty, a production site can rarely be a Hunter/Killer factory.

Humans can capture production sites with Advanced Factory or Advanced Starship Constructor to gain access to MkIV fleetships or starships (if they have developed the MkIII version with Knowledge).

[ AI R&D ]

The AI has processing power and data. Processing power is the data gained per second. These scores are hidden but can be accessed from within the game.

The AI has 4 Data Centers in the galaxy, each on planets with an Astro Train Station on it (MkIV). When one is destroyed, the AI orders a Special Delivery (See [ Astro Trains ]) to create a new one at a random Astro Train Station (in reach of an exogalactic wormhole). Each Special Delivery also comes with a free fleet (that doesn't count in the exogalactic budget): players aren't advised to destroy Data Centers often.
The 4 Data Centers are all redundant saves; they need to be destroyed before the first Special Delivery arrives for the AI to lose the contained data. If, at any given time, there is no Data Center in the galaxy, the Data score of the AI is reset to zero.

The AI also has several Coprocessors in the galaxy; each have the perk "Quantum Processor". Each AI Home Command Station also have the "Quantum Processor" perk. Every second, the AI gain as much Data point as the number of Quantum Processor in the galaxy (so 2 + the amount of remaining Quantum Processors). Each time that score reaches a fixed, well displayed threshold (not like the current DGLair threshold), the AI gain one new ship design each.

The Human players can only access the current AI Data score if they have a stealth lab or hacker on a planet with either a Coprocessor or a Data Center. So players need to have one in stealth reach and not destroy it; the best thing to do is to carve a tachyon-free path to a Data Center, then wait for the Data score to be near its threshold and destroy the four Data Centers for a maximum data lose with a minimum number of Special Deliveries. The four Data Centers are then redistributed and the players will need to do that again a few hours later.

The AI can order Special Delivery for Coprocessor during the game. If players didn't take them down, this is an increase in processing power; else, it's a recovery. At higher difficulty, the Corpocessor Delivery are more frequent, to the point where players must struggle to not let the processing power raise too high.

Each time the AI get new ship designs, they order a Special Delivery for adding the new Design Backup Servers in the galaxy. As for AI War Classic, destroying one of these or capturing their planet is useless, but it can be hacked for download or corruption.

The Advanced Research Stations are not part of AI R&D but are old Human stations (their name might change to reflect that; "Derelict Science Station"?). TODO: research redirection hacking.

[ AI Tech Level ]

The mark of exogalactic and locally produced ships depends on the current AI Tech Level.
This has the effect of binding guards' mark to a global setting rather than to the local reinforced planet.


[ Hacking ]

The Hacker's devices are not cloaked (but have a radar dampening range that makes them immune to infinite range shots).
Instead of triggering magically warped AI units, each hacking attracts the Special Force. Each successful hack gives the AI a "free" budget for Special Forces reinforcement (with potentially nasty units such as Dire Guardians and Hunter/Killers, similarly to the Hunter Plot). Each hack has a duration (how many times to defend against Special Forces) and a "cost" (how much free budget for the Special Forces).
That cost may increase with each hack or not, per hacking type done or globally. Deciding wether to hack or not isn't a matter of remaining points and increasing cost for these points, but instead "how do I accept the SF increases?" If an expensive hack is done, the next might be impossible to achieve due to the overwhelming addition to the SF.

SuperTerminal -> Core Terminal
"The AI will directly warp many units in this planet. That will require a tremendous amount of energy that the Core is only willing to pay if you are meddling with this backdoor to its system."

[ Core Progress ]

Without AIP, no auto-AIP. But there is a need to force an end, to avoid stalemate and overlong games.

The Core is busy in another galaxy and cannot dedicate enough power to mankind eradication. But as time passes, the Core earn victories in that other galaxy and is more and more able to deal with the Human "affairs".
Can also be named Exogalactic Progress.
It's a budget separated from the normal exogalactic budget (I'll call it Core budget), which raises at a rhythm defined at game start, in the lobby (might be equivalent to a MF/Plot with intensity).
It starts at zero and there is no way to lower it (in a vanilla game at least; a campaign like Fallen Spire might give players agency on what is going on in the other galaxy).
While the normal exogalactic budget can only buy fleetships, starships and guardians, the Core budget can only buy Dire Guardians, Hunter/Killers (or other AAA/BBB stuff), and ultimately Motherships and big AI stuff. (Alien themed AI personalities might access Spirecrafts or Golems.)
These late game, powerful units are supposedly winners of past battles in the so-called other galaxy, now free to be dedicated to mankind extinction.

[ Vengeance ]

Without AIP, there is no way to give small prices to destruction of this and that.
Here, I'll try to address all AIP inducing stuff.

* Destruction of AI OCStations: this is now balanced by the exogalactic budget. The control of a planet, more than its destruction, is now taken into acount.
* Distribution Nodes: they are now part of the economical AI stuff (Extraction/Production/Trains). Humans might have a way to hijack some metal from that network, probably with hacking.
* Zenith Reserve: On each planet with a Zenith Reserve, there is a Barrack-like structure which is automatically destroyed when the Reserve is, and which releases a bunch of guardians (same mark as the Reserve), overall more powerful than the Zeniths. To turn the Reserve as a benefice, the players must lose less than what they gain by befriending the Zeniths.
* Lose of Human lives (Cryogenic Pods, Home or Captive Human Settlement): as they give an economical bonus, their lose is already a bad thing. Or we can use something like the shark plot.

* Destruction of a harmful device (Raid Engine, Troop Accelerator, etc) and detonation of warheads:
Detonation of warheads and destruction of AI devices is punished with a free exogalactic budget of MkV or nasty units. (Told by tooltip and displays a warning.)
For warheads, the free budget must be slightly higher than what the same warhead can destroy. Using a warhead is thus only a way to "push back" a threat, bot in the galaxy and in time.

* AI Homeworlds: Human forces penetrating a homeworld would force the Core to recognize the threat that Humans now represent, triggering free and bigger than usual exogalactic strikeforces, just like in AI War Classic.
The destruction of one of the Core's servant must have a tremendous impact (the Core Guard Posts destroyed with it are "rolled" into that impact).
The Avenger Plot might drift into the base game as a replacement for that AIP increase.
(I always felt the AIP increase upon destruction of one AI Home Command Station was very underwhelming. A friend of mine expected the surviving AI would "go berserk" and was very disappointed.)

* Lose of Rebelling Colony: I feel the entire Minor Faction must be reworked. Briefly: when the Colony is about to lose its cloaking, a special Exogalactic Strikeforce or a dedicated Special Delivery is sent toward it. If the menace if fended off, players gain the bonus as the colony itself; if they can't and it's destroyed, the strikeforce/delivery join the threat and is now after other Humans.
* Spire Civilian Leaders require a similar rework.
* Zenith Power Generators might fall in the "Lose of Human lives" or "Harmful Devices" category.

* Golem repair might induce a permanent (or temporary, while the golem is alive) increase in the Core budget, equivalent to one or a few hours of increase. (But as that increased budget per hour depends on the lobby setting, a clearer balance might be found. But if the different budgets are directly and explicitly tied to units' strength, then the capture of a golem might be formulated as strength-per-hour in Core budget.)
* Similar things for Spirecrafts.
(However I personally believe that Minor Factions must have a well-integrated balance or be completely beneficial or harmful and let the players make their own balance.)
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
Pumpkin>> Do I need another cure about paranoia on top of overexcitement?
Mal>> We play AI War, enthusiasm and paranoia are both required!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,852
Re: Organic Design (No AIP, no HaP, no magic moving)
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2016, 09:47:09 AM »
To be clear, I'm not trying to ignore your ideas -- you had sent a PM about this.  However, what you're proposing is incredi-complicated in terms of the number of changes from the base game to get to what you are proposing.  That requires far too many risky changes to the overall design of the game, and risks having a lot of wrong designs before something that is fun can be arrived at.  It's more or less what happened with SBR if we're not careful.

Given that AI War itself has a lot of people who are passionate about what the first game is, really going hardcore away from what it was is 100% not in my game plan.  I feel like it's a big risk of going from Supreme Commander 1 (yay!) to Supreme Commander 2 (hey, where'd the stuff go??), or the same between Civ IV (vanilla) and Civ V (vanilla).

With that in mind, any sort of core changes like this would have to have the following traits:
1. Easy to test and implement.
2. Easy for new folks to understand at a surface level.
3. A strong and clear motivation for why this would diverge from the original in the first place.
4. Something I can formulate a concrete design from.
5. Not so different from the base game in terms of the "x factor" that we risk this not feeling like AI War anymore.

A number of ideas that I've wanted to explore (very much so) of my own have had to be put on hold or halted because they don't meet all of the criteria above.  A big part of why TLF went over budget, and why SBR went over budget and never finished, was because there were a lot of untested and semi-concrete designs (of mine) that turned out to need months and months of revision.  With AI War having such strong source material to pull from, and a general sense of people wanting that source material to not be violated, I have a triple incentive to stick to that source material except when there's a good reason not to.

Hope that makes sense.  For what it's worth, some of your stuff about hull types and that sort of thing, while I haven't had time to get to it yet (and it's just simply not time yet in general in the life of the design document), I think is very much the right direction to be thinking in from what I can tell.  In other words, this isn't some blanket statement against all of your ideas, either.

Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Pumpkin

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,195
  • Neinzul Gardener Enclave
Re: Organic Design (No AIP, no HaP, no magic moving)
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2016, 12:50:01 AM »
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and answer. Now I understand more precisely what kind of changes you're okay with. First I thought you won't be changing the gameplay at all, but then you proposed very profound changes (no AIP, space platforms, squads, etc) and I thought you were ok with similar changes. And now you explain to me "not so much change". I'll understand what kind of change you're okay with step by step, and I understood this one was one step too far. :-[

I'll try to extract and refine ideas that matches your points 1 through 5.

Thanks again.
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
Pumpkin>> Do I need another cure about paranoia on top of overexcitement?
Mal>> We play AI War, enthusiasm and paranoia are both required!