Author Topic: Ideas for mercs  (Read 583 times)

Offline CRZgatecrusher

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Ideas for mercs
« on: July 05, 2019, 10:38:38 PM »
I personally think mercenaries should be permanent in terms of effect (permanent until the flagship dies). This should be handled by each mercenary beacon containing one unknown mercenary group (with 4 or so beacons out there) and cost a fairly large amount of hacking points (50-100).

When the hack is completed the group is revealed and you can choose where there "base of operations" are. Groups behave differently in what ships are produced and the likelihood of attacking (Arnaud de Cervole will never attack for example). Some groups can have little traits unique to them like Prufrock's Partisans prefers hitting things like astro-train stations.

The AI can kill these groups is by destroying the groups flagship (or factory which is the only structure in that group) which hangs around the base of operations. Groups bases of operations cannot be within 3 jumps of another group and 2 jumps from the player and AI homeworld. if anyone has better ideas please post them below

War Harvester and War Siegers  can be merged into one group with a "controller" as their flagship and units are created elsewhere and warp into the controllers system then do whatever

Offline x4000

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2019, 10:25:12 AM »
I'm a huge fan of the idea of making mercenaries permanent in some fashion, but I haven't had an idea that absolutely grabs me just yet.  Here are some random thoughts relating to them that kind of get at where my head is at:

1. Overall I'm wanting mercs to be something that are just a part of the game, but if they're something that cost a bunch of hacking points or anything else irreplaceable, then a lot of people just will never capture them because "friends that I can't control" are naturally going to be seen as a wildcard.  Plus if the mercs don't do exactly the right thing and you paid a ton for them, people will be understandably upset.

2. I'm also reluctant to have too many steps for using mercenaries.  Right now having to go capture them or do whatever with beacons actually kind of bugs me, because I feel like that delays when I can use the mercenaries in general, and it makes them just feel like any other thing that you capture (and there's plenty of that already, plus more coming).  To some extent I kind of want these to just show up for your use like the "home city" cards in Age of Empires 3.  Not exactly like that, but that sort of "I'm just playing and now I have a bonus I can whip out if I want" vibe.

3. Having mercenaries be something that have a bit more impact is good, but also something that isn't gone forever once you use them. 

3.a. Those are a bit at odds with one another, so it's a tricky balancing thing.  If the mercs can't be gotten back easily, then I'll always just save them "for later" forever, rather like elixers or other rare items in early Final Fantasy games (FF6, etc).  There's never a time where you feel like things are going so poorly that you definitely want to use the mercs if they don't recharge.

3.b. But if these mercs are super powerful, then when you're about to lose it's just a matter of summoning ALL the mercs at once, and probably you solve the death you were about to have.  And if those are rechargeable too easily, then that's wicked unbalanced and you just have these things all the time coming in and solving all your problems (or choosing to do the wrong thing, to your frustration).

3.c. If the mercs are too powerful or too expensive (too rare), then the perceived opportunity cost of summoning them at any given time is scary high and people will still avoid them.

4. To some extent, a "use it or lose it" system is often a solution to this sort of hoarding behavior, because for instance if we had:
- "mercenary summon tokens"
- and you could only have something like 5 at once
- and you automatically get more tokens as you do something-or-other
- then whenever you're near 5 you're going to want to spend them to bring out the mercs even if it's not dire just so you keep having more.
- this basically prevents stockpiling, versus giving a time penalty for not using them -- so inverting the "lose it" aspect.  More of a "don't gain more of it" thing instead.

5. If all of the mercenaries were available from the start, or even better if mercenary beacons were "activated" as soon as they were scouted, then you'd suddenly have these other forces you could do something with that wouldn't be something you have to go think about.

6. If mercs didn't cost metal (which isn't that interesting in this context), but you got something like "mercenary credits" every time you did certain activities, then we could actually make it so that every time you were about to get more than the max mercenary credits (aka you have 5 credits and that's the max and you just get one more) that it spends to summon a random merc group you know right away rather than wasting the credit.  That wouldn't affect the rest of your economy, and would kind of auto-teach players that mercenaries are even a thing, as well as reminding them to use them if they want them handled as ideally as possible.  That way you don't actually lose anything when you would be hitting the cap, but instead you wind up with mercenaries just showing up with a little note about why.

7. How would we get mercenary credits?  I think it needs to be something that you're automatically doing, or several things you're automatically doing, so that it's pretty automated.  I guess one way would just be an automated timer, as the simplest thing.   For every 15 minutes of gametime you get a credit, for instance.  That could encourage some bad behavior, though.  Instead it could be that you get 1 credit every time the AIP rises at all, which would cover a whole bunch of cases.  Whether the event causes it to go up by 1 or 10 or 100, it means another merc credit, which would actually encourage people to sometimes seek out the low-AIP increases in order to get merc credits if they're running low.

8. In general if something is making it complicated for me to use the mercs, or it's expensive to get them or use them (in terms of my time or attention or literal metal or science or hacking), then I think they'll always lose out and be underused because we all prefer units that we can actually control ourselves.  But having friends that we can direct in a small way (summon to X location) are definitely a plus.


So... yeah, lots of random thoughts.
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Offline ptarth

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #2 on: July 08, 2019, 02:33:16 PM »
Perhaps:

Mercenary System Description
  • Unlock a Mercenary Group Z by capturing (and holding) a Mercenary Beacon on a planet.
  • Spend 1 Hacking point and X Metal (scales over time) to summon Y strength of Mercenary Group Z ships.
  • If you can't pay the metal, you can't summon them.
  • Mercenary ships will stay at a planet as long as their are enemy units present.
  • Mercenary ships will auto-raid a random nearby enemy planet after V minute without enemy contact.

Strengths
  • Mercenaries are always useful if you have metal.
  • Mercenaries cost relatively little finite resources.
  • Mercenaries can be used to boost an offensive attack, but you pay for it in metal you could have used to rebuild your own ships. You front load your attack.
  • Mercenaries are limited in total strength at any one time (your metal supply).
  • Mercenaries are reusable.
  • Mercenaries have impact.
  • Mercenaries have limited impact without your own fleets.
  • Requires little additional systems or code and is uses existing systems (mercenary beacons, hacking system).
  • Another incentive to keep a planetary system.
Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline x4000

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2019, 11:15:10 AM »
There are a lot of things that I like about that, but there are a few things that bug me:

- Metal is often plentiful EXCEPT during the times when you'd be wanting to summon mercenaries.

- We already have so many things that are a reason to hold a planet, and six more of them coming soon, that I feel like something that is a "get out of dying free" card (my view of mercenaries as a whole) being something you are charged AIP for and also have to hold a planet for is unattractive to most people.

- If mercs go running off to other systems, they're likely to do a bit of damage but also stir up a bunch of threat, possibly leading to more casualties in your forces than if you hadn't summoned them at all.  They stay on the current planet for a reason.

- In general I feel like the merc beacons are adding some clutter to the galaxy map right now, so I'd prefer to get rid of those and just get merc summoning ability some other way if possible.  Or scouting a planet with a merc beacon causes it to immediately explode and give you the connection, either way.  But just one less icon sitting out there on the galaxy map cluttering up stuff, when it's kind of a minor thing.  Overall I'd like to have mercs be something that's managed via the Mercs tab on the sidebar almost exclusively.
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Offline ptarth

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2019, 11:58:14 AM »
Hmmm.
I've been thinking of mercenaries as primarily an offensive tool (for when you need 110% on offense), so given that you are conceptualizing them as a defensive tool, I need to rethink things.
Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline Sintara

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2019, 03:47:45 AM »
How about this:

Mercenaries are available from the start and the ones that are available are a random subset that reshuffles regularly over time. You can trigger one per set (for free, hacking points, AIP, metal, whatever) then whenever the set is changed you can do it again. There would be no incentive to hoard and never use mercs. They would become less of a "get out of death free" and more of a semi-regular advantage you can deploy against tough targets or tricky defensive situations where you would otherwise blow out your fleet and have to rebuild.

Offline RecursivelyEnumerable

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2019, 02:18:31 PM »
I like the mercenary credits idea. Maybe have an option to buy a few merc credits for a ton of metal; that way, a player can put surplus metal to good use.

My main issue with mercs at the moment is that their flagships keep getting themselves killed the first time they deploy, and there usually isn't much I can do about it. While fairly powerful, they don't last long under a barrage of concentrated enemy fire. So at the moment, when I hire a mercenary, I do it in the full expectation that they will die in their first deployment.

Am I doing something wrong? Problem is, their flagships often just throw themselves into the thick of combat with little concern for safety.

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2019, 03:23:47 PM »
A discovery I made regarding Mercenaries:

If you set them to donate their unit(s) to the player like War Siegers/Harvesters, then give a Flagship a tag and tell the group to spawn that, then it happily spawns a fully functional Flagship, with random name, ships, etc as if it was one you captured on the map. Loading saves doesn't change it either, so it's not scummable.

You can even give it a metal upkeep like Matter Converters, effectively "payment" for it.

It'd also be possible to give them specific Fleet designs as well, so you have a random selection of Mercs, but each one you get is guaranteed to have these things.

Autistic, so apologies for any communication difficulties!

Offline x4000

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2019, 02:28:05 PM »
RocketAssistedPuffin -- That's definitely quite cool!  Though it would be very overwhelming to have so many fleets, potentially.

RecursivelyEnumerable -- I don't think you're doing anything wrong, but the game has evolved a lot since the last time mercs got much love. So I think they may be on the underpowered side now compared to the rest of the galaxy.  I honestly can't even remember what the current merc mechanics are (in terms of reuse, etc), because I find them so underwhelming I don't even bother with them and tend to forget they exist.  I definitely want to change that.
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Offline PokerChen

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2019, 07:21:22 PM »
More generally, would it help people if you put a strength estimate beside each option? In the current 0.877 version I can see, e.g., that merc X will deploy some snipers, but I don't know if it's 10 or 50. Since I don't know the amount of "strength" what I'm paying for, it doesn't help me decide how many fleets I should divert to defend a particularly strong wave.

The current stats are seem to be (according to MercenaryGroups.xml)
  • The callout spawns a set of ships that scale with AIP. Has a primary and secondary spawn logic/..
  • Named groups have a starship as its flagship.
  • Can call out 1~3 times. Sometimes the flagship need to survive.
The main issue with the named groups is that the leader can't really survive as it's the only large ship in play and doesn't have the damage protection of Vanguards or space planes. Another issue in general is that they seem to always be tech I, and so you're really not getting that oomph.

Would it be feasible to do the following:
  • Give mercenary groups a way to level up their tech. Options:
    • Giving mercenary fleets a proper fleet with experience, persisting between summons. Transport flagships, Ark-like ships, and Battlestations for the automated swarms. Let their ships have  is_upgraded_via_fleet_exp="true".
    • Giving mercenary factions tech unlock options. This can be directly shared with the player, or having a separate way to give them tech. Science research option? Maybe if they control a planet? Faction experience instead of fleet experience?
  • The cost of call out increase with their tech level/experience, but not AIP.
  • The flagships need some chaff to help it not be focus-fired so hard by snipers and bombers.

Giving them proper fleets means that the mercenary leaders can be crippled (and warp out) instead of being destroyed outright, and gain the same in-game fleet creation logic. Giving them a way to gain tech levels at a price can help players have more gameplay decisions: "I can't find a sniper fleet. Do I make the effort to train up this expensive mercenary sniper squad for Mark-V for helping me take the tough worlds, or should I just leave them as a cheap filler?"

Online BadgerBadger

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2019, 08:30:13 PM »
Mercs in theory should inherit your tech level already. A bug report/save on mantis would be helpful if they are not.

Offline PokerChen

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Re: Ideas for mercs
« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2019, 10:34:49 PM »