Author Topic: (From Chris): A break from our regular programming for International Incidents.  (Read 2613 times)

Offline x4000

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Hey guys,

I just wanted to give you a heads up that we'll likely be making slower progress on bug reports in the remainder of this week in particular.  It won't be nothing, but there are three major things that we're going to be adding soon, and at least two of those this week, so that's going to set us back some in terms of regular polish work.

Resources And Natural Wonders
These are semi-functional right now, as you know, and a lot of them are blank.  This is pretty much a data issue at this point, so the ball is completely in my court and doesn't involve Keith anymore, which is good.  I've had a serious mental block on this, and so keep putting it off, but I think I'm finally getting to the point where the mental strain of not dealing with this is becoming too much and I'll crack and do it. ;)

Actually I think I've figured out some things that really make these satisfactorily meaningful to me from a gameplay standpoint, which is the biggest part.  I just couldn't get excited about things that were too minor and peripheral with them before, which is what I felt like was going on there.  I've been trying to make these things have the right balance of rarity so that getting them is a Big Deal and so that they have real strategic significance because of that.

New Difficulty Settings And Game Start Screen
This has been on my list for a long while, and will probably be a me-thing, though I'm not sure if I can complete this in just one week.  The biggest part of this is making it so that you can choose from a selection for every last little variable that is difficulty-specific, and make your own custom difficulties based on that.  But the difficulty levels where you just "select a difficulty" will still be there, and the main focus unless you expand the little sub-sections, and so it's not like the AI War lobby where you have a million options to select to get anything done.  That said, the number of options here is something I expect will actually be more than the AI War lobby before too long, just better organized.

The other cool thing with this is that I intend to pull the settings and their values for each difficulty level out into an excel file, so that will be something that is moddable and that folks can help tune if they so desire.

Part 2 of this is actually letting you see meaningful info about the race you choose, and actually choose your racial leader (right now it chooses at random).  I don't really see how I'll have time for that this week, but we'll see.  It's something that needs to get done.

International Incidents
I identified 7 major problems with the game based on my own testing and the testing you guys have been doing, and I've been spending a lot of this week trying to figure out solutions to them.  Lots of napkin-drawing stuff and mulling and testing and reading, not design document writing just yet.

But starting this morning am working on the design for a new "International Incidents" mechanic.  It should be something that is middling in terms of code complexity, certainly far less than a lot of things, and it actually should have a side effect of inherently optimizing some of the AI military decision-making (by drawing clearer lines of what should and should not be attacked so there are more early-outs more of the time).

This mechanic has a lot of room for interesting data additions without the need for further code, but it's also not super-duper writing heavy like quests were in TLF.  This new mechanic will actually do a great job of handling all 7 of my points of concern, which I'm very pleased with.  Items #6 and #7 on my list of concerns will also still need some other minor mechanics additions to really make them shine, but 1, 2, 3, and 5 are absolutely 100% wrapped up in this one concept all together, and #4 is tied in pretty closely, too.

It's been a lot of work really trying to figure out something that would function in all those capacities at once, but I've got it figured out now.  I imagine that we can MAYBE have a working version of the whole of International Incidents done by the end of this week, with a couple of basic bits of content in it, and then just branch out into more content from there in the following weeks.  This is going to be one of those "how could this game have existed without this" sort of mechanics, I'm really pleased. :)

I'll have more details for you soon, but I want to get through some testing on this before I say too much.  My hope is that we can have a lot of this done this week, but that will involve probably a lot of ignoring-mantis for now.  I'll still be looking at it for critical issues of course, and I absolutely want you guys to keep logging what you're finding because none of this negates what you are finding.  But we do need to set aside some solid time to get this done, and then I think we'll all be a lot happier with the game.  I'm super excited about this new mechanic, actually.

If you're curious about my list of 7 issues, this is the internal writeup I did a week or so ago:

Quote
1. The military mechanics work very well from a functional point of view, but the overall flow of "I approach you or you approach me and then we duke it out" is really broken in practice.  There is such a tremendous first-mover advantage.  What I need to figure out is a way that both sides do a lot of positioning and buildup without an incentive to actually strike, and then they actually fight each other using the existing mechanics once some sort of breaking point is hit.  This gets back to the idea of Risk: you don't just beat down the door immediately on every territory, or you spread yourself too thin and lose.  Right now that sort of blowback isn't present here.  I have a few ideas on how to resolve that, and none of them are grand new complex things by any stretch, but I really am trying to make this intuitive and simple for the player and the AI, and that's taking some work.  I'm hoping I can have this figured out by the end of next week, but we'll see.
--THIS to be handled by #3, and the AIs threatening you and so forth.  AND #6, where you threaten them or they threaten you with various special abilities in reprisal to attacks.

2. The way that GetIsHostile() works and whether AI races decide to engage your forces or not is something that plays into #1, but also plays into the whole concept of attitude.  I'm not sure how much I'm loving how that works at the moment.  I think something a little more nuanced could work better, and that will take some coding but a lot more testing.
-- Some races to hate you from the start, others to love you, and then others kind of an ongoing relationship.

3. The AI needs to actually get to speaking to you with offered deals (instead of you always being the one to offer), and it needs to also talk to you in certain circumstances when combat is being contemplated by the two of you.  "Table talk," as it were.  This is both for practical purposes of helping out with #1 and helping to bring players into the diplomacy aspect of the game rather than making it ignorable.  I don't think the code here will be terribly complex at all, I think it's mostly writing and design.  But there's definitely not NO code involved, heh.

4. The Planet Rage concept is good, but the balance is borked all to heck right now and there's an arms race brewing between players and I on figuring that out.  There is probably another (simple) mechanic that is going to need to be added in order to really prevent players from doing certain kinds of spam and getting away with it.  That includes both the current styles of city sprawl, and the oversized cities that right now are just frankly too common.  Actually!  I just had a really good idea on that front, relating to resources, which have been another design thing (much more minor) that I've been waffling on.  There's going to be some AI rules here that we're going to have to add and have to iterate on to really get them balanced well.  Right now the AIs pretty much pursue unlimited sprawl, just like they pursue unlimited fighting, but they're going to have to learn how to evaluate when to hold back.  The AI is also going to have to be taught how to make use of natural wonders, although I'll do my best to make that as simple as possible for calculation purposes.

5. Right now the linguistics stuff is great and people like that, but they're also looking for some new abilities with each race to unlock at each tier.  Aka, you can't do certain things with a race until you speak a certain amount well.  I think mostly that means gating existing content, but in general we may need to contemplate a few new diplomatic options and thus political deals.  I don't think it's anything grand programming or design wise, but I'll need time to figure it out and test it.

6. In terms of the opponents, having them have unique "other ways of messing with you" like the Evucks have their disease thing is something that players have expressed a desire for, and which I think would add greatly to the sense of uniqueness.  That's not too bad on design, it's probably more in the programming realm.  Hopefully nothing too bad there, but I think it's worth the time IF we're not running behind on everything else.  Goodness knows I don't want to try to squeeze in more features for the sake of it.  But the whole "lack of personality" thing was such a big negative for so many reviewers on Beyond Earth, and I feel like this particular thing helps take us yet another step in the direction of avoiding that.

7. Additionally, I've already detected an undercurrent from players about how playing the various races as a player doesn't feel THAT different from one another, which I unfortunately have to agree with.  That's something that also really bit Beyond Earth in the behind in reviews ("there are only really three factions, because everything else is so similar, blah blah.").  So it's something that I want to address if there is time, and I want to do so in such a way that it's interrupting actual gameplay as little as possible and making players feel the differences without making it actually require a ton of new mechanics or something.  Because there's no way we have time for a ton of new mechanics, that would be insane.  My goal is to add as close to zero new mechanics as humanly possible. ;)  That's going to be a nonzero number unfortunately, but a giant factor in my decision making on design issues is not introducing new stuff.

Cheers!
Chris
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Offline ptarth

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Not to meddle in the affairs of dragons too much, but a large amount of the side differentiation can come from racial buildings. The Peltian ground troops change that I convinced you of is a good example. Just continue that a bit more and you'll have fundamental playing differences that are emergent. Then all you have to do is document them at the basic level and the players will then see it in action. A second source would be Racial Technology trees, wherein the technology orders, costs, and prerequisites can be changed around. A third source would be the social development, I'm finally getting around to understanding the differences in the races there, it just needs to be more evident (And a little redesigning in the ordering and appearances would help too).

Like I said, definitely "not" meddling.

Also, Good Morning Chris.

Disclaimer Note: The previous post was constructed in a humorous manner, and also probably containing tongue in cheek humor. No offense was intended to the audience or any maligning of the offices of the good people at Arcen. Given the frequency and amount of soapbox lecturers on the internet without any good ideas, but plenty of words, this post and the producer of this post has no expectations of fulfillment. Finally, this post shall not be the grounds of any claims of rights or ideas, all content is entirely hypothetical and free to use and ignore as the user sees fit.
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Offline crazyroosterman

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this all looks pretty sexy and is dealing with a fair few issues in this i.e. lack of ai individualism the andors wanting to shoot my attempts at diplomacy in the face with a missile as soon as they laid eyes on it has always made me scratch my head in confusion I was also thinking that the ai should offer you deals and was actually thinking of suggesting it on mantis in till I read this post also I love that your going to be adding more options to the set up menu and adding racial toltips at last. (I've only been harping about it since the first few patch's)
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Offline donblas

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IMO, the reason all of the AI/sides in Beyond Earth felt the same was:

- The bonuses were very minor (+2 trade routes, really?)
- The AI all acted the same. Beyond some placeholder text, there was no flavor of person X doing Y because of their ideals or whatever.
- The entire tech tree / culture tree were identical.

Civ 5 didn't even change the tech tree, they just added two unique units/buildings and a tweak of the rules for each civilization and playing Rome "felt" very different than playing Aztecs.

Also, some flavor text could really help distinguish the factions. A blurb when you meant a race, one when you are picking a race in the lobby, and one in the diplomacy screen could do wonders.

Offline x4000

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@ptarth: Yep, a lot of those are things that we've considered, and we've got the ability to do entirely different racial tech trees if we so desired.  I don't think that would be productive, though, as it gets just really REALLY difficult to play as one race versus another.  I want it to feel different, but no like I have to relearn the game, if that makes sense.  Some of those are really solid ideas, and are probably things we'll start tackling later in the month.  I have some other ideas in that area, too.

Ever bought a Dell computer?  Or something from Best Buy online?  They have these great ways of letting you choose a few options that look interesting and then cross-compare them with the differences highlighted.  That sort of thing is what I want to get to on the races and leaders, because I feel like that's the only thing that will make it possible to really understand the differences between one race and another, and one leader and another.  A lot of the differences that already exist are completely buried in stats that players just can't tell right now.  That's not to say that more doesn't need to be done, but it is certainly one factor.

And no, no offense taken at your post, but thanks a lot for clarifying your tone because that always can go a long way if I was taking it the wrong way.

@crazyroosterman: Thanks!  And yep, in terms of the racial tooltips, see above in terms of why I've not added those yet.  I know you want the tooltips, but I feel like it needs to be MUCH more involved than just tooltips if players really are going to use that data for decision-making.

@donblas: I gave Civ:BE a pass, so thanks for the clarification there on the issues.  Flavor text is definitely a big thing that is coming, but it's low on my priority list because it isn't something that requires testing and so I can do it later in the polish phase.  It's definitely a big priority prior to 1.0, just not at this stage in the beta.  In terms of the AIs acting the same, I totally get that.  In this game they have a lot of differences in how they act actually, but it's invisible to the point you can't really tell.  The International Incidents will bring that really front and center in a huge way.  And a lot of flavor text is involved there, too, and will be involved in the very short term.

As far as the tech tree and culture tree, the culture trees have 19 different slots that vary depending on which race you play as.  In most of those, there are 2-3 different possiblities in there depending on which race you are playing as.  In the case of one of the 19, each race has a completely unique item.  So I feel like that's pretty well handled, but again it's not visible at all right now if you don't know.  It's something I need to expose through the racial selection screen.

In the tech tree, right now that is wholly identical for all of the races, yes.  We definitely have the capability of peppering in some race-specific techs in there, which I suppose is what I'd do rather than removing some techs for some races (though that is possible).  I thought about removing spies from the Skylaxians, and removing Hazmat from the Fenyn, for instance.  But I think that players would then be thinking that's a bug.  I'd rather use the carrot of extra stuff rather than the stick of removed stuff.  Those sorts of minor bits of extra content are pretty easy, though, and so something I'd rather leave until later in the process while I deal with the less-easy and larger stuff first.
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Offline UsF

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Are international incidents just geopolitical incidents or also ecological disasters that affect the whole map? Seems like there is a lot of potential to expand on this system and to maybe even mess with other nations, intentionally triggering such a disaster while making sure your cities are hardened against the effects.

Offline topper

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7. Additionally, I've already detected an undercurrent from players about how playing the various races as a player doesn't feel THAT different from one another, which I unfortunately have to agree with.  That's something that also really bit Beyond Earth in the behind in reviews ("there are only really three factions, because everything else is so similar, blah blah.").  So it's something that I want to address if there is time, and I want to do so in such a way that it's interrupting actual gameplay as little as possible and making players feel the differences without making it actually require a ton of new mechanics or something.  Because there's no way we have time for a ton of new mechanics, that would be insane.  My goal is to add as close to zero new mechanics as humanly possible. ;)  That's going to be a nonzero number unfortunately, but a giant factor in my decision making on design issues is not introducing new stuff.

How about adding Unique Unitbuilding(s) for each race when under human control? This could be as small as "Krolin condos fit twice as many people" or as far as a unique wonder building for a race-specific victory condition. This could be accomplished with or without the need for modified art assets or entirely new mechanics.
 
If the unique building(s) was emphasized on the start screen then it can influence play style and would reduce the 'saminess' of the different races since it would place even more advantage on a specific play style. This would also be more tactile feeling since it would actually change city distributions as opposed to a blanket "all housing capacity is increased by 10%" that might not affect the game very much visually. This way you would probably end up with player-Krolin cities that almost exclusively use condos for housing since they have a big advantage in them.

I'm sure the beta players and the rest of the community would be happy to come up with appropriate race bonuses to try to maximize different feelings for different races.


Offline Captain Jack

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7. Additionally, I've already detected an undercurrent from players about how playing the various races as a player doesn't feel THAT different from one another, which I unfortunately have to agree with.  That's something that also really bit Beyond Earth in the behind in reviews ("there are only really three factions, because everything else is so similar, blah blah.").  So it's something that I want to address if there is time, and I want to do so in such a way that it's interrupting actual gameplay as little as possible and making players feel the differences without making it actually require a ton of new mechanics or something.  Because there's no way we have time for a ton of new mechanics, that would be insane.  My goal is to add as close to zero new mechanics as humanly possible. ;)  That's going to be a nonzero number unfortunately, but a giant factor in my decision making on design issues is not introducing new stuff.

How about adding Unique Unitbuilding(s) for each race when under human control? This could be as small as "Krolin condos fit twice as many people" or as far as a unique wonder building for a race-specific victory condition. This could be accomplished with or without the need for modified art assets or entirely new mechanics.
 
If the unique building(s) was emphasized on the start screen then it can influence play style and would reduce the 'saminess' of the different races since it would place even more advantage on a specific play style. This would also be more tactile feeling since it would actually change city distributions as opposed to a blanket "all housing capacity is increased by 10%" that might not affect the game very much visually. This way you would probably end up with player-Krolin cities that almost exclusively use condos for housing since they have a big advantage in them.

I'm sure the beta players and the rest of the community would be happy to come up with appropriate race bonuses to try to maximize different feelings for different races.
Rather that unique assets, I think a better way to differentiate the races is by changing how the other races talk to you. The returning races all have relationships from the previous games, even if a long time has passed. I'm willing to bet the Spire and Neinzul would have VERY interesting things to say to the Zenith, while the Burlurst would get some old friends to say "there goes the neighborhood", while the Acutians would love to see old victims trading partners.

Actually, that'd be a good way to get lore and similar, the Acutians could sell it to you.

Offline crazyroosterman

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7. Additionally, I've already detected an undercurrent from players about how playing the various races as a player doesn't feel THAT different from one another, which I unfortunately have to agree with.  That's something that also really bit Beyond Earth in the behind in reviews ("there are only really three factions, because everything else is so similar, blah blah.").  So it's something that I want to address if there is time, and I want to do so in such a way that it's interrupting actual gameplay as little as possible and making players feel the differences without making it actually require a ton of new mechanics or something.  Because there's no way we have time for a ton of new mechanics, that would be insane.  My goal is to add as close to zero new mechanics as humanly possible. ;)  That's going to be a nonzero number unfortunately, but a giant factor in my decision making on design issues is not introducing new stuff.

How about adding Unique Unitbuilding(s) for each race when under human control? This could be as small as "Krolin condos fit twice as many people" or as far as a unique wonder building for a race-specific victory condition. This could be accomplished with or without the need for modified art assets or entirely new mechanics.
 
If the unique building(s) was emphasized on the start screen then it can influence play style and would reduce the 'saminess' of the different races since it would place even more advantage on a specific play style. This would also be more tactile feeling since it would actually change city distributions as opposed to a blanket "all housing capacity is increased by 10%" that might not affect the game very much visually. This way you would probably end up with player-Krolin cities that almost exclusively use condos for housing since they have a big advantage in them.

I'm sure the beta players and the rest of the community would be happy to come up with appropriate race bonuses to try to maximize different feelings for different races.
Rather that unique assets, I think a better way to differentiate the races is by changing how the other races talk to you. The returning races all have relationships from the previous games, even if a long time has passed. I'm willing to bet the Spire and Neinzul would have VERY interesting things to say to the Zenith, while the Burlurst would get some old friends to say "there goes the neighborhood", while the Acutians would love to see old victims trading partners.

Actually, that'd be a good way to get lore and similar, the Acutians could sell it to you.
not a bad idea although you'd have to find/contrive a reason to explain why all the tlf races aren't all bum buddies and just gang up on everybody else,
c.r

Offline x4000

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FORUMS WHY DO YOU STOP EMAILING ME!!!

(ahem)  Sorry, that was to the Forum Gods, not you.  I got lots of emails from the forums, but of course this thread is one it decided to just keep mum about.

Are international incidents just geopolitical incidents or also ecological disasters that affect the whole map? Seems like there is a lot of potential to expand on this system and to maybe even mess with other nations, intentionally triggering such a disaster while making sure your cities are hardened against the effects.

I'm not 100% certain on the answer to that just yet, because I'm still working on the framework and I'm not sure how much work the latter would be.  Geopolitical conflicts is definitely the core of this, as this will form the new backbone of races temporarily forming alliances and taking sides (or being neutral), etc.  And a number of the race-specific specials (like the Evucks infecting you with diseases) will be wrapped into this.  One thing that someone requested that I thought was great was the Acutians to be messing with you and sabotaging your markets (or the markets of someone else, depending), and I think that's also great and will fit here.

My next idea from that point was to basically kind of have a "hell is getting full" sort of scenario where the planet starts spewing monsters and all the races have to deal with them regardless of their differences.  So from there it's not hard to jump to ideas that are more ecological in nature.  I'm not sure about these two things, though, in terms of scope creep.  I want this feature to be cool and all, but I also want to avoid trying to put in so much new stuff that we can't test it all and we can't polish everything else.

7. Additionally, I've already detected an undercurrent from players about how playing the various races as a player doesn't feel THAT different from one another, which I unfortunately have to agree with.  That's something that also really bit Beyond Earth in the behind in reviews ("there are only really three factions, because everything else is so similar, blah blah.").  So it's something that I want to address if there is time, and I want to do so in such a way that it's interrupting actual gameplay as little as possible and making players feel the differences without making it actually require a ton of new mechanics or something.  Because there's no way we have time for a ton of new mechanics, that would be insane.  My goal is to add as close to zero new mechanics as humanly possible. ;)  That's going to be a nonzero number unfortunately, but a giant factor in my decision making on design issues is not introducing new stuff.

How about adding Unique Unitbuilding(s) for each race when under human control? This could be as small as "Krolin condos fit twice as many people" or as far as a unique wonder building for a race-specific victory condition. This could be accomplished with or without the need for modified art assets or entirely new mechanics.
 
If the unique building(s) was emphasized on the start screen then it can influence play style and would reduce the 'saminess' of the different races since it would place even more advantage on a specific play style. This would also be more tactile feeling since it would actually change city distributions as opposed to a blanket "all housing capacity is increased by 10%" that might not affect the game very much visually. This way you would probably end up with player-Krolin cities that almost exclusively use condos for housing since they have a big advantage in them.

I'm sure the beta players and the rest of the community would be happy to come up with appropriate race bonuses to try to maximize different feelings for different races.

Yeah, I've thought about that also.  One thing that could be done would be to kind of "player-ize" one of the alien buildings for each race, and then give that a specific function in the player race's hands.  That would both help with the visual aspect of making each city feel more race-specific (as you noted, and which I like), and get at that differing-playstyles aspect.

If you guys want to have a brainstorming thread about any and all sorts of content of that sort, I am super down for that and would be extremely grateful actually.  Many heads are better than one.

Rather that unique assets, I think a better way to differentiate the races is by changing how the other races talk to you. The returning races all have relationships from the previous games, even if a long time has passed. I'm willing to bet the Spire and Neinzul would have VERY interesting things to say to the Zenith, while the Burlurst would get some old friends to say "there goes the neighborhood", while the Acutians would love to see old victims trading partners.

Actually, that'd be a good way to get lore and similar, the Acutians could sell it to you.

There's a limit to how much unique writing I can do, because that gets multiplicative pretty fast.  But it is something that I'd like to do at least some of.
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Offline kasnavada

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There's a limit to how much unique writing I can do, because that gets multiplicative pretty fast.  But it is something that I'd like to do at least some of.

Designate volunteers as racial ambassadors and have them read the back-story extensively, then make them write the texts =).


Offline x4000

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There's a limit to how much unique writing I can do, because that gets multiplicative pretty fast.  But it is something that I'd like to do at least some of.

Designate volunteers as racial ambassadors and have them read the back-story extensively, then make them write the texts =).

The main thing that gets tricky is keeping a consistent voice for the races and the game.  As a failed novelist, I'm rather picky about word choice and so forth. ;)
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Offline kasnavada

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Quote
Designate volunteers as racial ambassadors and have them read the back-story extensively, then make them write the texts =).

The main thing that gets tricky is keeping a consistent voice for the races and the game.  As a failed novelist, I'm rather picky about word choice and so forth. ;)

I understand that.

Would "just" rereading and validating be enough for you ? I don't think you can have deep personalization and complete control, so... your choice, really.

What I was thinking of if getting any person participating on this work only on a single race to get that feeling of coherence within the race itself. Then maybe not limiting oneself to "only" the diplomatic options. Having each race get the description (or just some flavor quote ?) for each building, tech and diplomatic option and so on.

About making the races different, apart from mechanics, I'd suggest having a different "UI background" per race, like was done in Starcraft. That would differentiate the races quite well.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 04:27:35 PM by kasnavada »

Offline x4000

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Good point on the reading and editing.  It might work.  I've had spotty success with that in the past.

For the UI backgrounds, that's a good idea, although that's a lot of screens if we were to apply that everywhere.  If it were just for the main HUD... that might be in the realm of feasibility, not sure.
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Offline Captain Jack

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Ah, I wasn't suggesting a full range of unique interactions for every race pairing. That'd be silly, and a LOT of work. But unique introductory lines in response to your greetings when you first establish contact for specific races could go a long way to establishing character.