Author Topic: Chris: Hiatus from new beta players for a bit (diplomacy), but keep signing up!  (Read 7630 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,627
So, I have been thinking about diplomacy, and trade, and how those tie into victory conditions.  There is SO much that I love about this game, and that works really well.  Diplomacy is something I've really been feeling unhappy about for a long while (as everyone knows), though, and it's something I wanted to address.  For a large number of portions of what is planned (dealing with international incidents with more than the sword, for instance), that's something I have a solid design for. 

But other pieces really just have felt... tacked on.  What's my motivation here?  Left to my own devices, I'll just ignore diplomacy.  If total war is a viable option, I'll turtle for a long time and then just do that, because it's simpler.  If war is the only way -- other than territory capture -- that I'm competing with other races, then that's what I'm going to compete with them via.  So anything that doesn't contribute to the war effort is, by definition, ancillary to actual victory.

Now, because of the various ways of handling "dominations" in this game, there of course are many ways other than the sword to win.  But it's stuff that really makes you go out of your way to do something odd that you wouldn't otherwise do.  I don't like that.  Folks had some comments about wanting general industry and commerce to be more differentiated -- well, that plays into that, too.  I'm already doing industry and commerce for my own purposes, so why can't that also play into the international community?

My head has been spinning with a lot of this stuff, and it's been hard to come to any conclusions on steps forward because there are so many moving parts.  And I want to be respectful of the amount of time that is left for working on the game, and ideally not push back the release date AGAIN.  I'm not sure we could afford that.

But more than that, the game itself feels pretty "complete" in a lot of ways, from a mechanical standpoint.  That statement was really misleading, because there are some super key elements missing that make the game REALLY incomplete.  But what I mean is that it's like having all the wood for a house, and saying "you know what?  I don't need more wood.  I need the right kind of nails for connecting all these together."  That's more or less what I mean when I say that the game feels "complete."  95% of the wood is there, but it's missing nails left and right.

So the game isn't done, and there's tons to do, but what I have to be careful of is making even more work just by making extra tacked-on systems that will likely wind up feeling like a distraction from the main empire-building gameplay.  The mechanical "what" that you do on most turns is easily 95% done I'd say, but that other 5% is a really important section, and that really gets down to the thematic and mechanical why you do what you do.

All of that is a longwinded way of saying that I'm trying to design a system that is simple and that keeps the good parts of the existing game in mind.  There are certain parts of the current game that don't work well, or that I'm fine with just stripping away because they aren't THAT good, and those areas give me spots to put new nails.  But what nails?  And how can I build the house with a reasonable amount of nails, rather than putting 40 nails into each joint?  (I mean, you COULD build a house that way, but it would be a real waste and probably not great for the wood's structural integrity, either).

For the last couple of weeks I've been getting pieces at a time figured out and written down, but they were more about mechanical "what" aspects that would fit better into the game than the current off-in-another-menu diplomacy subscreen does.  On that front I've been making consistent progress for quite some time; longer than a few weeks actually.  But that elusive "why" question has really been stymieing me, and so I took most of today to really focus on that.  I spent a lot of time looking at the game and at mechanics, and thinking about things.

Then I took to reading various forums with various random people talking about various other games with diplomacy: their strengths, their shortcomings, and what they wished would be in them.  I think that's finally put me on the right path with the "why."  I just filled a legal pad page with a succinct set of scribbles that I think outline my current thinking well.  It's going to take quite a bit for me to flesh all that out into real systems and for a combination of Keith and I to get those implemented.  But I'm hoping that within the next 2ish weeks we can nail pretty much all of it.  That would then, ideally, send us into the final stages of testing where the game is truly feature complete and we're down to polish and nice-to-haves being added.  We'll see.

That's not to say there won't be any releases over the next 2ish weeks: far from it.  Each individual subsystem is not really that complex (that's the idea) except for a few of them, and we'll release those as we do them, mostly starting with the simpler ones first.  This will adjust how you win the game, among some other things.

Anyhow: the TLDR with that is that while there will still be releases during this period, lots of them in fact, there's not going to be any good reason to waste the first impressions of new testers during this period of transition.  So that's on hold for a bit, and then we'll do a big wave.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,627
If you're curious about some of the more interesting things I was reading, here they are.  These are notes I kept for myself, with links back to their source in case I wanted to refer back.  These are NOT some sort of guide to the mechanics I'm building, but they were the things I read as a huge part of the inspiration for that.  If you have thoughts you want to share on similar subjects, then this is a good thread (and a good time) to do so, as you can definitely affect the outcome of the design of this game at this juncture. ;)


That's a thing I really like about Distant Worlds. There's a setting where every race has it's own goals, for example the Humans:
* Control 33% of all Continental Colonies
* Mutual Defense Pacts with 15% of all empires in the galaxy
* Destroy more enemy ships and bases than you lose
* Most Trade Income
* Most Tourist Income
while another race, the Zenox, has really pacifist goals:
* Control the most Ruins
* Explore the whole galaxy
* Build "Galactic Archives" wonder
* Lose fewest ships and bases
lose fewest troops
(Those victory conditions are weighted and default setting is to hit 80% of these. So you can still win if you don't fulfill these conditions completely)
Each race has their own set of victory conditions, and you can feel it ingame. Some really don't want to go to war with you, while others will give you gifts to keep you at bay, so they can deal with another enemy and turn on you later.

I think much of the arbitrariness and confusion with diplomatic systems in 4x games stem from it being a largely independent part that is not tied into the game mechanics. Let me explain:

If I build a city close to a neighbouring AI it gets angry with me, because of "border tensions". Would a human get angry with me for the same reason? Probably not, especially if the city forms a natural and mutually acceptable border. The problem is, just like the human player the AI often has no real game mechanical reason to be angry with you - it is purely arbitrary.

I would solve this problem by replacing the arbitrary "border tensions" penalty with an actual game mechanics penalty, like when you tolerate a foreign settlement too close to one of yours your people get upset with you and suddenly you have an actual reason supported by the game mechanics to do something about it. To support this even further any diplomatic concession that your neighbour makes removes some of this pressure (so that when the neighbour agrees to pay tribute to you or convert to your religion your people will not get as upset about the close proximity any more).

It might also help to tie the fairness of every deal to the game mechanics, and not just to diplomatic modifiers. Enforcing unfair deals or taking unjustified action (like backstabbing an ally) might incur game mechanics penalties (like a loss of reseach capacity or increase in unrest). This of course could depend on government type, technology, infrastructure and cultural similarity which would neatly tie diplomacy into the rest of the game mechanics.

The biggest issue with "diplomacy" is that you need a compelling reason to engage in it. it cannot be an afterthought in the fundamental mechanics of the game to allow players to exchange techs or have non-aggression pacts. There needs to be mechanics in the game that make diplomacy a geopolitical necessity.

I think one method would be to have trade be an extremely integral part of a player's economy, and implemented in a way that creates a lot of strategic possibilities. I think dividing the conventional economy into "industry" and "commerce" where commerce is much more lucrative, but requires trading partners. A positive trade balance would be essential, but both parties benefit even if one side benefits more.

Military alliances also need to have more meat on them than simply non-aggression or defensive alliances. Military geopolitics should be about more than just total annexation, since two or more players who must achieve world domination are fundamentally opposed in interests.

The tech tree often contains a lot of strict upgrades, which has the effect of compounding the problem since total annexation may be achievable as a result of a tech advantage. Ideally research unlocks different features, not just ones that behave the same but with a higher number attached. As more research is performed, the game world and/or battlefield gets more complicated depending on what players chose to acquire, rather than behaving fundamentally the same but with one side having an absolute advantage due to higher stats.

As a possible alternative, suppose a military alliance actually had players cooperate militarily, including coalition armies composed of a mix of forces. Potentially this would allow players to research different assets and complement each other. A coalition would necessarily have more unit diversity than a single person, but with enough industrial power the sheer quantity might be enough.

Alpha Centauri did it pretty well, in the sense that your enemies had personalities that determined whether or not they were inclined to like you - a few were particularly deceitful, and would feign friendship and even alliances long enough to move their hot new units over your borders and crush you.

They would also, like you said, brag (or threaten) about their newest units. Especially if you didn't do what you wanted them to.

"Hey, could you transfer SECRETS OF THE HUMAN BRAIN tech to me as a personal favor?" "Nope." "Wow. Jeez. Huh. Well too bad my new SILKSTEEL SENTINELS (3-1-4) have just entered service! I'd choose more wisely if I was you!"

Trade is also a major part of the game. My mechanism to promote trade is this : Assets are built from Nanobits. Nanobits are created by refining minerals. The more mineral types you use in refining, the greater the ratio of conversion. Thus, you want as many mineral types as possible. Of course only some of the minerals are available locally...

If you are talking the EU games, if your country does not have a causus belli, then you take a stability hit (reduces income, increases revolt risk, etc).  Your government needs to work to get this causus belli before you declare war.  In HOI games, you have to lower your 'neutrality' level until it reaches a threshold based on other country's 'threat' level to you.  Otherwise, you can't declare war.  You can use spies to increase a country's threat level.  Depending on game version, you can have a minister that lowers your neutrality a little each month.

Speaking of interesting real-life diplomacy, I just finished reading The Winter War (Edwards).  Because of MR pact, Hitler stood by while SU invaded Finland even though German population supported Finland.  Even Goring (who had married a Swedish noblewoman) sent armaments to Finland on the sly.  Italy also tried to send munitions but Hitler forbade it passing through Germany. 

And as Nefaro pointed out while I was typing, EU games have a Bad Boy rating system that goes up when you annex provinces and goes down as time passes.  You have to balance absorbing enemies with the chance your rating gets high enough to cause neighbors to declare war on you.

I'd be happy to just see a game where my people's attitudes towards an enemy were tracked separately from my own status with them (i.e., War, Peace, Non-Aggression Pact, etc.).  As was the case in the EU games, if you go to war with somebody where there's not a proper casus belli, you pay the price in domestic turmoil. 

The EU system actually abstracts that stuff, but still at least makes it more plausible.  Adding in the occasional "story line" random event might make for interesting decisions.  Do you use a particular international incident as a chance to maximize short-term resources, or do you play for an outcome that will actually antagonize your own public the most so it's easier to really go to war later on?

We're working on some interesting levers for diplomacy in The Great War.   The WWI era was very self-serving.  Lots of capricious and irrational behavior.  Some nations were literally up for auction, highest bid earned them an ally.  We want to allow players to use diplomacy as another way to deal with nations as much as going to war.  You will be able to buy influence.  You will be able to try to counter the influence that other nations are attempting.  There will also be betrayals.  Think that country has your back?  They may bail on you if you get into a war.  That's how diplomacy worked during that period. 

I can't speak for other developers, but we are very opposed to designing a game where you can't choose to turn on a dime.  We don't want players to think: "Oh, the designers don't want me to do that."  Because that sucks.  It's much better to let you do what you want, and have to deal with the consequences.

What Mr. Biggles said basically: we're very good at figuring out the intentions behind the moves of others. That allows us to pre-empt future opponent moves or to setup a 'trap' to bait them. Purely reactive - that is, they only consider the current state of the game - AIs are just incapable of imitating the kind of reasoning we do when we contrast the moves of our opponents against the state the game was in and where it makes sense for the opponent to take it. Expert human players tend to be very good at masquerading their actual intentions, misleading or distracting their opponents.

My pet 'hates' from 4x games, that always ruin the immersion for me. It would be amazing if Endless Space could avoid these:

(1) inconsistent + unrealistic relationship changes - allies one minute, then enemies the next, especially after peace and an alliance lasting most of the game or after having lots of trade relationships between you. This might be because of:
(2) contrived triggers for diplomatic relationships - you expand a certain amount, and suddenly all your friends and at peace neighbours hate you and declare war. This is especially annoying if (see above) you have a long term relationship and you're not going for a military victory. Other examples, even peaceful/good empires will be hostile to you at first contact because they somehow know that you don't have much of a military, but will suddenly become more friendly when you build a few military ships in some far off spaceport!

I dream of a more mature diplomacy system which allows more strategic choice in various scenarios. E.g.: you build up a steady game-long relationship with an ai race (possibly at the detriment of your relationship with other empires who view your alliance with suspicion). If your ai friend is a lot lot weaker than you, maybe other alliances will form and choose to attack your friend first, in which case your friend may ask to become a protectorate, and give you a percentage of their economy in return for military protection.

TDLR: More options, loyal ai, and ai that's proactive in building up a relationship with you please

I dream of a faction that says to you "hey, look, you are growing too powerful, and need to slow your expansion, or buy us off, by doing something nice for us - Let's talk."

I dream of a faction declaring not war, but ship licensing and patenting demands, (in which effect - they start turning out ships with your technology),
I dream of agreements not to settle certain systems on your direct border, agreements to lend ships to help with a particular military problem they are having,
I dream of sending over, loading or reassigning 1, 2 or 3 of your heroes to help them upgrade their empire (with random success, tilted by quality) with various consequences available for success, etc..

This just caught my attention and i instantly thought about how neat it would be to be able to make an agreement with another empire to create a "no-man's land" treaty on a system between your two empires. Breaking said treaty would obviously have a big diplomatic penalty.

I want to be able to win by PEACEFUL and COLLECTIVE means if I feel like it. And if I change, and rip up treaties, then yeah, kill me and turn on me (balanced by the AI personaility somewhat). Also, I want steps IN BETWEEN peace and war. Recall Ambassadors (A -3 per turn to relations, with a x% chance of shaking some sense into them), the gradual ripping up of treaties, and things that will warn you well in advance that your relationship is souring.

** I want to be able to assign my best administrators to resolving the crisis, perhaps pulling them from normal duties for X turns, with a chance to really make the relationship go somewhere - or fail classically and have the relationship go south. With maybe a fantastic military general working better for some factions, and my civilian heroes working better with peaceful governments. **

Galactic Civilizations pulled a rather pleasant move with the idea of a "United Council". As well as affecting inter-civilization diplomacy in a rather unique way, it allowed the player to steer the outcome of specific decisions that would otherwise be entirely up to the AI and random chance, such as an enforced neutral territory or protected trade routes.

1. Improve trade. Right now it seems difficult to set up and rare.
2. Set up Neutral Zones between Empires - some allow ship movement and trade through them and merely ban colonisation, others might be total 'no mans lands' with no exchange whatsoever.
3. Allow Empires to work together towards shared goals. GalCiv did this by having Trade Agreements and Research Agreements actually be detrimental at the outset but mature into highly profitable partnerships.

Real Life allows Empires and people to pursue common goals first and establish stable relationships BASED on these histories of cooperation. Game Diplomacy forces empires to sign agreements first and THEN allows them to collaborate. Even countries engaged in Cold Wars allow cultural and economic exchanges, after all!

+1 to all of these ideas. In particular, a sense of common purpose would be great. I want to think "Ah, they might be able to help me" when I encounter a race, not just "okay - kill them after these guys".

One of the biggest problems is that an AI should not be too passive, because it ultimately makes diplomacy too easy for the player to handle. The problem is that a player is not bound by the Alliance rules he can declare war on every occasion without having to worry about any drawbacks.

The diplomacy System in Civ 4 worked a bit like this. Long lasting Alliances were perfectly possible since some AIs would not DoW once they hit a stable plateau of +10 to +20. While this was "realistic" and probably close to what you'd find in real life it also made diplomacy completely pointless. The more you know how to coerce an AI into a peaceful coexistence, the less you actually need to worry about them. Without random backstabbing you can quickly create unbeatable power blocks and don't even have to go to war. Once you can predict how the AI will react (what's basically everyone here is asking for...) it is not hard to play according to it. That's even more of a problem since the diplomacy system does not scale with difficulty.

I see why many poeple are against an AI that actively punishes the player for winning the game, but then again, I'd rather have war than clicking the end turn button 50+ times once I already know that my alliances are going to work until my science/wonder victory.

I think fundamentally the problem I have seen with diplomacy in nearly all games I have played is there is too little consequence for the human overall.

As a human, I know ultimately I want to win. So while I like diplomacy, there is nothing me from dropping an ally at the turn of a dime to help me win.

To diplomatic penalties need to incur real mechanical penalties, which also gives it more teeth in multiplayer.

For example, a diplomatic penalty should effect your trade with all races (if my trading partners are suspicious of me, they are going to need a little more palm greasing). Vice versa, an upstanding diplomatic record might give me a trade bonus.

Diplomacy might also have affects on my approval or my ship maintenance (easier to get cheap ship parts if I have a clean record).

Yes, I'd love better diplomacy. As it stands, the AI when it comes to diplomacy in this case pretty much ruins any enjoyment I get from it. Someone earlier in the thread had the best point (in my opinion): there are too many stupid modifiers which do nothing but ruin diplomacy. If not that, then there are too many large negative modifiers when compared to the few small positive modifiers. I've been playing a small map with a couple of other AI players (none of which were militaristic in any way). I met them, asked for peace (which also sucks in this game. Seriously, I have to research how to ask for stupid peace? And even then I have to wait several turns after meeting them to ask for peace? This game just has way too many stupid moments like that), and we got several trade routes and agreements made (trading resources and such). I'm thinking how awesome this is getting possible allies, and all relations are going great. Next thing I know I'm getting massive penalties for expansion (which is stupid because they're expanding more than me, and I'm too afraid to expand at all because it seems that gaining even one more planet makes everyone hate you), score (great, now doing anything in the game makes it impossible to have friends), connections via warp (that's the most idiotic thing I've ever seen in a game like this. Seriously, with that logic Canada and the U.S. would be constantly at war), connections via regular travel (once again, that wonderful logic leads to things like North Dekota going to war with South Dekota), and crap like that. What's worse is that all of these build up to massive penalties, while the positive modifiers don't get nearly as big, leading to cases where you will never be at peace with anyone.

This needs to be fixed. This is the worst "diplomacy" I have ever seen in a game, which sucks because everything else is great. I mean, Total War games have better diplomacy! There's just so many huge, negative modifiers in this game which don't make any sense, and do nothing more than ruin the experience. If nothing else, I want that fixed. You don't even need to add something like a no-mans land that other people have suggested. If nothing else, just make it so that if you are at peace the connection penalty is removed, because it's stupid. How many times has Canada attacked the U.S. for being there? Yeah, my point exactly.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Dominus Arbitrationis

  • Arcen Games Contractor
  • Arcen Staff
  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 478
I haven't read all of this (Its a ton!), but did read about the diplomacy involving neighbors and trade, which gave me an interesting idea. What if multiple factions could settle in a single territory, which would boost commerce a bit, but also increase crime with both of those being relative to how much of the territory you own. I haven't thought about how to balance that, but it might be an interesting twist. It would make you want to get next to someone, but also not want to because of the crime increase.

I do think that each faction needs their own personality because how in the world can you expect a large group of Burlusts to sit down and have a peaceful drink with you? But I also think that there needs to be measures to stop the Burlusts from dying 100 turns in because they attacked literally every faction at the end of turn 1.
Come help out at the Wiki!

Have ideas or bug reports for one of Arcen's games or any part of the site? Use  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games and site better!

Offline kasnavada

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 976
There's few dozen articles about that I've been reading on gamesutra and other sites.

Here is how the guys designing Civ5 thought about diplomacy (and actually everything else):
Note that I disagree with his choices - seriously the guy sounds like he's whining and going back to earlier design patterns because he couldn't write a decent AI more than anything else. Still worth reading.

Also this one looked like full of common sense, but it's kind of a larger scope too. You've avoided a lot of the issues there because of how the city building / units are handled though. It's more about end-game and victory conditions than diplomacy.

About diplomacy and SBR, all of what you put is very interesting... but what I feel you've put yourself into somewhat of a corner here. Deciding single player means that there is no way out of diplomacy. Otherwise SBR is going to become a wargame with full extermination on or a sandbox. Yet, how can the game be so "advanced" in its mechanic with no diplomacy / trade yet inside ?

Frankly I'd very much like to see what your thought translate to in-game. Worst part of beta I guess, imagining what's not in there.

About my own thought about diplomacy... it generally bores me. It always feels to me like a mini-game outside of the game's mechanic. Basically the main issue that I'm always encountering is that games are always designed to be winnable by warmongers. There is no reason ever to prevent military victory. So it's winnable with little to no diplomacy and trade to other empires. So it's a mini-game. Problem is that this particular mini-game is one of the largest source of abuse in the history of video gaming. Particularly the "tech trade" related abuses (please, DO NOT allow that mechanic in diplomacy, it's horrible).

Basically the issues I've encountered so far in diplomacy is :
- randomness : all of those games where you have no feedback about how the AI feels about you. Solution: give sliders / indicators telling why the others don't like you or do like you.
- fickleness: one turn they are your allies, the next one they hate you.
- stupidity (but designing an AI is way harder than what people think).
- forgetting: basically diplomacy in all games I've played is ALWAYS a subscreen (or a dozen subscreen). So I forget about it. I dream for a game with diplomacy on the main screen, as a main feature.
- asymetrical trades (like if they propose something it's more or less "symetrical", but impossible to the player to propose something without heavily overpaying it).
- pointless or abuse. Basically, either the game is designed to be won without diplomacy done at all (which is more or less always the case), so diplomacy gives either minor bonii so it's useless. Or it gives so much bonii that engaging in diplomacy is an "I-Win" button (die, tech trading DIIIIIIEEEEEE !!!!).

About SBR, the interesting point is that the factions are already there and in place. I think there is an opportunity here to "force" diplomacy (otherwise you're dead) to pass the first 200 turns. Basically forcing you to have allies soon in the game or die. Maybe your lander should have the "choice" of landing near 3 races, and let the player choose one. That race would be your "by default" ally for the game (you can still backstab them later). But, piss them off and you're alone, and that means that others make you a pile of smoking rubble. So your first tasks ? As defending would be designed to be difficult at best against rogues, and established faction being so much stronger... so first take is keeping your first friend ever happy, and make others. Fast. At that stage you can defend yourself with allies, not attack.

Then, by mid-game, you've become "known" enough to be able to coerce a few other AIs to help you (and get hated) without being the one that actually does most of the fighting (but you're becoming more and more significant). You can start to eliminate some of the opposition, but only with allies. At end game of course... you're at end-game. Either someone is your ally or you're exterminating them.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 02:01:17 AM by kasnavada »

Offline nas1m

  • Master Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,268
All intriguing stuff! I am looking forward to see what you will make of this :).

EDIT: I really dig kasnavada's idea with regard to being able to pick a race to land near and the player being weak enough to have to rely on said race early game in terms of protection/defense. Would be a great source of replayability if the AIs behave differently enough in terms of diplomacy/personality. Good stuff!
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 02:15:57 AM by nas1m »
Craving some more color and variety in your next Bionic run? Grab a boost and a couple of custom floors!

Offline Trafalgar

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
I'm not in the beta currently so I don't know what you've done so far, but I'd like to say that I really loved the way SMAC's diplomacy worked, specifically how the leaders would like you more if you used their favored policy and dislike you if you used policies they disliked, and had dialog where they would make demands and such related to it, or say how they were glad you were a friend to Planet or the like, making it seem far more real-life-like than any other game I've ever played. I expect SBR would be a bit more complex since you have a bunch of very alien races in SBR, instead of just humans. TLF demonstrates how different races could value different things, though. It would definitely be an improvement to have SMAC-style dialog and leaders, if you're doing that.

In most games, especially strategy games, teamwork is, and should be, OP (compared to going it alone). Taking Dominions 4 PBEM MP as an example, in the normal thrones victory mode, you have a game which is obstensibly free-for-all winner-take-all, with no diplomacy features in the game itself besides the ability to send items, gold, and gems to other players. In games with around 8-10 players, all human, the most effective thing I've found that you can do early on to ensure your survival is to communicate with (most of*) your neighbors early on, discuss borders, arrange non-aggression pacts, what-have-you, and potentially trade things - basically make friends, because they'll will be more inclined to help you if you get in trouble, or if there's someone you want to take down (it helps if you can paint them as a threat, too). Obviously someone has to win the game, which means once nobody is left but the alliance, you don't know who you can trust still, if anyone, or who is planning to backstab who first... If a game versus AIs played like this, it would be pretty neat. Actually, SMAC was fairly similar. Deidre always tried to backstab me in the late-game. :P

* (You want to expand, so you probably want to conquer one of them)

In Dom4, trade can theoretically be especially useful, since one player can make items which others can't make (because their mages or pretender have different magic paths), and may have a surplus of certain gems that other players need (because their fire mages can only find fire-aligned sites and so forth, so they can't find some things). You can transform gems into other gems, but at a 2-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio, whereas trading has no inherent losses unless your trading partner turns out to be a terrible person and doesn't send you what he promised (but this has not happened to me so far).

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,627
Interesting thoughts and articles, thanks.  By the way, I don't see Jon as being too defensive or whining at all in his article there.  I felt like he was being really self-reflective and explaining his past and current thought processes well.  He openly admitted to getting bogged down in the AI architecture rather than the results that architecture was producing.  That's super easy to do, and I can relate, although my issues with that have been in the procgen department, back with Valley 1.  All of that is an aside, anyway.

Some further thoughts, excerpted from an email I sent to Keith:

I've been basically trying to come up with a model that:
1. Adds as few subscreens as possible, and ideally just has ones that are brief selection things along the lines of how linguistics are now, rather than anything complex.
2. Extends existing mechanics that are fun into the international arena, rather than trying to come up with new ones that are then potentially tacked-on in feel.
3. Makes use of the main game screen as much as humanly possible to represent things, so that I can look at the overall board and get a sense of things, versus having to check a lot of overlays and subscreens (aka, this is what territories already did for a ton of the citybuilding mechanics, for instance).
4. Is blindingly simple for the player to understand what is happening and why, in the sense that there is a feeling of continuity and causality with what is happening.  With circumstances being random, perhaps (so and so has a crop shortage, whatever), but the AI's responses to those circumstances being something that aren't exactly predictable, but are easily understood and which form a coherent mental narrative for the player.

And I'm looking to make as much of this abstractly data-driven as possible, and having a feedback-loop into itself, and itself feeding into victory conditions, rather than this being something that tries to feed back into the citybuilding or the combat parts of the game.  Enough already feeds into combat, and the citybuilding is already quite able to stand on its own (it's been suggested by several beta players to offer a mode that just has that, since it's interesting enough on its own).

Anyhow, the core problems I've been having are about how to make this as blindingly simple as possible, with minimal interface, little to no need for AI, huge flexibility for data-driven content, and tying all the existing mechanics together as much as possible, and probably revising some of the weaker ones (like how resources are used or how the victory dominations are achieved).  Trade has been the single biggest thorn in my side, because I want to have it but I don't want to be micromanaging it, and I also don't want to be automating it.  So I've been searching for a balance where trade happens infrequently enough, and with enough impact, that I can manage it all myself as a player (no automating) without it feeling like a chore.  Even then, having a "suggest optimal" or something like that (such as happens with gear loadouts in a lot of JRPGs going back to FF6 and on) is fine with me.

One thing that really stuck out to me in what I was reading from some random people on forums who were writing like 3 years ago was (to paraphrase) "when I meet someone new, I don't want to be thinking 'great, now I have to kill them,' but rather 'hey, I wonder if they might be of use to me.'"  I thought that was a really interesting point, and it plays right back in to what I've been wanting to do.

Basically: make positive interactions with the AIs one of the requirements for really fulfilling game goals.  Just as you can't win without taking any territories (probably), you shouldn't be able to make no positive interactions and still win (probably).  Aka there's an outside chance, but it's like playing one-planet AI War, or all-planets AI War.

All the pieces that are needed for that sort of thing are really already there -- there's a huge wealth of very cool game systems already in place in the game with the citybuilding side, and "simply" extending those so that you can, say, dedicate some sort of commerce to an AI to help out their economy, or send them food or whatever, is fine.  On the back end it doesn't need to actually model the need for food, it just needs to be an event of some kind saying "player needs to give me food, or there are x consequences for me and y consequences for the player (probably an attitude drop at least)."

Anyway.  A lot of that has really been coming together lately, and that comes from the concept of "let's not think about this like diplomacy, let's think about this as making the AI civilizations part of your empire-building simulation, but a part that has personality and that leads to victory conditions or unique kinds of consequences."

<snip irrelevant stuff>

The mechanics that I am pushing for really are what I think of as being minimal in a lot of ways.  Basically I'm looking to make a system that isn't bloody complex, because I don't enjoy playing those sorts of systems anyway.  I'm looking to make it so that the player interacts with the AIs via other systems than just the sword, but without inventing a bunch of new systems beyond the great ones that are pre-existing.  Some of the existing systems need more differentiation (commerce vs industry, as one example), and that's one place where it could play into "diplomacy" more.

Diplomacy is actually kind of the wrong word to use here, but basically I just mean "interactions with the AI other than fighting."  Or, to put it another way, "most of the ways of winning."  For a lot of the specialized victories like the escape to space, I think that will actually become a multi-race thing that you have to have the help of some other races for.  And that's not a big coding challenge or even a big interface challenge, but it takes yet another form of late-game play and makes it involve more than just you sitting in the corner swatting away anybody who bothers you.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Trafalgar

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
It might be pretty cool to be able to work together with some of the AIs to escape to space together.

Offline x4000

  • Chris McElligott Park, Arcen Founder and Lead Dev
  • Arcen Staff
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 31,627
It might be pretty cool to be able to work together with some of the AIs to escape to space together.

Bingo.  I want to make it so that it's literally impossible to do it without at least a couple of them.  A project of that scope should be an international one.  Some of you make it off the planet alive together, and the rest are stuck behind...
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline crazyroosterman

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,558
  • Cluck.
this all sounds pretty lovely not that I can really suggest anything really that hasn't already been suggested besides with that shipping idea for example having that way you help that race with their crop shortage(or for other things to of course) about the space victory don't you already need the spire to complete that victory?.

Offline Trafalgar

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 8
As for trade, personally, trading things with actual gameplay effects feels far more meaningful than trade convoys that just generate currency. Decisions like your send-food-to-assist example are interesting too (Crusader Kings II is an example of a game that implements something similar).

Offline crazyroosterman

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,558
  • Cluck.
although now that I've been thinking about that victory(last time I did it) was pretty bloody boring sitting around and hoeing cash wasn't the most interesting thing in the world(disclaimer this was many versions ago) so if you want to change that up you can go ahead.

Offline crazyroosterman

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,558
  • Cluck.
As for trade, personally, trading things with actual gameplay effects feels far more meaningful than trade convoys that just generate currency. Decisions like your send-food-to-assist example are interesting too (Crusader Kings II is an example of a game that implements something similar).
you can do what you wish with the idea as far as I'm concerned mostly I like this idea mainly because of the possibility's of things like what you said.

Offline Captain Jack

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 808
  • Just lucky
Oh good, I've been thinking racial interaction needed an overhaul.

If you're trying to tie diplomacy into the regular flow of the game, doesn't that mean buildings?  I remember reading you were interested in exploring implicit diplomacy, and how races could substitute mutually beneficial actions for opening up a communication channel and talking to you directly. You were talking about it mostly in terms of getting around the language barrier, but you can repurpose it for higher level interactions. Like in TLF, build a chocolate factory and you get delicious chocolate, and the Burlurst eat that instead of your ambassador.

Spoiler for Hiden:
And speaking of TLF, I'd like to see an expansion focusing on the Federation races, with a victory path based around recreating it. That's for later though.  :P

Offline jerith

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 142
The only games I can think of offhand with diplomacy that didn't feel tacked on or broken are the Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis series (which are basically made entirely out of diplomacy) and Alpha Centauri. I've been playing Endless Legend recently, and its diplomacy feels better than most but still sucks in a variety of ways. King of Dragon Pass is a very different genre, but it also has some interesting diplomacy.

Here are some thing I want to do with diplomacy:
  • Be friendly or unfriendly in tone. This is the difference between "your people are starving, have some of my surplus food" and "you can't even keep your people fed, here are my leftovers".1 The initial introduction is good for this, but there's nothing more after that.
  • Tying into the previous item, I'd like relationship options that don't sit directly on the ally-enemy spectrum -- things like "I'll accept their help, but I don't have to like them" or "I wish I didn't have to exterminate their population, but they're in my way". Basically, split like/dislike from friendly/hostile and have relationships that can potentially appear anywhere on the plane, but mostly fall close to the diagonal.
  • Frequent low-impact interaction that can gradually push relations in various directions. Things like "good job snagging those Firedrakes before the Thoraxians got them" or "don't get too friendly with the Boarines, I'm planning to attack them soon" or "I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop dumping your smog on my suburbs". Just chatting2 rather than proposing treaties, although there's nothing stopping the conversation from going further if it turns out your little news item was really important to them.
  • Multi-party summits and treaties rather than purely one-on-one deals. Things like "nobody likes the Spire, but between the three of us we can get to space without them" or "let's all kill the Burlusts and divide their territories between us".3
  • It should be possible to use diplomacy offensively.4 Make deals with individual members of an alliance to sow discord, share intel about what other people's friends and enemies are up to, etc.
  • Sudden major shifts should be infrequent and justified. Sending the Thoraxian Queen a gift basket of live Peltians in Yamok sauce should do this, as should sending a weakened enemy a cure for their plague while defending them from destruction. Claiming a neutral territory or missing a loan repayment shouldn't.
  • Some concept of "favours". Maybe I give the Fenyn a shipment of salad greens during a famine with a note attached saying "you owe me one". Later, I can ask for repayment in the form of help cleaning up some pollution or whatever. Exchanging favours could be a way to build a bond with another clan nation. You're less likely to attack someone who was nice to you without immediate benefit to them, and you're also less likely to attack someone who owes you.
  • Maybe some level of "raiding" that is tolerated (and even expected) but can escalate if handled poorly -- like counting coup or cattle raids in some tribal societies. This could take the form of stealing a market item or sabotaging a building. It harms the relationship between the raider and the raided (along the friend/enemy axis, not the like/dislike axis) slightly, but if you don't do it at all you could be seen as weak by your neighbours.

This isn't a complete list, and I'd be very surprised everything on it was technically feasible or even a good idea. Nevertheless, I hope there's something useful in it. :)

  • This is the sort of thing that could be extended by Computational Psychosemantics.
  • I think this is a really good way to have the other races' personalities come through, especially if they also initiate chats.
  • I want it to be possible to build a Bismarckian web of alliances and agreements, keeping conflicts small and local.
  • The Mongols under Genghis Khan and Subutai were masters of this.


SMF spam blocked by CleanTalk