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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 5:54 pm 
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Vezzra wrote:
The other problem is of course the ridiculous fact that currently the megacannon does shoot at tiny targets like fighters.


Refocus the beam to spread out more, doing less damage but with a wider beam.

To borrow a little from the Traveller RPG:

Quote:
Consequently, they are extremely inaccurate when attacking small targets.


So less chance of hitting smaller targets. (Though in this case they still can't hit ships of less then 2,000 tons).

Might be something to consider, the smaller the target, the less chance to hit.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 06, 2017 7:47 pm 
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Hi,

Vezzra wrote:
The other problem is of course the ridiculous fact that currently the megacannon does shoot at tiny targets like fighters. But the solution to that shouldn't be that the megacannon can magically spread the tremendous power of a single of its shots across multiple targets, but to introduce the concept of weapons types, and specify what type of weapon can/will actually fire at what kind of target. The SMAC for example shouldn't ever target fighters, heck, it shouldn't be able to hit them at all, considering that it's spinal mounted.

Another instance of space comedy... I mean, that's like trying to hit a mosquito by throwing big, heavy rocks at it... :lol:


Or, it could be the equivalent of loading a cannon with grapeshot or some other wide dispersal metaphor rather than a single cannonball.

We're making it all up anyway, and any desired result can be handwaved.

There would be no problem with SMAC if it always fired at the biggest ship, rather than some random thing. Or even the ship with structure remaining closest to its damage. After all, megaweapons get elite crews who can best choose what to hit.

Anyway,

Ken


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 4:45 am 
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ovarwa wrote:
After all, megaweapons get elite crews who can best choose what to hit.

Heh, you're assuming a Human approach and mindset: if the crew were, for example, WH40K Orks then the crew would be the Mechboy that built it and whatever grots he'd corralled into helping him make the big thing go boom :-D

But yeah, we do need a target priority system and or a 'leader'/'crew' system at some point so that the ships act in a slightly sensible manner but it's way beyond my pay grade to spec that sort of thing (I'll be very happy to test ideas though).

I would like, at some point, to have a better system/series of systems for planetary defences: fighter groups and similar would make a lot of sense for a planet to have, and multiple smaller shots would be better/more fun than the single scary shot you tend to get in the end game with the current setup, but it'd almost certainly a) be difficult to code and b) require AI work so it's a low priority compared to bigger things right now.

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:18 am 
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Hi,

MatGB wrote:
ovarwa wrote:
After all, megaweapons get elite crews who can best choose what to hit.

Heh, you're assuming a Human approach and mindset: if the crew were, for example, WH40K Orks then the crew would be the Mechboy that built it and whatever grots he'd corralled into helping him make the big thing go boom :-D

In which case he'd certainly not fire at the small ships. Big ship, big boom.

My point wasn't about the elite crews as much as that everything is handwaving.

For example, given my original understanding of the game's underlying design aesthetic in which everything is abstracted, each weapon does not actually fire exactly three times per turn but is simply balanced that way, and therefore there was absolutely no need to complicate the fighter rules by having the first turn being deployment. After all, we don't similarly force weapons to abstain from the first turn as they insert the fuel rods, wait for the flux capacitors to slowly charge, calculate hideously complex firing solutions, and only then get to fire. We also don't disable weapons on ships as they lose structure, or not allow them to be repaired or replaced or have their dilithium crystals replenished while they are out of supply. But the new fighter subsystem totally violates the abstraction of combat, added needless complication that is harder to balance, especially for the already hapless AI, just because some people decided to wave their hands one direction rather than another.

Deciding that the SMAC should always be a single blast for balance reasons, with cost and strength and place in the tech tree still being tweaked, that's fine. Deciding that the SMAC cannot have a wide dispersal mode because it's not realistic is pretty silly considering that none of this exists, not the cannon, not the technology, not any of it.
Quote:
But yeah, we do need a target priority system and or a 'leader'/'crew' system at some point

Hmm. I'm not saying that we need one, but that it's one way to deal with the SMAC. Except for the SMAC and for fighters, the current randomized system works just fine. (Though it's the only random combat mechanic in the game.)

Anyway,

Ken


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 5:39 pm 
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MatGB wrote:
But yeah, we do need a target priority system...
My plan/idea to that end is to introduce "targeting computer" or "battle computer" parts, which can specify how ships prioritize targets in combat.

These parts would be fixed for a design, so would require some careful consideration when adding (or omitting) and would hopefully strongly influence the effectiveness of a ship design in various situations. These parts would also likely go in internal slots so as to not displace any weapons.

If no battle computer were present, then things would work like now, or possibly dependent on some species traits.

Early-unlocked computer parts would be relatively general, doing things like:
-Target Fighters part: All of the ship's shots that are able to target fighters would do so if any enemy fighters are present during a combat round. If no targetable fighters are present, or for weapons that can't target fighters, the part would have no effect.
-Target Ships part: As above, but for targeting ships.

Later, more specific parts could be unlocked, like
-Flak Canon Target Fighters part: All of the ship's Flak Cannons target fighters first, other weapons unaffected.
-Mass Driver Target Ships parts: Same, but for mass drivers only
-Fighters Target Fighters part: Fighters launched from this ship target fighters first
-Interceptors Target Fighters part: Interceptors (but no other fighters or weapons) launched from this ship target fighters first

Given how few weapon types there are, I think this would be manageable.

Other options for parts to influence targeting include:
-Focus One Target
-Even Spread Targets
-Low Shield Preference
-Low Structure Preference
-High Damage Preference

And as suggested above, some species traits could come into play. For example, a particular species could hate fighters, so a ship crewed by it could prioritize enemy fighters first. Species should hopefully start liking or hating other species soon, so might avoid targeting their own or liked species and prioritize ships or fighters crewed by hated species first.

Additionally, one feature of "leaders" or similar would/could be to override all such parts in a fleet / combat at which they are present. Any species or computer part instructions would be overridden by leader instructions, however those are set up.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:02 pm 
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ovarwa wrote:
My point wasn't about the elite crews as much as that everything is handwaving.
Yep, I absolutely agree.
Quote:
there was absolutely no need to complicate the fighter rules by having the first turn being deployment.
I actually agree with that too. I'd even dumped the separate hangar and fighter launch bay parts and only have one single (external) "Fighter Bay" part which stores number and type of fighters (so would essentially be what now is the hangar part), no fighter launch rate, meaning no fighter launch mechanic at all. In a combat all fighters would be launched at once and partake in all three "rounds".

Much simpler. :)

That said, I do see the additional gameplay value having two parts that require both internal and external slots, and the more refined possibilities and variations in ship design that approach offers. I'm still not convinced that it offers enough of gameplay value to justify the added complexity, but as I felt ok with giving it a try the way it has been proposed, I decided to refrain from debating this in the design discussion.

After all, if it really turns out to be too complicated for what it offers, we can always simplify things later.
Quote:
But the new fighter subsystem totally violates the abstraction of combat, added needless complication that is harder to balance
I wouldn't go that far, but the mechanic certainly still feels quite "rough around the edges". Which is hardly surprising with a first implementation of a new mechanic. I expect it to undergo several revisions until it works reasonably well. E.g., what you pointed out here...
Quote:
Except for the SMAC and for fighters, the current randomized system works just fine.
...obviously the new mechanic does not work well with everything else, the SMAC being a very obvious example (I mean, experimental feature meets new mechanic, what can possibly go wrong...? ;)). Other things might turn up, and we'll have to address them. That's just the way it works. :D
Quote:
Deciding that the SMAC should always be a single blast for balance reasons, with cost and strength and place in the tech tree still being tweaked, that's fine.
And that's exactly the actual reason why I think it's better to keep it that way.
Quote:
Deciding that the SMAC cannot have a wide dispersal mode because it's not realistic is pretty silly considering that none of this exists, not the cannon, not the technology, not any of it.
Sorry, apparently I haven't expressed myself well enough. That particular statement wasn't meant as a reason why we could not remodel the SMAC the way you suggested, after all, our design philosophy explicitely states that we don't really care for "realism". My statement was directed at the fluff explanation.

Because, if I add something like the SMAC to the game, a megacannon that delivers a single, extremely powerful shot and provide "Spinal Mounted Antimatter Cannon" as fluff explanation, then, well, IMO players expect a cannon that delivers a single, extremely powerful shot that can deal dreadful damage to big targets, but won't expect it to be efficient against fighters.

If I want a big cannon that can hit several targets with one powerful shot, spreading the damage of that shot across those multiple targets, I won't call it a "Spinal Mounted Antimatter Cannon", but maybe "Plasma Wave Gun". A megacannon that fires waves of plasma, which is not focused in a intense beam, but spread over a wider area, and therefore capable of hitting multiple targets at once.

What I'm getting at, while realism has no point when deciding what we want to do/be possible in the game, we should at least make some effort so the fluff explanations (which can be whatever we like after all) at least somehow fits the things they are supposed to explain. And a giant spinal mounted gun that can hit fighters is just needlessly silly IMO. ;)

And of course we could come up with an even more badass megacannon that can do everything: deliver devastating damage when hitting a big target, and being able to spread that damage across lots of smaller targets if it hits those, without having any drawbacks/weakness. I just think that would need yet another fluff explanation, but that certainly wouldn't be the problem. The reason why I'd be strongly opposed to adding something like that is because such a weapon quite frankly is boring. One weapon to rule them all is something you definitely want to avoid when designing a game like FO.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:15 pm 
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Various Commenters wrote:
SMAC
Please avoid using such non-trivial initialisms / acronymns. They make it much more difficult to understand a post without reviewing previous context to find the meaning.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:20 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
My plan/idea to that end is to introduce "targeting computer" or "battle computer" parts, which can specify how ships prioritize targets in combat.


Maybe a core part that can feed targeting data to other ships, which then don't need their own?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:22 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Please avoid using such non-trivial initialisms / acronymns. They make it much more difficult to understand a post without reviewing previous context to find the meaning.
Sorry for being lazy... it's just that it's a bit annoying to type "Spinal Mounted Antimatter Cannon" over and over again... ;)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:18 am 
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Hi,

Vezzra wrote:
And of course we could come up with an even more badass megacannon that can do everything: deliver devastating damage when hitting a big target, and being able to spread that damage across lots of smaller targets if it hits those, without having any drawbacks/weakness. I just think that would need yet another fluff explanation, but that certainly wouldn't be the problem. The reason why I'd be strongly opposed to adding something like that is because such a weapon quite frankly is boring. One weapon to rule them all is something you definitely want to avoid when designing a game like FO.


Unless that weapon is priced accordingly, in terms of research and production, in which case it's balanced.

Even worse is pouring design effort into a weapon that isn't worth taking, because it might as well not be there. The problem with the megacannon isn't about fighters, but about the typical fleets one faces. It might well be better to *leave the core slot empty* because the stuff that goes in tends to be far too expensive for what it does. Which means that the design and development effort for both core slots and core items has now been wasted.

(My preferred design for the Core Slot would be to have many existing internal or external slot items have improved performance when installed in a Core Slot. This could be implemented as separate items available at the same time as existing items, or as general bonuses along the lines of "Does 100% more damage in a core slot," "fires twice in a core slot," "+10 speed/stealth/etc," "acts as shield one level higher..." and so on. Then, wimpy core slot items become available early, the same way that Core Slots come available early, helping to differentiate ships.)

Anyway,

Ken
....
Oh, I deleted stuff. One 'reason' to have fighters use internal slots is because internal slots are currently much less useful than external slots. But then it becomes necessary to also use up external slots, because fighter bays that are purely internal become a pure power-up that adds to weapons and armor rather than an interesting design choice. A different kind of fighter design might be to have external Hangars, which contain and launch all their fighters, with every round Fighters inflicting their damage rating, absorbing their defense rating in damage and losing a portion of their strength in proportion to what they absorb, and internal repair bays that replenish some number of lost fighters every combat round. A dedicated carrier would be lightly armored and have few other upgrades, but would instead be packed with hangers and repair bays. That fundamental difference between carriers (Star Wars capital ships are fragile, for example, and must be protected by their fighters!) and "battleships" like the Enterprise seems to fit the fiction, though one can handwave to suit preferences.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 4:30 pm 
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ovarwa wrote:
Hi,

Vezzra wrote:
And of course we could come up with an even more badass megacannon that can do everything: deliver devastating damage when hitting a big target, and being able to spread that damage across lots of smaller targets if it hits those, without having any drawbacks/weakness. I just think that would need yet another fluff explanation, but that certainly wouldn't be the problem. The reason why I'd be strongly opposed to adding something like that is because such a weapon quite frankly is boring. One weapon to rule them all is something you definitely want to avoid when designing a game like FO.


Unless that weapon is priced accordingly, in terms of research and production, in which case it's balanced.

Hahahahahahaha No.

Sorry, not meaning to be dismissive here, but I've come across this many times in balance discussions for both video games and board/card games, and it's never true.

Let us take an extreme example: I have a core slot weapon idea with a simple effect. At the end of any battle all enemy ships are destroyed. All I have to do is have my ship survive the battle (which, let's face it, isn't going to be too hard) and your fleet is dead, all of it. You could make it more obviously powerful easily.

I can price it at roughly the same research as Transcendance, and make it cost 1,000,000 PP. It still won't be balanced. Because if I can build it, I've won.

Anything that is so obviously better than anything else is unbalanced, regardless of notional costs. If a card game manufacturer prints a card that, basically, says "play this card and win the game", the card is unbalanced and will likely see that game fail (unless, of course, playing the card is the objective of the game).

Balanced effects can be incredibly powerful, but anything that is obviously the best possibly choice isn't balanced, it's just dull. You want choices that are valid, you want rock/paper/scissors effects, you want variety.

The Spinal Antimatter Cannon is a very powerful gun that we are hoping to do more with down the line, but it's nowhere near as bad as you're saying: it needs to be used carefully and isn't, really, for fleet battles. It's a planet buster, and if you set up a squadron with them as planet busters and avoid direct conflict they can be incredibly powerful.

There will, undoubtedly, in the future be variants on the idea, and sometimes they may be given different effects depending on circumstance, but a super powerful do everything gun is both boring and unbalanced, because anything that basically says "use this or lose" has failed a basic balance test for this sort of game.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:33 pm 
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Hi,

MatGB wrote:
ovarwa wrote:
Hi,

Vezzra wrote:
And of course we could come up with an even more badass megacannon that can do everything: deliver devastating damage when hitting a big target, and being able to spread that damage across lots of smaller targets if it hits those, without having any drawbacks/weakness. I just think that would need yet another fluff explanation, but that certainly wouldn't be the problem. The reason why I'd be strongly opposed to adding something like that is because such a weapon quite frankly is boring. One weapon to rule them all is something you definitely want to avoid when designing a game like FO.


Unless that weapon is priced accordingly, in terms of research and production, in which case it's balanced.

Hahahahahahaha No.

Sorry, not meaning to be dismissive here, but I've come across this many times in balance discussions for both video games and board/card games, and it's never true.

I see your Hahahahahah No and raise it to an *ALL CAPS* HAHAHAHAHAHA YES!!!!!!!! With many exclamations points.
Quote:

Let us take an extreme example: I have a core slot weapon idea with a simple effect. At the end of any battle all enemy ships are destroyed. All I have to do is have my ship survive the battle (which, let's face it, isn't going to be too hard) and your fleet is dead, all of it. You could make it more obviously powerful easily.

I can price it at roughly the same research as Transcendance, and make it cost 1,000,000 PP. It still won't be balanced. Because if I can build it, I've won.

Indeed, it's an obvious example... which supports my point:

IIRC, you win the game if you reach Transcendence. So if you price it at roughly the same research as Transcendence, you could have used that research to win the game. So this alternate path is just chrome, because you deserve to win through research.

Furthermore, it isn't even an autowin, because if you and I *both* have this technology, then our fleets *both* die. (At that point, fleet optimization changes to creating the cheapest possible fleet that will survive the battle, except for fleets that need to puncture planetary defenses, and so on.)

Even if I ignore this technology, it still isn't an autowin but a strategic choice on my part: While you are sinking all your research and production into a supership, can I deploy masses of more ordinary stuff to defeat you before you can bring your superweapon online?

So.... no. In fact, the entire "scientific victory" path is just plain wrong by your reasoning: Transcendence (or the equivalent in any civ-style game) is a 0 production cost weapon that automatically defeats all the fleets and all the planets.
Quote:
Anything that is so obviously better than anything else is unbalanced, regardless of notional costs. If a card game manufacturer prints a card that, basically, says "play this card and win the game", the card is unbalanced and will likely see that game fail (unless, of course, playing the card is the objective of the game).

Not if the requirements needed to play that card are sufficiently difficult to achieve.
Quote:
Balanced effects can be incredibly powerful, but anything that is obviously the best possibly choice isn't balanced, it's just dull. You want choices that are valid, you want rock/paper/scissors effects, you want variety.

Something that takes longer to achieve and is more expensive is no longer the obvious best choice.

If it were, then FreeOrion is already utterly broken, because Solar Hulls are clearly the best. We can discount silly stuff like heavy research costs and the need for a black hole. Right?
Quote:
The Spinal Antimatter Cannon is a very powerful gun that we are hoping to do more with down the line, but it's nowhere near as bad as you're saying: it needs to be used carefully and isn't, really, for fleet battles. It's a planet buster, and if you set up a squadron with them as planet busters and avoid direct conflict they can be incredibly powerful.

Or, I can load up a fleet with ordinary Death Ray 4s and be able to bust the planet and deal with the fleet defending it, all in one go. Then I don't need to waste production and deployment turns on a Special Princess Fleet.
Quote:
There will, undoubtedly, in the future be variants on the idea, and sometimes they may be given different effects depending on circumstance, but a super powerful do everything gun is both boring and unbalanced, because anything that basically says "use this or lose" has failed a basic balance test for this sort of game.


"Use this or lose" is a problem. But something that has better stats at a higher cost isn't necessarily the same thing, and is sometimes the "use that *and* lose" option. There are real world examples of this too, though that's not so very important for a game not out to simulate those scenarios.

Anyway,

Ken


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 1:36 pm 
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ovarwa wrote:
MatGB wrote:
Hahahahahahaha No.

Sorry, not meaning to be dismissive here, but I've come across this many times in balance discussions for both video games and board/card games, and it's never true.

I see your Hahahahahah No and raise it to an *ALL CAPS* HAHAHAHAHAHA YES!!!!!!!! With many exclamations points.
Um, guys, I'm getting a bit worried here. Exchanges like that have the potential to escalate into fighting, and I think it's better to stop too early than too late.

Please, lets stick to calm and objective discussion, and well-founded reasoning. Both of you manage to do so in the rest of your posts just fine, no need for remarks like the above. Okay? :)

Now back to the topic:

I think there are two very distinct things/concepts getting mixed up here. The one being specific game elements/mechanics, the other being game objectives (aka victory conditions). The former being e.g. ship hulls, megacannons etc., the latter (currently) being conquering all other empires, researching the Transcendence tech or defeating the Experimentors. When it comes to balancing, the specific elements have to be balanced primarily against all the other elemens in the same category. Meaning, we have to make sure that all game elements/mechanics like ship hulls, weapons, specials, races etc. have to be properly balanced against each other, and all the different victory conditions have to be properly balanced against each other (because obviously, if one of them is far easier to achieve than the others, all players will always go for that easy win, making all other ways to achieve victory pointless).

Which is why you can't compare the Antimatter Cannon to the Transcendence tech - these are very different things. When bringing up the card game example with the "win card", Mat actually pointed out that very important distinction, I quote (emphasis added by me):
MatGB wrote:
If a card game manufacturer prints a card that, basically, says "play this card and win the game", the card is unbalanced and will likely see that game fail (unless, of course, playing the card is the objective of the game).
The Transcendence tech is a victory condition, which means, it is supposed to win you the game. The Antimatter Cannon is definitely not supposed to win you the game, it's meant to be a very powerful weapon for very specific use cases (basically being the most efficient weapon against big targets). Which applies more or less to all megacannons (currently we have only that one, but I expect to have more of them in the future).

This distinction is very important, because different rules apply when it comes to balancing these things (see above).

Now, of course we can add a superweapon to the game that beats all the other weapons, and gives the empire which manages to acquire and deploy it such a big military advantage, that it becomes (almost?) invincible. However, that weapon wouldn't be a game element like all the other weapons, getting it would actually be a game objective, and thus have to be balanced against the other victory conditions.

The Antimatter Cannon is not meant to be a game objective. However, if it were changed in the way proposed (being able to effectively spread its damage to more targets until all damage it can deal has been applied) it becomes too powerful to be able to balance it properly as a game element.
Quote:
Furthermore, it isn't even an autowin, because if you and I *both* have this technology, then our fleets *both* die.
The point of the argument against "I win" game elements isn't that if more than one player acquires it you still can win (which is obviously completely illogical), but that everyone who does not have that weapon/device/whatever thing has lost, regardless of what other achievements, techs, devices, weapons, whatever they have. Only those who have that one "thing that rules them all" are still in the game, which is something we specifically do not want in our game - unless we want that thing as a game objective/victory condition.
Quote:
Even if I ignore this technology, it still isn't an autowin but a strategic choice on my part: While you are sinking all your research and production into a supership, can I deploy masses of more ordinary stuff to defeat you before you can bring your superweapon online?
The same applies to tech victory conditions like the Transcendence tech: while you are sinking massive amouts of research into getting that extremely expensive tech, I switch all my planets to production try to overrun you with my superior fleets.

Which again makes it clear that you're talking about a superweapon that's actually a game objective, not just a weapon among other weapons the game offers.
Quote:
Something that takes longer to achieve and is more expensive is no longer the obvious best choice.

If it were, then FreeOrion is already utterly broken, because Solar Hulls are clearly the best. We can discount silly stuff like heavy research costs and the need for a black hole. Right?
I wouldn't say "utterly broken", because, as powerful as it is, the Solar Hull isn't anywhere near what that Antimatter Cannon would be with the proposed changes. But "grossly unbalanced" probably applies. It has more structure and slots than any other hull, is one of the fastest hulls, provides limitless fuel - that's a bit much, and because of that it's very hard to balance it properly. Especially if you only take research and build costs into account - requiring a black hole to be able to produce it is already a very different thing, because it introduces a significant weakness.

But still, you're right insofar as when phrased like Mat did, the argument indeed becomes problematic. I mean, obviously there are a lot of things in the game that are best or at least better than most other things in their respective areas, and balance is maintained by making them costly to get (be it research and/or production). That works fine as long as you have a game mechanic that offers increasing improvements (like e.g. weapons and shields currently do). It becomes difficult once you want to offer the player several alternative paths, which are different but should be viable. If one of the paths is too much more powerful/efficient/better than the others, the other options become pointless.

While you certainly can control how good/efficient/powerful a path is compared to the alternatives by adjusting costs, this only works up to a certain point. Because the better a specific alternativ is, e.g. the more powerful a particular weapon is, the harder it becomes to get the balance right if you only rely on making it sufficiently expensive. For each game element the costs of this element need to be within a certain "margin" for the element to be properly balanced. If you price the element to cheap, it becomes an obvious superior choice over all other alternatives, making the alternatives pointless. If you price it to high, it becomes an obvious inferior choice to all the other elements, making that element pointless.

The better/more powerful/ more efficient a path/element is than all its alternatives, the smaller that "margin" becomes, until you reach a point where you can't balance it properly anymore. You'll either get it to cheap or to expensive, it becomes impossible to get the costs just right so it's viable, but not making everything else pointless. With our game, this problem is even drastically compounded by the enormous variety of possible game setups. You can play maps ranging from a few dozen to several hundert star systems, with different planet, monster, specials, native density. It's almost impossible to balance our game content in a way that most of it stays a viable/reasonable choice across all possible setups.

Balancing superweapons properly within that context? Good luck... :shock:
Quote:
Or, I can load up a fleet with ordinary Death Ray 4s and be able to bust the planet and deal with the fleet defending it, all in one go. Then I don't need to waste production and deployment turns on a Special Princess Fleet.
That's actually raising the question if the Antimatter Cannon with its current price (research and build costs) is properly balanced against the Death Ray, taking into account what you can actually use it for. And in that regard it has already been stated that the Antimatter Cannon is still an experimental feature that originally has been deliberatly overpriced (so human players can experiment with it/test it, but it won't give them an advantage over the AI which can't use it). As a potentially very powerful weapon it will take us a while to get the balance for that thing right.
Quote:
"Use this or lose" is a problem.
And that's actually what the discussion is about. Avoiding a "use this or loose" thing. And that price alone won't always provide suficient means to balance things properly.
Quote:
But something that has better stats at a higher cost isn't necessarily the same thing
Definitely, but we're not only talking about "better stats" here. The proposed changes to the Antimatter Cannon completely change how it works, making it immensely more powerful, to the point where you no longer can balance it just by increasing its costs.
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and is sometimes the "use that *and* lose" option.
Certainly a valid point. The Antimatter Cannon is probably still too expensive. The most powerful super-device will only loose you the game if it's so difficult to acquire, that your enemies will blast you into oblivion while you waste all your resources trying to get that device. However, if it's too easy to get, each FO game will be a race to get that device first, and then it's essentially a game objective - see above.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 14, 2017 6:34 am 
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Space Squid

Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2014 3:22 am
Posts: 53
Hi,

Vezzra wrote:
ovarwa wrote:
MatGB wrote:
Hahahahahahaha No.

Sorry, not meaning to be dismissive here, but I've come across this many times in balance discussions for both video games and board/card games, and it's never true.

I see your Hahahahahah No and raise it to an *ALL CAPS* HAHAHAHAHAHA YES!!!!!!!! With many exclamations points.
Um, guys, I'm getting a bit worried here. Exchanges like that have the potential to escalate into fighting, and I think it's better to stop too early than too late.

Mat and I clearly need to be more liberal with the smileys!
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I think there are two very distinct things/concepts getting mixed up here. The one being specific game elements/mechanics, the other being game objectives (aka victory conditions). The former being e.g. ship hulls, megacannons etc., the latter (currently) being conquering all other empires, researching the Transcendence tech or defeating the Experimentors. When it comes to balancing, the specific elements have to be balanced primarily against all the other elemens in the same category. Meaning, we have to make sure that all game elements/mechanics like ship hulls, weapons, specials, races etc. have to be properly balanced against each other, and all the different victory conditions have to be properly balanced against each other (because obviously, if one of them is far easier to achieve than the others, all players will always go for that easy win, making all other ways to achieve victory pointless).

Which is why you can't compare the Antimatter Cannon to the Transcendence tech - these are very different things. When bringing up the card game example with the "win card", Mat actually pointed out that very important distinction, I quote (emphasis added by me):
MatGB wrote:
If a card game manufacturer prints a card that, basically, says "play this card and win the game", the card is unbalanced and will likely see that game fail (unless, of course, playing the card is the objective of the game).
The Transcendence tech is a victory condition, which means, it is supposed to win you the game. The Antimatter Cannon is definitely not supposed to win you the game, it's meant to be a very powerful weapon for very specific use cases (basically being the most efficient weapon against big targets). Which applies more or less to all megacannons (currently we have only that one, but I expect to have more of them in the future).

This distinction is very important, because different rules apply when it comes to balancing these things (see above).

I think you just conflated the two, exactly the way you claim I was doing. The moment a game has a "win the game" card, playing that card becomes an avenue to victory. The moment a game introduces anything that is an "I win" button, playing to deploy that element is an avenue to victory. Game elements of lesser utility are part of a complete breakfast. When any game element is priced too cheaply it becomes a no-brainer, which makes it a problem; when any game element is priced too dearly it becomes part of a path never taken, which makes it a problem.

Once appropriate costs have been established, it really doesn't matter how powerful that game element is, because the price is right: If you can muster the cost for a game-winning weapon, you deserve to win. The argument that a very powerful weapon cannot be priced in a balanced way because intrinsically powerful things are intrinsically too good simply makes no sense in a game that already allows purchase of an I Win certificate.
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Now, of course we can add a superweapon to the game that beats all the other weapons, and gives the empire which manages to acquire and deploy it such a big military advantage, that it becomes (almost?) invincible. However, that weapon wouldn't be a game element like all the other weapons, getting it would actually be a game objective, and thus have to be balanced against the other victory conditions.

Exactly. In a similar way, a superweapon that is better than the other weapons but whose costs are properly balanced is not necessarily an automatic I Win button, and is not necessarily even the most important priority.

Something like a Core Slot Cannon makes sense if it is worthwhile to research and build, but not The Only Sane Choice.

As it becomes less useful, costs need to go down, approaching being free. (Something that offers no game utility ought not cost anything.) As it becomes more useful, costs need to go up, approaching the cost of buying an outright victory. (Something that offers an outright victory effectively becomes Win by Accumulating X Surplus Resources.)
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The Antimatter Cannon is not meant to be a game objective. However, if it were changed in the way proposed (being able to effectively spread its damage to more targets until all damage it can deal has been applied) it becomes too powerful to be able to balance it properly as a game element.

Well, that's not exactly right.

For example, if the cannon did only 5 points of damage, but they were efficient points, I think we can both agree that would not be overpowered at all. So *efficient* damage is not the problem; again, it's all a matter of balancing costs. It's another matter if you don't like the aesthetic!

There's no point to having a tech tree with choices if only one choice makes sense.
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Furthermore, it isn't even an autowin, because if you and I *both* have this technology, then our fleets *both* die.
The point of the argument against "I win" game elements isn't that if more than one player acquires it you still can win (which is obviously completely illogical), but that everyone who does not have that weapon/device/whatever thing has lost, regardless of what other achievements, techs, devices, weapons, whatever they have. Only those who have that one "thing that rules them all" are still in the game, which is something we specifically do not want in our game - unless we want that thing as a game objective/victory condition.

I think you're missing my point.

a) I raise the victory condition elements as a counterargument against the claim that a weapon cannot be balanced with high cost if it is very powerful. The counterargument is that in a game where victory can be bought, such as FreeOrion, a big cannon cannot do better than an outright win. So if the cannon grants me an outright win, a balanced cost is the same as that other victory. To the extent that its utility is less, its cost can be less. Balanced.

b) I am not specifically advocating a Big Cannon of Autowin. (Though that could be a fun and amusing tech path. Death Star 1 has lots of design flaws, Death Star 2 has fewer, until you research the Totally Debugged Death Star and win. :)/2)

c) Costs being too high are just as bad as costs being too low, because everyone gravitates toward the lower cost alternative, which becomes the only alternative.

d) I'm not saying that efficient damage is the only way to go. I'm simply pointing out that the cannon is pretty bad the way the game is set up, and that efficient damage is a way to get around that. There are other ways too. I do like the idea of having some weapon system that is efficient, but not wedded to it at all, and certainly not to *this* weapon. I've offered other suggestions about what to do about Core Slots, and those might be equally unappealing. (I actually prefer attaching efficient damage to fighters, but that ship has sailed.)
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much, and because of that it's very hard to balance it properly. Especially if you only take research and build costs into account - requiring a black hole to be able to produce it is already a very different thing, because it introduces a significant weakness.

It's just a little more research and a bit of production to make your own black hole.
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But still, you're right insofar as when phrased like Mat did, the argument indeed becomes problematic. I mean, obviously there are a lot of things in the game that are best or at least better than most other things in their respective areas, and balance is maintained by making them costly to get (be it research and/or production). That works fine as long as you have a game mechanic that offers increasing improvements (like e.g. weapons and shields currently do). It becomes difficult once you want to offer the player several alternative paths, which are different but should be viable. If one of the paths is too much more powerful/efficient/better than the others, the other options become pointless.

That's exactly my point.
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While you certainly can control how good/efficient/powerful a path is compared to the alternatives by adjusting costs, this only works up to a certain point. Because the better a specific alternativ is, e.g. the more powerful a particular weapon is, the harder it becomes to get the balance right if you only rely on making it sufficiently expensive. For each game element the costs of this element need to be within a certain "margin" for the element to be properly balanced. If you price the element to cheap, it becomes an obvious superior choice over all other alternatives, making the alternatives pointless. If you price it to high, it becomes an obvious inferior choice to all the other elements, making that element pointless.

And again.

Balance is easiest when there's only one way to go.

When there is more than one way to go, but there is an obvious best alternative, it doesn't matter if that's too good or if the others are too suckful: There's only one way to go.
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The better/more powerful/ more efficient a path/element is than all its alternatives, the smaller that "margin" becomes, until you reach a point where you can't balance it properly anymore. You'll either get it to cheap or to expensive, it becomes impossible to get the costs just right so it's viable, but not making everything else pointless. With our game, this problem is even drastically compounded by the enormous

Here's where we disagree. Because once you allow victory to bought (eg Transcendence), if that victory is fair then pricing the element in question becomes much easier, and it should never cost more than Transcendence! To the extent that the weapon is not itself a victory condition, effectively, the cost should be less.
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variety of possible game setups. You can play maps ranging from a few dozen to several hundert star systems, with different planet, monster, specials, native density. It's almost impossible to balance our game content in a way that most of it stays a viable/reasonable choice across all possible setups.

Balancing superweapons properly within that context? Good luck... :shock:

So we can talk a little about a core slot weapon. It would have to be a lot better than it is, even with efficient damage, to be a superweapon. After all, no hull gets more than one.

Of course, if it is the only decent thing to put in a core slot, then there's no interesting choice at all, and core slots are balanced through relative disuse.

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Or, I can load up a fleet with ordinary Death Ray 4s and be able to bust the planet and deal with the fleet defending it, all in one go. Then I don't need to waste production and deployment turns on a Special Princess Fleet.
That's actually raising the question if the Antimatter Cannon with its current price (research and build costs) is properly balanced against the Death Ray, taking into account what you can actually use it for. And in that regard it has already been stated that the Antimatter Cannon is still an experimental feature that originally has been deliberatly overpriced (so human players can experiment with it/test it, but it won't give them an advantage over the AI which can't use it). As a potentially very powerful weapon it will take us a while to get the balance for that thing right.

I have no problem with that. I only disagreed with the idea that it couldn't be balanced if it were better.

Indeed, it would be possible to add another entire level of tech--bigger hulls, better weapons, more shields, etc--yet have balance.
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The Antimatter Cannon is probably still too expensive. The most powerful super-device will only loose you the game if it's so difficult to acquire, that your enemies will blast you into oblivion while you waste all your resources trying to get that device. However, if it's too easy to get, each FO game will be a race to get that device first, and then it's essentially a game objective - see above.

Yes. And then there's all that solution space between the extremes, which is where balance lies.

Chess has it easy!

Anyway,

Ken


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 15, 2017 6:51 am 
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Programmer

Joined: Mon Feb 29, 2016 8:37 pm
Posts: 204
Here are three comments, hopefully all relevant.

[*] I consider the Transcendence achievement a placeholder for a more complex and satisfying win based on research. Winning by Transcendence is not fun or memorable. Even if the cost is perfectly balanced, that does not make an element an interesting game element. Part of the fun of the Antimatter Cannon is the high variability.

[*] The Antimatter Cannon works just fine when facing fighters if you structure your fleet to support it. Combat has 3 turns. In turn 1 the Antimatter Cannon works as expected, smashing through shields and causing great havoc. In turn 2, your fleet needs to have enough Flak Cannons or Interceptors to clear out the enemy Fighter shield launched in 1 turn. Then in turn 3 the Antimatter Cannon is back to full effectiveness. With a well designed fleet you get good utility from the Antimatter Cannon even when every shot isn't perfect.

[*] When the Antimatter Cannon hits a small ship/fighter, I think of it not as the Antimatter Cannon targeting the fighter, but as the fighter heroically sacrificing themselves to save the planet/capital ship. The randomized targeting abstracts not only the attackers target choice, but also the defenders attempts to disrupt optimal target choice.


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