Author Topic: Limit to town expansion  (Read 3251 times)

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #15 on: June 12, 2013, 01:39:19 PM »
I like this souls concept -- sounds cool and is pretty much what I wanted in that regard.

With regard to expansion, I didn't like it in Civ either. Once I figured out that the optimal strategy in Civ is to build as many settlers as possible and expand, expand, expand, the game stopped being enjoyable -- at least up to Civ 3. In Civ 3, they introduced cultural switches, where if you over-expanded without culture (ie. without properly investing in your cities first) your cities would switch over to the enemy. It's somewhat unrealistic, but it's essentially a mechanic to counterbalance the overwhelming power of an expansionist strategy. Civ 2 had corruption, where your cities became less effective the further they were from your capital, but it wasn't enough to counteract the unbelievable effectiveness of constant expansion.


Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #16 on: June 12, 2013, 02:00:46 PM »
I really love the town specialization idea as well actually. I feel like taking away expansion would have ended up simplifying things a lot, so you took that idea and went completely the opposite direction with it. Hmm, but... it seems like towards the start of the game, it might be a really good idea to focus on getting a lot of stone and wood so you can actually build the specialized towns. So, your first specialized town could always end up being stone- or wood-based. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but what if the hometown got a little specialization bonus by default to make it a little more important?

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2013, 02:14:59 PM »
Oh I forgot one thing I wanted to mention. In Civ, even though expansion is important, you're really limited by the situation of the particular game. If you're stuck on an island, you have to build up that island as much as you can until you can develop triremes, at which point you can only expand if there's a nearby continent. Otherwise you have to wait for proper shipbuilding to expand. Alternatively, you might be boxed in by competitors, making your expansion limited again until you can accomplish some other goal.

In SC, there's no limit to your expansion since you can always build up more land. This means that it's a strategy that's always open to you. Don't like what's going on on the mainland? Just build a land bridge and establish another city. It feels like a cheap option for this reason. There are virtually no limits placed on you as far as expansion is concerned. Think about how this contrasts with a game like Settlers of Catan, where you a. struggle to find space in which to expand, b. have to build roads to it first and c. compete for that space with other players . Expansion is also a huge deal in that game, but because of that, it's tightly controlled. This is IMO part of the secret of that game's genius.

What I would like to see is either a limit to expansion or a real opportunity cost to expansion. Because expansion is so powerful, putting your resources towards it should rob you of something else. In Civ 3, if you over-expand you might lose your new shiny city. If you're stuck on an island and you steer your research towards ships, you lose the ability to do other things with those resources.

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2013, 02:54:33 PM »
The thing is, expansion is so heavily encouraged that the game would probably be undergoing some really massive changes to discourage expansion. The proposed solution, if I'm understanding it right, will increase the depth of the game by forcing you to make more decisions about the inevitable expansions.

But I'll humor that line of thought, I think. Expansion does have costs outside of cut stone. First of all, you are spending your AP to build up all the facilities you need to actually get resources to expand. Action Points are really the most harshly limited resource, because you can't just build something to increase your income of AP. You always get 3 per round per faction. Action points are also required to place land bridges so that you can place an expansion, which costs resources, which takes away from your military, which takes away from your potential point gain, which makes it very possible to lose a game by not getting enough points. That's sort of the idea. If you aren't feeling the limitation there, then the game probably needs to push score requirements a bit harder, or spawn more opportunistic bandits that can hunt down isolated towns. But, you'll probably also feel like there's no real cost to it by being on too easy of a difficulty.
The exact details of how balanced the game is isn't something that I know. I'm just pushing the idea that expansion is maybe not as shallow as you think with what the game seems to intend to be. Score is your resource, you need points to win. Anything you do that involves screwing around not building up military to fight each other will result in you not getting enough points, which means that you will lose if you do waste too much.

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2013, 03:03:53 PM »
I confess I never played any Civ games except I and IV.  Civ I was such a different beast and I played it so long ago that I can't really comment too much.  Civ IV constrains you -- as you say -- by both the general city health stuff and the pressures of other nearby civilizations.  I suppose the "just farm a bunch of guys" thing didn't really happen with me because there were more interesting things to do, and it also didn't seem optimal.  And once you pass a certain early point, it becomes suboptimal anyhow, I think.

I'll also confess that I really dislike Settlers of Catan, precisely because it is so unpleasantly constricted.  I'll play Settlers now and again, but I don't really find much satisfaction in it.

In terms of putting pressure on not over-expanding, that's something that I obviously (I think it's obvious, but it may not be) think is a good thing.  That's why there are so many constraints on where you can build TCs, after all.  Just strip-mining the whole continent was never a goal, and so a certain amount of buildup is the preferred approach. 

THAT said, it's also a big goal of mine that most of your cities die throughout the course of a game.  So expansion is necessary, but having a bajillion towns at once is not desirable.

A few thoughts:

1. One idea Josh and I had way way back was to make the cost of each town center go up for each town center that faction already had.  So it gets progressively more difficult to build town centers, creating something of a soft cap on them.  That was something we discarded because we felt like it was heavy-handed and a bit confusing.

2. Something less confusing but even more heavy-handed is just to say "you can only have 3 (or 5, or whatever) towns per faction at any given time."  Given towns fall, that's something that might almost be a pointless sort of addition except to frustrates some players.  Three is super-constraining, and five is about as many as I tend to see savegames having, anyway.

3. Adding in a new mechanic like Culture or similar just for this one purpose is obviously a bad thing.  But with the hamlets coming in the expansion, that's something that I want to be doing anyhow.  The hamlets will likely be generating a culture resource, and potentially having cities also being able to generate this (but only under certain circumstances that are particularly rewarded by not over-expanding too fast at least) could be interesting.  Then of course an actual purpose for the culture resource still has to be found, but one thing at a time.


So... yeah, I think our goals are not so at odds as they might seem at first blush.  I think that I like the idea of expansion far more than you do, and I also hate the idea of the severe constraints that you like in Settlers.   However, I think we're both united in a desire for more diversity of gameplay in general, and I'm always down for more opportunity costs to various actions.  That's almost always something that makes a game more interesting.
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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #20 on: June 12, 2013, 03:09:37 PM »
That's sort of the idea. If you aren't feeling the limitation there, then the game probably needs to push score requirements a bit harder, or spawn more opportunistic bandits that can hunt down isolated towns. But, you'll probably also feel like there's no real cost to it by being on too easy of a difficulty.

Yeah, the default difficulty is more than a bit tame on the score requirements, because I don't want to completely scare away the midcore audience.  That said, with this next update to come out tonight, the score gating is getting a buff in the sense that you can't blaze past later age goals simply by working on them in earlier ages.

The exact details of how balanced the game is isn't something that I know.

That is something that is a bit unknowable, really, with three separate difficulty sliders.  What does balanced mean in that context?  You can definitely find a way that the game is hard for you, but still winnable.  Or various ways that the game is far too easy or far too hard.

Ideally even when the game is somewhat to moderately easier for you than it is supposed to be (based on your skill level), it's still interesting.  If it's not interesting without being on a difficulty that is fully challenging, then that's obviously a goal to work on fixing.  And we are working on that.

I'm just pushing the idea that expansion is maybe not as shallow as you think with what the game seems to intend to be. Score is your resource, you need points to win. Anything you do that involves screwing around not building up military to fight each other will result in you not getting enough points, which means that you will lose if you do waste too much.

This.
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Offline Bluddy

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #21 on: June 12, 2013, 03:36:12 PM »
Maybe the cost of creating land bridges should just be raised? If building a land bridge to nowhere is more expensive (say 3 AP or maybe even 4), you'd avoid it unless you absolutely had to do it. This is the constraint on expansion: you'd much rather build on the existing continent than have to build expensive land bridges. In this way, continent layout actually begins to matter more.

EDIT: What this would mean is that laying certain land types (field, swamp, hill, and a city center) on pre-existing tiles stays cheap, while doing it in space would be expensive.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2013, 03:39:44 PM by Bluddy »

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #22 on: June 12, 2013, 03:41:12 PM »
I suspect there would be much rage at that, but I don't know.  I would certainly feel very constrained if I had to give up 4-5 turns just to build a new town.
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Offline madcow

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #23 on: June 12, 2013, 03:43:21 PM »
I would have suggested another way to make villages important would be if the tiles around the villages provided the village with various bonuses.   These would probably need to be non-placable by people so it couldn't just be plopped down anytime.

I do like the idea of random objects that give village bonuses - like ancient ruins for villages.  This could serve as an encouragement to build in less than ideal spots and defend it.  Like the skyward collapse version of AI war's factories/ARS. Or think of it like the tile bonuses resources in civ granted.

I don't know, just throwing out other make holding certain villages worthwhile ideas.

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #24 on: June 12, 2013, 03:49:27 PM »
I suspect there would be much rage at that, but I don't know.  I would certainly feel very constrained if I had to give up 4-5 turns just to build a new town.

Well, it would only be if that new town is in space. If you choose to build on land, you'd be able to do it instantly. It would mean that you'd really have to plan your land bridges so that expansion is efficient, and it would be a strong incentive to use what you have (in terms of land) rather than build a land bridge. A land bridge buys you a certain peace of mind (from invaders), but it comes at a cost. Also, you could use  upcoming woes to build up land for you so you could build a town quickly.

While 4-5 turns is perhaps a bit extreme, I don't think dedicating 3 turns towards building a town that's out of the way and therefore protected is extreme at all. To the contrary, I'd say that being able to do that in one turn seems extreme (in the other direction).

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #25 on: June 12, 2013, 04:12:52 PM »
Age of Empires was the other bit of a model that I've had, and in games like that it's pretty easy to plop down a new TC presuming you have the resources for it.  There aren't many restrictions on where you can even build the TCs, at least not terribly much.  The only real downsides of putting up a new TC is the cost of doing so, and the need to then defend it.  In that regard, I don't think that being able to plop down a new TC in this game is extreme at all.  It just depends on what game you are comparing it to. 

And getting that new town functional right now costs a lot of turns anyhow.  2-3 land bridge tiles, possibly, plus the TC itself.  So at least 3 AP.  Then all the finished goods producers and a military producer or more.  Resource producers if you don't want to be over-extending yourself.  Specialty buildings if you want to have units that have upgrades and higher levels and so on.  Expense after expense, plus definitely multiple turns of work in order to get them there so that you have a new town that is more than just a single building. 

That doesn't seem extremely quick to me; it seems about right.  I'm less and less inclined to use AP or even resources to limit town expansion.  I'd be inclined to use a different flavor of opportunity cost, of some kind.

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The idea of making the tiles around towns provide bonuses is interesting, but I'm not really sure how feasible it would be.  A lot of different types of such tiles would have to be thought up in order to prevent it from becoming same-y, I think.

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Another approach would be to time-limit when towns could be built.  Either by a simple cooldown (which is frustrating because then you have to time your placements exactly in order to maximize your available towns), or by having TCs cost culture to place.  That way you can place towns whenever you want, but you'd need some sort of culture-production method (time plus buildings or hamlets or whatever) to do that.  It would be a pretty big rebalance, though, and I can't think of a good model for that that still doesn't encourage lots of towns in the end (more towns equals more culture).

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An idea that did occur to me was to use bandits as a force against towns.  Aka, putting a new TC out also causes a new bandit keep to appear near it.  So that whole "you have to be prepared to defend it" thing from Age of Empires suddenly becomes relevant in a really major way.  This would be super difficult for new players, though.  And in general, really.  Unless it was only on harder difficulties, but the harder difficulties are already more balanced toward being interesting anyhow, so that would defeat the purpose.

The other idea was having just individual bandits spawn, which is easier to defend against.  But these could spawn in existing towns of that faction, based on how many slots in that town were NOT filled with a ruin or a building.  In other words, if you're building new towns without finishing your existing ones, then bandits come out in direct proportion to how unfinished your existing towns are.  We could also even make the TC placement interface make this mechanic fairly clear, thanks to just having the tooltip show "X bandits will spawn in your existing towns because that many plots of land in your existing towns have been left empty" or something more thematic.  It's not the most graceful, but it's somewhat interesting and probably effective.

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In the end, though, all of these things except what madcow suggested are coming back to the stick.  We're punishing people for building more towns, which I think is not the right avenue for thinking.  Why do we care if people do that?  It's not an easy strategy; it's fun and balanced and it is the game.  Changing that is no trivial thing, and punishing people for playing the game the natural way seems like a really bad move in the end.

On the other hand, what about multiple playstyles?  Keeping things small has virtue as well, right?  It can also be fun, but it's not rewarded in any way right now.  I think that -- the carrot there -- is what is missing.  For instance, in AI War it is possible for players to take almost no planets, making things very difficult in some ways, but at the same time keeping AIP very low.  It's an extreme playstyle and not what most people do, but it is very useful at high difficulties and fun and challenging even on lower ones.  It adds flexibility without ever affecting the way the game was normally designed to be played.

And fundamentally that is what it comes down to: this is a game about expansion and territory-taking.  Changing that is making a whole other game, in most senses.  That's not a good thing to do to our new audience who seems to like the game and generally understand it.  It's not in the service of balance, in my opinion, unlike the changes I'm working on for tonight.  It doesn't prevent any cheese strategies or anything like that.  However, expanding the focus of the game to present new viable options... of course, that's always great to do, if we can figure it out.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for now.
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Offline nas1m

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #26 on: June 12, 2013, 04:32:02 PM »
I suspect there would be much rage at that, but I don't know.  I would certainly feel very constrained if I had to give up 4-5 turns just to build a new town.
There would, indeed ;)...
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Offline Billick

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #27 on: June 12, 2013, 05:02:37 PM »
A few things:
I usually have about 7-8 towns per faction up by the end of the game.  I rarely let towns completely die.  Usually 1 or 2 towns per game die in my games.  I use midgard serpent a lot.  Usually about 2-3 times per game.  In my opinion it's the best token in the game.  It's the most effective way to clear out ruins and obsidian tiles, and it gives you a huge amount of control over where units are going by splitting up the board.  On top of that it gives you points.  I will frequently let towns get down to just a couple buildings, then pop a midgard, and build it back up.  In the meantime, I'm expanding regularly.  If one faction is more powerful, I'll use it's extra AP to build land bridges for the other faction. 
I think the specializing towns is already optimal.  I tend to only have about 1-3 unit producing towns per faction, and each one specializes in a unit type.  The rest of the towns are resource producers.  The exception is the first town for each faction, which is a hybrid because you need both units and resources at the start, and you don't have a lot of stone. 
What does this all mean?  I'm not really sure.  It is pretty hard to lose when you have 7 towns rolling per side.  I still want to try an expert general difficulty game to see how that feels, but in my hard/expert/hard game I never really felt like I was in danger of losing.  I also want to play with the new changes to see how those feel. 

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #28 on: June 12, 2013, 05:10:30 PM »
Maybe if bandits could detect a defenseless newborn town or something but... the thing I actually don't like is the idea of controlling the game too much as well. It seems like then, the game can't really evolve in as many ways. That's why I keep supporting the ideas that are smaller and simpler. The game's still young. People will learn and give the game plenty of time to grow into something really excellent and compelling.
And again, for the people who are having trouble losing, bump up those score limits. And, well, maybe give Midgard Serpent a balance-y look because that sounds excessively beneficial.

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Re: Limit to town expansion
« Reply #29 on: June 12, 2013, 05:51:20 PM »
but... the thing I actually don't like is the idea of controlling the game too much as well. It seems like then, the game can't really evolve in as many ways. That's why I keep supporting the ideas that are smaller and simpler.

Yes, precisely so.  The fewer restrictions the better... though obviously a lot of restrictions are still required in order to make it a game at all rather than just a "do what you want" sandbox.

And, well, maybe give Midgard Serpent a balance-y look because that sounds excessively beneficial.

Especially in light of the new Bless ability, that may now be needed more than ever.  Possibly also a small score hit form Midgard, we'll see -- Billick, sounds like that's what you were suggesting.

In terms of the rest, it sounds like thoughts may be revised after playing the new 1.008 version (which is now out).  Trying to make the age of gods more fierce in general is something I still am after before we hit 2.0, and that ought to also solve some of the issues.  (But midgard may still be too OP).
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