Author Topic: A modest suggestion: hull types removal  (Read 2490 times)

Offline Wingflier

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A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« on: August 30, 2016, 02:24:54 AM »
AI War was a masterpiece, there's no denying that, but an issue that has come up again and again over the years is the problem of hull types, and countless discussions on how to balance them.

At first it wasn't a big deal, because there were so few ships in the game that hull types were easy to balance, but as the number of the ships in the game doubled, then tripled, and quadrupled, the entire system became one giant mess, which was constantly having to be "rebalanced" (If you remember Keith doing the "worst ship in the game" polls every week), which was more of a band-aid than an actual solution to the problem.

Another problem with the hull types is that was unfriendly to new players. AI War is complicated enough as it is, and has a steep learning curve in a world of increasingly impatient gamers, having them memorize the hull types of hundreds and hundreds of ships, and also the modifiers of each ship is honestly too much to ask, even of the veteran players.

The third problem is that it's forced design. Fighters don't do extra damage to bombers because they're faster, or because they can dodge the bombers' attacks, it's simply because there's a modifier that says they can. Missile frigates don't beat smaller ships because they have numerous small attacks (like something you would see in a mecha anime or sci-fi movie) -- missiles that break into yet smaller projectiles that seek out fast-moving ships, but are fairly ineffective against big targets. No, it's because they have a modifier that says they are good against fighters. That's it.

The truth is, you could make the game's ship balance intuitive. Everybody already knows that fighters beat bombers. Everyone already knows that frigates firing massive amounts of tiny missiles are going to beat strikecraft. You don't need to add hull modifiers to make this happen, all of this can be accomplished with a very simple armor system, and basic stats like damage, penetration, and number of projectiles.

Every ship in the game could be balanced in this way. Fighters beat bombers because their DPS is significantly higher, because they are cheaper, and because bombers have huge frontloaded damage that fires infrequently, where fighters are very numerous and can simply overwhelm them. Bombers beat Frigates because Frigates fire tons of tiny rockets which the bomber armor can absorb, and because Frigates are less numerous than fighters, and thus are very vulnerable to the Bomber's frontloaded damage attacks. Fighters are vulnerable to Frigates because they have no armor, and because the endless volley of tiny missiles overcomes their superior numbers.

All the counters still exist, but in a much more natural way. It's a way that any player who has watched a sci-fi flick ever will instantly understand, the learning curve is much smoother, and every bonus ship in the game can be balanced using these same simple principles.

In the end, the hull type system will never be balanced. Certain bonuses are always going to be more important than others simply because of the nature of the game, and certain hull types are going to be more favorable because they are countered by the least amount of units. In the end, the more ships you add to the game, the more of a balance disaster it becomes, and the more difficult it becomes for new players to try and memorize all the types, and all the modifiers of each ship. I think nearly 10 years of iterative design has proven this.

For the sake of your new players, and for the long-term quality of the game, I highly suggest removing this forced design mechanic, and replacing it with something much more organic.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 02:56:45 AM by Wingflier »
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2016, 03:07:31 AM »
I'm hugely disappointed this proposal doesn't involve eating ships.

The truth is, you could make the game's ship balance intuitive.
Sure.

with a very simple armor system, and basic stats like damage, penetration, and number of projectiles.
Nope. Rather than memorize what hulls are strong against, they have to memorize the capabilities of every ship, which does not sound like a victory for simplicity and clarity. At best you've recreated the hull system without calling it such. At worst you've worsened the problem you claim to solve.

Categories are useful. Look at Fire Emblem's weapon triangle: swords beat axes, axes beat spears, spears beat swords unto infinity. Spears>swords make sense, but why is a mounted spearwielding, armored knight vulnerable against a half-naked barbarian with an axe? The triangle makes axes the hard counter to spears. Is it accurate or sensical? No, but just one glance at the strategic view will tell players familiar with the system it's a substandard decision before you check the battle calculator. Ideally the same should be true of weapons vs. hulls.

Also, unless I'm misremembering due to sleep deprivation, missile weapons don't work like that at all in AI War.

Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2016, 03:21:15 AM »
AI War was a masterpiece, there's no denying that, but an issue that has come up again and again over the years is the problem of hull types, and countless discussions on how to balance them.

At first it wasn't a big deal, because there were so few ships in the game that hull types were easy to balance, but as the number of the ships in the game doubled, then tripled, and quadrupled, the entire system became one giant mess, which was constantly having to be "rebalanced" (If you remember Keith doing the "worst ship in the game" polls every week), which was more of a band-aid than an actual solution to the problem.

Another problem with the hull types is that was unfriendly to new players. AI War is complicated enough as it is, and has a steep learning curve in a world of increasingly impatient gamers, having them memorize the hull types of hundreds and hundreds of ships, and also the modifiers of each ship is honestly too much to ask, even of the veteran players.

The third problem is that it's forced design. Fighters don't do extra damage to bombers because they're faster, or because they can dodge the bombers' attacks, it's simply because there's a modifier that says they can. Missile frigates don't beat smaller ships because they have numerous small attacks (like something you would see in a mecha anime or sci-fi movie) -- missiles that break into yet smaller projectiles that seek out fast-moving ships, but are fairly ineffective against big targets. No, it's because they have a modifier that says they are good against fighters. That's it.

The truth is, you could make the game's ship balance intuitive. Everybody already knows that fighters beat bombers. Everyone already knows that frigates firing massive amounts of tiny missiles are going to beat strikecraft. You don't need to add hull modifiers to make this happen, all of this can be accomplished with a very simple armor system, and basic stats like damage, penetration, and number of projectiles.

Every ship in the game could be balanced in this way. Fighters beat bombers because their DPS is significantly higher, because they are cheaper, and because bombers have huge frontloaded damage that fires infrequently, where fighters are very numerous and can simply overwhelm them. Bombers beat Frigates because Frigates fire tons of tiny rockets which the bomber armor can absorb, and because Frigates are less numerous than fighters, and thus are very vulnerable to the Bomber's frontloaded damage attacks. Fighters are vulnerable to Frigates because they have no armor, and because the endless volley of tiny missiles overcomes their superior numbers.

All the counters still exist, but in a much more natural way. It's a way that any player who has watched a sci-fi flick ever will instantly understand, the learning curve is much smoother, and every bonus ship in the game can be balanced using these same simple principles.

In the end, the hull type system will never be balanced. Certain bonuses are always going to be more important than others simply because of the nature of the game, and certain hull types are going to be more favorable because they are countered by the least amount of units. In the end, the more ships you add to the game, the more of a balance disaster it becomes, and the more difficult it becomes for new players to try and memorize all the types, and all the modifiers of each ship. I think nearly 10 years of iterative design has proven this.

For the sake of your new players, and for the long-term quality of the game, I highly suggest removing this forced design mechanic, and replacing it with something much more organic.
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Offline Pumpkin

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2016, 04:31:59 AM »
I agree with hull/bonus revamp.

I disagree with removing it from the game.

I agree with an armor/RoF revamp.
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Offline Kahuna

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2016, 05:23:25 AM »
The attack modifiers could be removed and weapon types themselves could be given stats like accuracy, projectile speed, damage etc.

For example missiles could be fast but have low armor penetration so they would be good vs fighters but not against big armored ships. Missile Frigates and MRLS ships would both have "Missile" as a weapon type but they could still have slightly different stats.

Bombers' energy bombs could be slower but have high armor penetration and do a lot of damage so they would be less effective vs small and fast ships like fighters but be very effective vs big armored ships.

Ships could have evasion, armor, movement speed, etc. stats that would affect on how likely they're going to be hit and how much damage they would take. This way it would make a bit more sense from a logical standpoint. The hull types could be removed OR the stats like evasion, armor, movement speed etc. could be tied to the hull type.

Keeping the hull types and tying the stats mentioned before to them would allow the player to easily see which weapon type is effective vs that ship. Of course the player would still have to memorize that but it would simply be a question of which weapon type is effective vs which hull type. If the hull types were removed knowing which weapon type is effective vs which ship would require much more memorizing.

Now why should a specific hull type have specific stats? Well for example a tank with some depleted uranium plating is more durable but also slower than an APC with lighter armor. Ultra heavy hull type would be tanky and slow, and composite hull type would be squishy and fast. Same with the weapon types. Think sawed off shotgun vs a sniper rifle vs naval artillery. And so on.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 07:02:47 AM by Kahuna »
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Offline kasnavada

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2016, 05:35:42 AM »
Wingflier's right.
Hull types as they currently are is a complete unintuitive mess, that should be changed. However, by what ?

The "standard" differentiated damage type, fixed armor / percentage armor, with penetration ? With a dozen different types of damage, I think it would be possible to remodel all existing ships at the same complexity level that currently exists, but simpler to understand.

Just by creating "paper rock scissors" wide categories like most strategy games do ? A good example is age of mythology, with it's 3 base category: archer, infantry, cavalry and each either had anti-archer, anti-cavalry or anti-infantry as a quirk, "multiplied" by the exact same system at hero, regular unit, mythological unit. That does kind of limit the game to about 81 distinct units types. Equivalent in AI war would be small ships, flagships, golems / spire. And bomber / missile / fighter. Problem with this approach is that while it works and is very simple to understand and explain, it's also VERY basic and bland.

Keep in mind that both those can still be complexified by speed / range / ROF...

(I'm ignoring special units like eaters because... you know. Special units don't follow rules.)


Quote
If you remember Keith doing the "worst ship in the game" polls every week), which was more of a band-aid than an actual solution to the problem.
Hum. That part I disagree with. It hopefully will continue to be happening, unless you make all units completely bland and limit the number of different units to a very low amount, like less than 20. I don't think it's a good idea. Also it creates activity on the forum. And, if the game is moddable, people will mod those after the polls themselves, so basically to alternate you could "pick the mods" instead of "check poll".

Quote
accuracy
I think that both accuracy and evasion are bad ideas. Probably cpu-intensive (because you have to make at least a call to random() instead of just hitting and because... they're random. I don't think random is a good idea for massive battles.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 05:44:48 AM by kasnavada »

Offline Kahuna

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2016, 05:57:16 AM »
Quote
accuracy
I think that both accuracy and evasion are bad ideas. Probably cpu-intensive (because you have to make at least a call to random() instead of just hitting and because... they're random. I don't think random is a good idea for massive battles.
Then simply take it out and focus on balancing armor, damage and hit points.
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Offline Misery

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2016, 06:35:01 AM »

with a very simple armor system, and basic stats like damage, penetration, and number of projectiles.
Nope. Rather than memorize what hulls are strong against, they have to memorize the capabilities of every ship, which does not sound like a victory for simplicity and clarity. At best you've recreated the hull system without calling it such. At worst you've worsened the problem you claim to solve.

Categories are useful. Look at Fire Emblem's weapon triangle: swords beat axes, axes beat spears, spears beat swords unto infinity. Spears>swords make sense, but why is a mounted spearwielding, armored knight vulnerable against a half-naked barbarian with an axe? The triangle makes axes the hard counter to spears. Is it accurate or sensical? No, but just one glance at the strategic view will tell players familiar with the system it's a substandard decision before you check the battle calculator. Ideally the same should be true of weapons vs. hulls.

Also, unless I'm misremembering due to sleep deprivation, missile weapons don't work like that at all in AI War.

As someone with a lot of memory problems due to certain conditions, I just wanted to agree with this. 

I have enough trouble remembering basic counters in most games of this sort; in this one, it's actually not too bad at all because a very quick hover over any given thing just blatantly tells me "Oh, it's this hull type, okay", and I can pause the game while I do this.   And that information is very simple, that I can at least somewhat memorize it, in my fritzed-out way.

But having to memorize the REASONS why something counters something else?  Ye gods, no.  It's not happening.  I'd be having to look at the tool tips way more often, and there'd be too much to memorize for each one.  It'd also just plain take longer to read each tooltip for that info; which may not sound like MUCH time, but it absolutely adds up when you have to do it as frequently as I would need to.  The game would quickly go from "fun" to "argh".  I rather would prefer it not to be argh.

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2016, 08:59:19 AM »
My solution to the "hull types problem" currently is to build max of each ship type and just send them into the fray as a giant blob (aka I don't care).. only situation where that doesn't work is fortresses or specific planet defense AI types.

But yeah

Btw I disagree about "random" being a bad idea* kinda. If we assume the game is not gonna be "single ships" then we could condense hit chances into salvos where 700+ shots from 700 ships in 1 fleet at another fleet would basically be rolled once or twice to see how many of those hit or miss, and then it's a basic random dice roll which ship in the fleet takes damage, this could look kick-ass and at the same time also prevent rofl stomps or the current "sniping the flagships/support ships" that the AI loves to do currently. Flagships get extra deflection and special ship types take shield damage or armor damage before HP damage, but point is a fleet vs fleet battle should not be over within 5 seconds....

*except when it remains single ship units, then random anything should never be in the game.

This even extends to turrets.. beats me what turret is good against what nowadays. I just build a bunch of every single type.... usually works out fine ;)

If we go even beyond that, then hull types are a giant clutch on AI War + expansions currently, as even pro gamers probably don't know what (enemy) unit has what hull type.... I mean if we look beyond bombers/fighters/capital ships of course (and even there things are very confusing with the expansion sub plot capital ships)
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Offline Cyborg

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2016, 09:07:03 AM »
I think that both accuracy and evasion are bad ideas. Probably cpu-intensive (because you have to make at least a call to random() instead of just hitting and because... they're random. I don't think random is a good idea for massive battles.

The CPU is not as much of a bottleneck compared with having to send this information over the network. But you solve that with caching anyways. For example, you precompute random values before the battle even begins and just pop off the array, or do a linked list that wraps around itself with a precomputed set of random values.
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Offline kasnavada

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2016, 10:02:48 AM »
@Cyborg => in AI war, there are thousands of ships / turrets shooting each other every second or so, with multiple projectiles. That would mean storing rather large amount of data, possibly up to hundred of thousands for any prolongued battle. Performance wise, it's probably worse than the computing time required to random.

But anyway, what would be the point ? Let's see that a bit below.

@Cyborg & eRe4s3r
For me, AI war is about having simultaneous fluid battles with 1000 units & turrets vs 7500 ships which end in the exact same way everytime, rather than a 700 vs 5000 battle where I can save-scum a victory.

Quote
If we assume the game is not gonna be "single ships" then we could condense hit chances into salvos where 700+ shots from 700 ships in 1 fleet at another fleet would basically be rolled once or twice to see how many of those hit or miss
One of the beautiful thing in AI war is that even when automatically moving around (looking for targets), via X movement, v movement, automatic patrol, every ship chooses its target smartly, calculate kills on the fly and so on.


Random evasion, hit chances and "condensing" hits would kill that. I love the fact that when the killing shot is done, my ship move away to another target. What makes AI war great IMO is that individual units behave as a large intelligence. Why ? because in order to ensure a kill you'd need to predict a random overkill.

I don't want AI War to behave like most other games single units trying to simulate multiple units. Like total war does. Basically an infantry is a single unit for the player, and it simulates (heavily limited) a group... but it's really not a group. Example, if you've got 2 or 3 heavy cavalry, you can block a charging group of 60+ units, even if only 5 of the 60 actually engage. In AI War the 55 other will continue to run and kill stuff.

Offline Wingflier

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Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2016, 11:15:45 AM »
Once again, I think some of you are underestimating the power of intuitive reasoning. The entire POINT of this change (Misery) is so that you don't have to learn thousands of specific hull interactions, not so that you have to do it more.

Oh what's that, the ship says FIGHTER -- that must mean it's good against BOMBERS and other small ships, but weak against bigger ships with lots of armor. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

What's that, the ship says BOMBER -- that must mean it's good against big, heavily armored things, but bad against numerous and cheap threats.

This is something that you could explain to a child, or hell, just show them a generic sci-fi movie and they'll get it.

The ships are already separated by category in the Wiki, and the categories are already extremely obvious. There's like 12 bomber archetypes, 10 different fighter archetypes, 8 different anti-swarm archetypes, etc. etc.

All the player then has to focus on is the difference between the individual ships. What is the value of the laser gatling vs. the space plane? They have similar roles as fighters, but one relies on Stealth and Radar Dampening while one relies on pure numerical strength. Even though they have strengths against the SAME THINGS, the way they accomplish their goals are vastly, vastly different. You didn't even need hull types to make this happen.

Edit: Also to the people who just blob everything, absolutely nothing changes. That's going to work with or without hull type modifiers.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 11:20:55 AM by Wingflier »
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2016, 11:24:04 AM »
I skimmed this thread, and didn't see this:

What about Fixed Ammo vs. Hull Bonuses.  That is, Energy always does x3 damage against Plate, x0.2 against Reflective where as Blade does x0.2 against Plate and x3 against Reflective?

We'd need to clean up some of the hull types ("Large??") but rather than having things be a ship-by-ship basis ("I get x9 against Swarm because Raisins") it's entirely based on ammo type and hull armor type.

Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: A modest suggestion
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2016, 11:30:29 AM »
@Cyborg => in AI war, there are thousands of ships / turrets shooting each other every second or so, with multiple projectiles. That would mean storing rather large amount of data, possibly up to hundred of thousands for any prolongued battle. Performance wise, it's probably worse than the computing time required to random.

But anyway, what would be the point ? Let's see that a bit below.

@Cyborg & eRe4s3r
For me, AI war is about having simultaneous fluid battles with 1000 units & turrets vs 7500 ships which end in the exact same way everytime, rather than a 700 vs 5000 battle where I can save-scum a victory.

Quote
If we assume the game is not gonna be "single ships" then we could condense hit chances into salvos where 700+ shots from 700 ships in 1 fleet at another fleet would basically be rolled once or twice to see how many of those hit or miss
One of the beautiful thing in AI war is that even when automatically moving around (looking for targets), via X movement, v movement, automatic patrol, every ship chooses its target smartly, calculate kills on the fly and so on.


Random evasion, hit chances and "condensing" hits would kill that. I love the fact that when the killing shot is done, my ship move away to another target. What makes AI war great IMO is that individual units behave as a large intelligence. Why ? because in order to ensure a kill you'd need to predict a random overkill.

I don't want AI War to behave like most other games single units trying to simulate multiple units. Like total war does. Basically an infantry is a single unit for the player, and it simulates (heavily limited) a group... but it's really not a group. Example, if you've got 2 or 3 heavy cavalry, you can block a charging group of 60+ units, even if only 5 of the 60 actually engage. In AI War the 55 other will continue to run and kill stuff.

Oh.. yeah that is a really good point.. predictability of that kind is actually something I would always favor so no random hit chances / evasion for me after all ;P

Between, the way Total War handles units bothers me to no end... but really, the blame lies on them not coding proper (single) unit AI that can handle a short term "split" of the group in case 4 or 5 guys are caught by some random enemy troop... if the fleet would act according to it's single unit archetypes when I hit a hotkey then that would be what you want, and still allow for (easier and more tactical) blobbing

Fixed Ammo vs HULL bonuses would be a way.. but then that would restrict visual fidelity if you had to make all weapon effects look close if they use same ammo type. Would get confusing with multi-ammo ships though... still better than what we have currently ;) I don't find the current system in AI War intuitive (well, not anymore, the expansions added a ton of units)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 11:33:04 AM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2016, 11:37:04 AM »
I skimmed this thread, and didn't see this:

What about Fixed Ammo vs. Hull Bonuses.  That is, Energy always does x3 damage against Plate, x0.2 against Reflective where as Blade does x0.2 against Plate and x3 against Reflective?

We'd need to clean up some of the hull types ("Large??") but rather than having things be a ship-by-ship basis ("I get x9 against Swarm because Raisins") it's entirely based on ammo type and hull armor type.
That's what I was getting at. Set up a real triangle/attack type vs. resist system. You put it better than I, though.