General Category > AI War II - Resolved Ideas

Insane idea: QUASI-finite number of player ships. Pilots!

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Inspired by the discussion about refleeting and how annoying that is.

This is perhaps a lot less insane than it sounds on the surface, the more I think about it.

First a statement of the problem:
1. Rebuilding your fleet is boring.

2. In any reasonable war, when someone's fleet is dead, their opponent finishes them off.

3. Even when you're not going through a complete re-fleet operation, the time-based aspect of waiting for new units to be built is DULL.

SIDEBAR: Why do AI War games have to be so long?  I set the pace of various things so that you wouldn't get overwhelmed with the speed during the busy times, but during the downtimes (which I did not anticipate so many of) it can really stretch out game time for no real reason.

4. There's no real cost to a "sacrifice of material," in a Chess sense, in this game.  Sacrificing even a pawn is cause for concern in Chess.  I remember that Warcraft II and I think maybe even Empire Earth 1 (can't recall there for sure) had finite supplies in each Gold Mine, which help set the expectation that you couldn't just engage in infinite attrition.

5. Overall in AI War Classic, it's possible to use a strategy of "I will trade my personal time (while watching Netflix or otherwise) and wage a war of careful attrition and win over the course of 60 hours."  I've always thought the super-long campaigns are amazing, and I don't want to completely eliminate the possibility of that -- but I'd rather that those were epic and interesting the entire time, rather than a lot of sitting in trenches and waiting for things to happen.

Now, the general solution:
1. One way or another, there needs to not be a bunch of waiting around in order to get back to fighting. 

SIDEBAR: Unless I WANT to wait around, as a player (aka I'm stopping to think, and either intentionally pause the game or don't bother).

2. Overall there needs to be a long-lasting cost to throwing away ships. 

SIDEBAR: I don't at all believe that you deserve a short-term penalty for running completely out of ships, or that you should get hit by reprisal ways for losing too many ships on an enemy planet.  However, throwing way the lives of your pilots -- hey, there are pilots? -- should matter long-term.

My specific suggestion is half-baked:
I think that there are a variety of ways to approach the above two requirements, and those things can indeed be tuned to taste via lobby options, so we don't all need to agree on how this would work.  If (in a Warcraft II model of a finite gold mine, we could have an option to run out fast, slow, very fast, very slow, not at all, etc).

Ultimately in the past, AI Progress was the big "okay, this is the thing that gets worse and worse and I can only reduce it so much" mechanic.  I'm proposing a second mechanic now, which is a replacement resource for... something.  Maybe metal.  Honestly in this model I think metal is unimportant, because it is inherently an infinite self-renewing resource, and the concept of pilots is basically that, but made Warcraft-II-finite.

First, let's start with the ickier side of things (from a variety of points of view, and I'll be super interested to hear Cinth's view on this in particular):

No metal:
I never would have thought of removing this, but then again I never would have thought of removing crystal, either.  And having something metal-LIKE is still very much needed, but we'll get to that in a minute.  My original reaction to the removal of metal was also very negative, because power and fuel are not limiting enough to me, and having construction times be slow is an issue.

1. So, first off, we take away metal.  Bing!  Ships are all free.

2. Now we take away ship construction queues, and timed ship construction in general.  Bing!  We have awesome technology that gives us instant ships on command, placed where we want (on any planet we control).

3. I suppose a short timer would be good, but nothing real drastic.  And the ships are helpless while in that period.  Call it 10 seconds, let's say.  Even for complex ships.  Same deal with turrets and all that sort of thing.  No waiting!  Why am I waiting?

--- Quote ---Pilots/crew
--- End quote ---
1. This would be a new resource, and absolutely finite.  There's not time to breed.

STORY: Unlike the unmanned more-primitive ships of AI War 1, we'd now need to have actual crews on these ships so that the AI can't jam them or whatever the story will be.  Kinda a Release Raptor idea of why we need some meat in there instead of just silicon from a distance, anyway.

2. There would be no more metal harvesters, and no more junk piles in orbit.  Instead the crew would come from one of two places: inhabited planets, or inhabited space enclosures (including derelicts, possibly having some people in cryofreeze).

3. Each ship and structure needs 1+ person to staff it, or you can't build it.  If you delete a ship or structure that is undamaged (or on a planet you control, or both, or something like that), then it the people on board will go back int your "inventory."

4. There would be no cap on the number of people you could have in your inventory (so to speak), but they would have to either live on ships, in space stations you control, or on habitable planets you control.

5. Each planet would only have so many people living on it that would make viable pilots (needed for the smaller craft), and so many people living on it that would make viable other-crew (needed to have a functional starship or whatever other structure).

6. That cap would be pretty high -- enough that in the early game you might get cocky thinking you're not going to run out of people.  But the more times you throw ships away needlessly in battle, the more you deplete your ability to keep doing that.

7. The way to increase that cap is to take more planets... but not just any planets.  Only habitable ones.  And different habitable ones would have different numbers of people on them.  If we want to get mean about it, the AI might even take to nuking or planet-cracking some of your planets.

8. If you're below some critical mass of available pilots and crew to the point where defeat is going to be inevitable anyway, then the AI will save you the suspense and rapidly ramp up and kill you off.  Drama!

Pilot Rescue
1. Probably a mechanism for escape pods is needed, so that whenever a ship dies it spits out a capsule with its crew in it, and nearby ships (anything on the same planet, since those are smaller now) automatically picks it up.  Maybe the crew would live, say, a quarter of the time (not random, just in a rolling order of things), and science techs could let you upgrade that to 50% or something.

2. But each ship only has so many spots for survivors, so if that's filled up then those people just die in space instead.  This way there's no micromanagement fiddling around with your ships in order to try to keep them from exploding: that would be no fun.

3. Instead once your local fleet ball starts getting to about 90% capacity on survivors-in-pods, it starts giving you a warning that your rescue capacity is getting really low, and you're going to be losing 100% of your pilots (plus those in pods) if you keep pressing the attack.  In other words: FLY, YOU FOOLS!

4. Retreating and letting the people off back at your area and getting new ships to make another go at it is not a big deal.  You spend more time in combat,

The inevitability of death
1. The above idea has a lot of flaws, because it still could encourage micro based on ships that are partially damaged.  The ability to repair combat ships has always led to fiddly situations.

2. Instead, making it so that non-structural ships can't be repaired is probably better.  Or something to that effect.  Maybe once a ship of yours is below a certain percentage of health it no longer counts toward your ship cap, so that you don't have a bunch of half-dead ships clogging up your ability to fight.

3. Anyway, as with Chess there's then the incentive to be SMART with where you spend your finite resources.  Encouraging retreating and micro = bad in my book.  Capturing more territory to get access to new resources of a limited nature is great to me.  A feeling of impending doom unless you kill off the AI first is also good to me.  Aka you can throw soldiers against the machine guns all day long if you want, but at the end of it you have a pile of dead bodies and not many soldiers left, and you may have lost the war.

4. Overall I think that something along these lines, albeit with a lot of refinement, would be a much more realistic AND efficient war machine model.  It gives the player the tempo very very much more, and ramps up the penalties for just faffing around even more.

The above is probably too extreme, but some sort of middle-ground would be an interesting idea indeed, I think...

My kneejerk reaction is "that's not AI war." It's suddenly a very risky thing to attack Somethung well defended, because if it goes badly it's not a short term setback. It's a long term permanent resource loss.
I'll have to think about what my non kneejerk reaction is.

Captain Jack:
Oh hell no.

Hm, well, let me think about it some more.


Hell no.

At least you recognize this is extreme. Let me help you kill this idea dead. Off the top of my head:

* You cement the defensive play style as the one true way to play the game as anything else is too risky/stupid.

* The amount of micro this will encourage will is unbelievable. When every ship is an irreplaceable resource you're going to baby every mk 1 fighter in every engagement. Refleet time goes down. Strategy time is replaced by tactics time.

* Massive ship battles are gone. Battles with massive ships are gone. Both represent too much of a risk to your personnel so players will avoid both.

* Risk taking in general goes down.

Yeah, a lot of "yuck" reaction on my part too, but I try to overcome it.
I think it come from the same feeling around warheads' +AIP: I think we are all shy about spending finite resources. For a similar reason, I often play without auto-AIP just for removing the psychological effect it has on me, because at +1/30 minutes, it's the worth of a single planet after 10 hours (an average game for me): ridiculous. But the psychological impact on me is huge.

Back to this idea.
Please don't remove the metal. Even with that new resource, I believe it still has its role. I would like to see the pilots as a finite but fully available resource, while the metal would be infinite and be a "spam" cap.

Imagine you ditch that idea of capturing planets for new pilots. Imagine. All your pilots are available from start and are immediately available. And then you have metal, which is infinite but not immediately available. Then you can't fast-throw hundreds of fleets in no time (because for the AI the time is still a resource: waves, CPA, reinforcement, etc). But also make the metal more plentiful. Imagine if you double AIW1's metal income but warn the player about the finitude of pilots for the endgame. Players would have less refleet times but a pressure on their combat efficiency.

Also, there is a dirt-cheap solution: minimum auto-AIP (let's say +1 per 30 minutes). Maybe both? I dunno.

Interesting, anyway.

Lord Of Nothing:
I would say lobby option, but this seems too fundamental a mechanic for that. So...
Personally, this would single-handedly kill any desire to play the game, for me. It's an interesting idea that merits consideration, but I think the on balance response for me is run like a bat out of hell.
All of the previous points raised apply, but I think the biggest one has to be the principle of conservatism. This is such a massive departure from the style of the original game that it just wouldn't be AI war anymore.


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