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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:00 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
I'm sure there have been numerous threads discussing this issue, though I haven't been able to find one in the time I'm willing to spend looking. The idea is that resource output grows far too much over the course of a game, and bigger more-advanced empires have too much more than smaller less-advanced ones.
And you've brought up various ideas how to address that problem by introducing additional/altering existing mechanics. I think there are probably a lot of things we can think up, but I have to ask: the most obvious, simple and straightforward fix would be to drastically nerf the currently much to high resource output boni, why not trying that first. I know, although that has been suggested repeatedly for ages now, someone has yet to go ahead and actually take on that probably monumentous rebalancing task.

But still, I think we should to that first, and see how that will change/affect things. I don't expect it to completely solve the issue, but it might already take us a long way. And once we get a better idea how things are with more sensible boni, I think we can evaluate far better what kind of other counter-measures might be reasonable.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not against tossing out and discussing ideas. While there have been some ideas of yours I haven't been very enthusiastic about, you've come up with some very interesting ones I'd never had thought of, so I definitely hope you keep them coming. Just want to remind all of us to implement the obvious and simple solutions first before doing something more sophisticated and potentially more complicated. ;)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:25 pm 
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LGM-Doyle wrote:
A great point about Geoff's PR that I want to highlight is that the approach will allow decoupling of the per population bonus and the population cap. [...]
But don't we have that already? Maybe I didn't understand your explanation correctly, but can't your "tall" vs. "wide" empire dynamics be achieved by what's already there? Pop-dependent boni already have a cap - the max level of pop a colony can have. If the main purpose of adding capped pop-based boni were being able to decouple the per-pop bonus and the cap, I don't see what adding that extra cap actually achieves.

"Tall" empires would put their emphasis in increasing the cap - meaning, go for the techs that increase max pop, focusing on getting fewer, but high-pop colonies and max resource output per pop. "Wide" empires would focus on techs that will allow them to colonize more planets and max resource output that's not pop-dependent. Basically it boils down to having many colonies with low caps vs few colonies with high caps, right?

So we give the player means to either expand "wide" (more colonies") or "tall" (higher caps per colony). Both is already possible by various means, the problem I see is that they aren't sufficiently mutually exclusive. But to solve that, we don't necessarily need an additional cap - do we? What we need to do is that it's more efficient for the player to stick to one path, than making it most efficient to follow both paths - which is the case now. Or at least make all three approaches - "tall", "wide", "balanced tall&wide" viable strategies (which would be my personal preference, albeit probably more difficult to achieve).


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:59 pm 
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Ok, now to LGM-Doyles idea of basing empire resource output on only the highest producing n out of m planets, with n = f(m) (e.g. n = sqrt(m) as suggested), and m either being all colonies of an empire, or only those of a specific focus. At first I understood the proposal as m being only the colonies which are set to a specific focus, but LGM-Doyle clarified m to be all colonies in a subsequent post, so I decided to address both.

First of all, that would of course be a very fundamental change to game mechanics, far more than Geoffs proposal, and even if providing a simple table (than having the player solve a complex formula) it's significantly more complicated than simply adding the resource output of all colonies. So the benefits for gameplay need to match that, and here I have my big doubts. It will for certain make things very different, but not really better. But that's of course very much a matter of personal preference.

First I want to look at what LGM-Doyle actually meant (not what I understood): If an empire has a total of m colonies, only a max of n can contribute to the resource output of a certain resource. If you have more than n colonies producing that resource, the n with the highest output are considered (everything else would be extremely unfun anyway). Going with the proposed n = sqrt(m) and the resulting table, I expect to have a considerable amount of colonies, especially the larger an empire gets, which don't directly contribute anything. Their only purpose is being there to increase the total number of colonies, so more colonies can actually contribute resource output.

This has several issues:

  1. Loosing a colony (for whatever reason) can have widely different results, depending on how many colonies you have and which colony you lost. Loosing one tiny, very remote planet can significantly cut down the resource output of all resources, when the total number of your colonies has just been exactly the number you need to sustain your current level of n (e.g. you had 9 colonies, allowing 3 colonies per resource to contribute to total resource output, loosing one gives you 8 colonies and only 2 per resource that can contribute, making you loose up to almost one third of your production - for loosing one lousy planet). Contrary, loosing one big fat colony with heavy output might not hurt that much if you have set more than the n possible colonies to produce the same resource, so that the former n+1 highest producing colony can "jump in". That colony will not be as productive as the lost one, but it can be close, so your total loss will not be so bad, just the difference in resource output between the two. Certainly much less dire than the loss of one lousy colony in the prior example. That doesn't really seem right.
  2. Putting colonies to other foci than resource output becomes much less of a choice. If the colony is not going to contribute anyway, setting it to defence, growth, supply etc. wherever needed will become a no-brainer in most cases. Currently that almost always comes at the cost of loosing that colony's resource output. Making something depending on a special focus is an important element to make it costly, because you loose valuably resource output each turn. With the proposed approach, that dynamic would be largely defeated.
  3. Colonizing everything, as much and as fast as possible becomes mandatory to play an optimal game. Only for a part of the colonies you actually need to care about environment and maximizing pop, the rest is for increasing m, where nothing matters than "it's colonized".

Assuming m being all colonies set to a specific focus is probably even worse. As already mentioned, that will lead to some very unfun micromanagement. Wanting to change the species of a colony far more often than now is one big issue here I guess. Point 1 and 3 also apply here (1 might not be as bad, but still bad enough). The dynamic of point 2 might actually be the reverse, because switching even one lousy colony to defence might cost you dearly - or not at all, depending on how much colonies you have on that focus. That too doesn't sound right.

Another big issue I see with this second approach would be quick and cheap switching of resource production. Need more production for a few turns? No problem, just switch enough of your colonies on research focus to production (of course not the ones of the "top n"), et voila, one colony less that contributes to research output, but one more that contributes to industry output. No penalties involved, since the colonies that actually got their focus switched don't contribute to the resource output anyway. And it's really quick. If you do it right, you have a few "reserve" production centers for each resource, so that quick switching can actually make a big difference. Once you don't need to extra industry anymore, switch the low output colonies back. The colonies actually contributing to resource output haven't changed anything, so can immediately provide their full potential. The potential for frequent switching and the micromanagement involved should be obvious.

This is obviously a bad idea, but not what LGM-Doyle suggested anyway. I mention it just in case anyone gets the idea that approach 2 might solve the problems of approach 1. ;)

That's a lot of non-trivial issues just for the purpose of getting a non-linear growth curve for resource output. Which brings me back to the question, if the proposed change will give us something that's sufficiently better than the current mechanic which warrants the increased complexity. And based on my evaluation, I'm inclined to say no.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 24, 2016 9:13 pm 
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Vezzra wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote:
I'm sure there have been numerous threads discussing this issue, though I haven't been able to find one in the time I'm willing to spend looking. The idea is that resource output grows far too much over the course of a game, and bigger more-advanced empires have too much more than smaller less-advanced ones.
And you've brought up various ideas how to address that problem by introducing additional/altering existing mechanics. I think there are probably a lot of things we can think up, but I have to ask: the most obvious, simple and straightforward fix would be to drastically nerf the currently much to high resource output boni, why not trying that first. I know, although that has been suggested repeatedly for ages now, someone has yet to go ahead and actually take on that probably monumentous rebalancing task.

Not, actually, that monstrous to do, but tweaking the numbers afterwards'll take time (and it's one of the Big Things I want to do fairly urgently after fighters but it needs to be done alongside/during the Influence cycle: probably actually before Influence is ready to merge but the plan would be to finish both at the same time). Also, the AI team will need to be given space to adapt things and/or I'll need help from Python writers to change the numbers in the files directly, in the same way Morlic's redone Dependencies.py for me this last week.

Short version: 1) Change Industry Per Pop and Research Per Pop macros to 0.1 instead of the current 0.2, at the same time check through all bonus to see which ones aren't covered by that
2) Massively reduce independently of this the bonuses for the most overpowered things, ie Black Hole Generator, Hyperspatial Dam and Pure Energy Metabolism
3) Reduce the bonus modifier for Force Energy Structures (currently the single most overpowered tech in the game) from net +3 per turn to, probably, +2

All of this has to be tied to removal of the current Upkeep mechanism, which is horrible, I have always hated it and it has to go. Specifically, the Fleet Upkeep system creates horrific imbalance in fleet/ship design that is otherwise impossible to fix. Whether it's replaced with an Influence per turn cost or a PP per turn cost for each hulltype/part I care not, but the current system has to die a fiery death.

After that, there would be considerations as to whether some techs/buildings should replace their current bonus per population for a bonus per Infrastructure, those effects would, broadly, be those currently given a Priority for [i]after[/] species trait modifiers and would allow a degree of balancing not included in the above, it would also reduce the benefits from large/huge worlds, but in a more consistent way, as well as allowing for other features such as industrial bombing and similar that aren't, currently, allowed for.

In addition, while I'd want to reduce, substantially, the bonus from Enclave of the Void, I'd also want to move it forward to a relatively early game building (because it's cool) and give several of the existing "Of The Void" techs an industrial centre style boost to the Enclave: also worth considering using Geoff's idea of partially tying the bonus to the number of starlanes approaching the system it's in, monks like their privacy afterall.

There, see, simples ;-)

(yes, I have been thinking about this, a lot, over the last year or so, but it's not what I'm working on because, well, Fighters)

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:27 pm 
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Vezzra you raise some good issues with my proposal. Here are some responses.

1. This issue is about two things, quantization effects and instantaneous changes. Both of those can be fixed by extending the filtering of production/research increase/decrease from per colony to empire wide and removing the integral quantization implied by the table. So for the scenarios that you raised here are examples of how this would work.

a) 16 colonies, 4+ colonies on production, 4.0 contributors to production and losing 1 small colony, then you drop to sqrt(15) = 3.9 contributors gradually. All of the top 3 colonies production and 0.9 of the 4th is available. Small loss, small change.
b) 16 colonies, 5+ colonies on production, 4.0 contributors and losing 1 contributor, then you drop to the 3.9 contributors. Big loss, moderate change.
c) 16 colonies, 4 colonies on production, 4.0 contributors and losing 1 contributor, then you drop to 3.0 contributors. Big loss, big change. You will need to spin up a new contributor, which will take time.

2. This is a valid objection. However, even on low specials, I can only remember once having a conflict in the early game where a large planet had the resource that my empire needed to expand. In the mid to late game, there is always a small useless planet with the precious spice/fruit/crystal.

3. Currently, colonizing everything continuously is the optimal strategy, because each colony nets you the fixed bonuses and automatic growth. The incremental gain in colonizing is always outweighed by its benefit. The colony immediately makes a positive impact on the empire. Also freeorion does not require the player to manage anything with colonies, except to periodically terraform it so that growth is continuous.

Currently the game is all about growth right through to the end game.

However, with the proposed mechanic you would need to colonize ((sqrt(N) +1)^2 - N) colonies to increase your output by a whole unit of performance. This intentionally, creates a progressively flatter curve for empires, so that beyond some size all empires have about the same production output. Then from that point on the game becomes more strategic. All empires beyond that size have about the same production and research points per turn, so the game transitions into a mid game phase about your research choices, and tactical military choices.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:45 pm 
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I will try and explain why I proposed the table proposal for reducing empire production/research point generation.

The curve of production/research points over time is exponential. The difference in quality of initial starts is exponentially magnified by the end of the game. In the endgame the difference in two empire's production is measured in orders of magnitude. There is a long mop up phase where the outcome is certain and uninteresting enough that most players just quit.

Changing the shape of the curve will improve the endgame experience more than reducing the boni.

Here are two arguments that the curve is exponential. The first is simply to measure the curve, in game. This doesn't give insight into why adjusting the boni will not fix the problem. The second derives a definition that shows that per population factors are in the exponent and reducing them will not create the desired outcome.

First, measuring the curve is simple. At game start all empires have 10 production/research points on turn 0 and can reach 100 points by turn 100, 1000 by turn 200 and 10000 by turn 300. This means that the measured curve is:
Code:
Prod_measured(t) = 10 * 10 ^(t/100)

, which is exponential.


How can we relate that to the game mechanics and the boni?

The production points on turn t can be written as:
Code:
Prod(t) = k_per_colony(t) * N_num_colony(t)  +  k_per_pop(t) * N_pop(t)

In the endgame the first term is much smaller than the second, so ignore the first term.
Code:
Prod(t) = k_per_pop(t) * N_pop(t)

Assume that all the change factors can be lumped into one factor, N_effective_pop(t), so that if k_per_pop(t) changes we instead increase the population. This avoids dealing in partial derivatives and simplifies this derivation.
Code:
Prod(t) = k_fixed * N_effective_pop(t)


How does N_effective_pop(t) change at time t?

Assume that an empire invests a fraction f_invest of production/research in increasing the types of planets colonized, increasing the max population, and increasing the bonus per pop. f_invest is controlled by the player by creating more colonies etc. Then
Code:
d( N_effective_pop(t) )/dt  =  f_invest * Prod(t) 

, which implies that
Code:
                                   t
                                  /
N_effective_pop(t) = f_invest *   | Prod(t)
                                  /
                                 0

Substituting for Prod(t) gives
Code:
                                   t
                                  /
N_effective_pop(t) = f_invest *   | k_fixed * N_effective_pop(t) dt
                                  /
                                 0

which from the definition of the integral of exp(at) means
Code:
N_effective_pop(t) = exp (f_invest * k_fixed * t)

Therefore
Code:
Prod(t) = k_fixed * exp (f_invest * k_fixed * t)

,which agrees with the measured results.


So if we want to linearize/stabilize the growth of production/research points then we need to introduce a non-linearity large enough to overwhelm the exponential term.

In the final equation it is interesting that the player controlled behavior is in the exponent.

The equation suggests it is possible to lower the k_fixed enough so that under all play conditions the exponential term is never larger than 1. However, I suspect that would mean removing elements of play that are expected, like being able to colonize multiple planets at the same time.

This why I proposed my table solution to the growth quandary.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:24 pm 
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The exponential growth is definitely there...
The issue is why it is a problem...

If the costs of things (including investments) also went up, then
1. You don't have 'things' (techs, ships) growing out control
2. The curve itself is flattened (because the % growth from investment gets less and less)

The issue is how to make things cost more...
A few options
-higher tech things get more expensive...basically a high tech ship should only be slightly less expensive than a low tech fleet that has equal combat results, higher level techs get much more expensive, going from 10->20 pop on a world costs much less than going from 20->30 pop on that world)

-time increases things cost (not ideal but it could work)

-having things increases the cost of other things (similar to current fleet maintenance)...this might work well for something like techs if we want to encourage separate tech paths...researching a tech adds x% of its cost to all future tech)

-things have nonlinear maintenance cost (1 pop 10 world costs 1 influence to keep happy, 2 pop 20 worlds (total 40 pop) cost 8 or 16 influence to keep happy)


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 8:18 pm 
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Krikkitone wrote:
If the costs of things (including investments) also went up, then
1. You don't have 'things' (techs, ships) growing out control
2. The curve itself is flattened (because the % growth from investment gets less and less)
The problems, as I see it, are that if the numbers become too much higher in some situations, then displaying them becomes difficult, and the gap between empires grows too quickly from a small advantage. Growing the empire and getting better techs or facilities should always give the player advantages, or at least options.
Quote:
The issue is how to make things cost more...
Making things more expensive doesn't solve the problem(s). The issue is how many resources empires generate, not there being nothing to spend it on.
Quote:
-time increases things cost (not ideal but it could work)
This is a particularly bad mechanism, as it makes it even harder for behind empires to catch up.
Quote:
-things have nonlinear maintenance cost (1 pop 10 world costs 1 influence to keep happy, 2 pop 20 worlds (total 40 pop) cost 8 or 16 influence to keep happy)
That, or a similar but smoother curve (eg. influence cost of a planet increases faster than linear with population) might be reasonable, but is probably best discussed in another topic.


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 27, 2016 8:35 pm 
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Vezzra wrote:
The idea to have boni which aren't just flat (like NAI and AA) or purely pop-dependent (as the vast majority), but kind of something in between sounds interesting...
There are more options than just constant, proportional, and capped proportional (therafter constant). An obvious complement to capped proportional would be proportional above a minimum population, eg. no bonus until 20 population, then proportional after that. Perhaps even a single tech could provide one of two types of bonus, but no both, and the player would need to choose. (I'm presently rather fond of the Civ 6 style government system, which particular policy cards being chosen that give bonuses, but only a limited number being usable at one time. It could make sense to hard separate cards for proportional but capped and proportional above threshold bonuses, for example.) A sqrt(population) dependent bonus also always give benefits for increasing population, but much more so a lower populations.

I would not propose "banning" the use of any of these options, and would rather have various dependences between population (or infrastructure, or available resources, or whatever) be available.
Quote:
And just keeping some non-capped pop-dependent boni so it's not completely pointless to increase your pop is not sufficient IMO, given how extensive our tech tree in the growth department is, in addition to that the growth specials, etc.
I don't understand why this is perceived / presented as such a major problem. Things can be balanced suitably, and there can be lots of uses provided for having lots of population. And if deemed unnecessary, some growth techs can be removed / modified.
Quote:
Basically, [with mining and industry, there] were two separate caps you needed to juggle, without really offering sufficiently interesting choices for the player. Applying a cap to all/most of the pop-dependent boni introduces something similar. You have two caps - the pop itself of course, and the cap up to which a certain bonus increases with pop. Increasing your pop beyond what most of your boni can increase to is a waste of investment, as is increasing the caps of your boni beyond the pop levels of most of your colonies (by whatever means). You need to keep them roughly in sync, everything else would mean playing a sub-optimal game.
I don't think this comparison is really relevant. As noted, there will be reasons to have more population, and you don't actively manage population to get it to a particular level like you would mining and industry by manipulating many separate planets' focus settings. Rather, maybe you'll sometimes decide to not bother getting growth specials or a growth tech for a while until you have some other higher-level resource boosting techs that can take advantage of it. That's strategy, not tedious micromanagement.
Quote:
...flat boni are very low compared to the other two (maybe 1 or 2 for easy to get, and maybe 3-5 for those harder to get), purely pop-based give a low bonus per pop, but enough to substantially exceed the flat ones already at medium pop levels, and capped pop-based boni could give higher per pop, but low enough so that the purely pop-based ones are still substantially higher at high pop levels.
That's how I'd start balancing things, yes. (Or based on that but more varied, with the various other possible ways to have population and resource output be related, as discussed above.)
Quote:
ALl that said, I'm not fully convinced that capped pop-based boni are needed to achieve this kind of balance. Maybe flat and purely pop-based boni are already sufficient to do all that, balancing high vs. low pop planets, and allow for "tall" vs. "wide" empire approaches. In that case capped pop-based boni would add complexity without adding anything that isn't already there/possible.
One thing that we should consider is adding choices between ways bonuses can depend on population, such as flat or population-proportional, with the player having to pick which of these are used, rather than giving all of them always after a tech is unlocked or a special and focus are set.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2016 8:21 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Krikkitone wrote:
If the costs of things (including investments) also went up, then
1. You don't have 'things' (techs, ships) growing out control
2. The curve itself is flattened (because the % growth from investment gets less and less)
The problems, as I see it, are that if the numbers become too much higher in some situations, then displaying them becomes difficult, and the gap between empires grows too quickly from a small advantage. Growing the empire and getting better techs or facilities should always give the player advantages, or at least options.

Quote:
The issue is how to make things cost more...
Making things more expensive doesn't solve the problem(s). The issue is how many resources empires generate, not there being nothing to spend it on.


Making things cost more does solve the problem in two different ways

1. if "investment things" (colony ships, conquest fleets, technologies that boost economic output, etc.) cost more than the exponential rate decreases.

if it is
turn:output
0:10
100:100
200:1,000
300:10,000
400:100,000
500:1,000,000

you are getting at least a 2.3% return on investment (probably more since you aren't investing everything, some goes into dead resources)

on the other hand if that return declined through out the game
0:10
100:100
200:500
300:2,000
400:6,000
500:20,000
etc.
numbers are a lot more manageable. (for display purposes)

You are still getting a bonus for progressing through the game but it is a smaller % bonus the farther you progress.

2. the "gap" problem... if investment into improving your empire is possible in the game, then you will have exponential growth..it is inevitable.

There will always be snowballing unless a bigger empire is worse than a smaller empire. (and we don't want that)

However, if a bigger empire (ie one that invested better earlier) is only Slightly better than a smaller empire, that smaller empire might come back by focusing on something the larger empire is neglecting.


Now for display purposes, I can see two points of problem

1. empire wide displays (do things to make colonization/expansion harder...influence costs, colonizing hostile worlds being more difficult, increasing costs of colony/conquest ships, etc.)

2. planetary displays (do things to reduce the ability of a planet to get better, make techs that give econ/population bonuses Much more expensive..especially the more you have)


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:38 am 
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One thing probably worth mentioning/reminding.

The Growth tech tree also needs reworking as it's currently too easy to get population up excessively high per planet, but it's not, to me, as high a priority although it might end up in the same cycle, or at least partially.

Specific concerns for me are the ease that the 'adaptation' techs make inhospitable planets into fairly nice places to inhabit, secondary problem are the sheer size you can get your planets up to, if a homeworld starts at ~20 ish population and that's meant to reflect a society just ahead of ours, then having tech, specials, etc let you take your population up to well over 60 is probably excessive.

If each planet is smaller and, on aggregate, contributes less, then gaining more planets is less unbalancing but at the same time more important to do as it's a far more effective way of improving output. In particular, capturing other planets should be easier/more optimal than colonising (because, y'know, game of galactic conquest), but not to the point where it's excessively so.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:57 am 
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MatGB wrote:
...if a homeworld starts at ~20 ish population and that's meant to reflect a society just ahead of ours, then having tech, specials, etc let you take your population up to well over 60 is probably excessive.
Is it? If one pop point is 10^9 humans, Earth is now about population 7.3. Population 20 would plausibly be sustainable, at least for a while, with substantial social and agricultural changes / improvements. Wikipedia says Asimov's Trantor, the capital of a galactic empire, was population ~45, and Star Wars' Coruscant was ~1000.
Quote:
If each planet is smaller and, on aggregate, contributes less, then gaining more planets is less unbalancing but at the same time more important to do as it's a far more effective way of improving output.
Rather than making them smaller, part of what I want to achieve with the changes proposed and discussed in this thread is to make larger planets contribute less, so you can still have huge population planets, with some benefit from that population, but perhaps not much benefit to resource output. Maybe there would be a few research buildings that give output proportional to population, but can only be produced at one planet, so you only need a few really high population planets to get the full benefit. Then other research benefits would come from exploration and map-placement dependent stuff, like having a variety of different planet types / sizes colonized, colonizing different star types, having suitable specials, having a variety of species, having research ships very far apart on the map, etc. For industry output, it seems reasonable that after a certain threshold population, adding more population wouldn't help much, even if the industry was manual labour-based. Influence output would make sense to be rather high from very high population planets, though.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:46 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
MatGB wrote:
...if a homeworld starts at ~20 ish population and that's meant to reflect a society just ahead of ours, then having tech, specials, etc let you take your population up to well over 60 is probably excessive.
Is it? If one pop point is 10^9 humans, Earth is now about population 7.3. Population 20 would plausibly be sustainable, at least for a while, with substantial social and agricultural changes / improvements. Wikipedia says Asimov's Trantor, the capital of a galactic empire, was population ~45, and Star Wars' Coruscant was ~1000.

Yup. Galactic capitals. One offs and in both cases written as unsustainable without the empire to back them up.

In most games I play to near completion I have large numbers of planets at 60+ population, I forget the notional max but I've had several Volp Uglush worlds at significantly higher: they start at 27ish and the background says they've already filled their planet to capacity.

Having one or two really huge 'capital' planets with a population boost from, say, a Megalith, is somethign that makes sense within the sort of game/setting we've got, but having 10+? It's far too easy to do.
Quote:
Rather than making them smaller, part of what I want to achieve with the changes proposed and discussed in this thread is to make larger planets contribute less, so you can still have huge population planets, with some benefit from that population, but perhaps not much benefit to resource output. Maybe there would be a few research buildings that give output proportional to population, but can only be produced at one planet, so you only need a few really high population planets to get the full benefit. Then other research benefits would come from exploration and map-placement dependent stuff, like having a variety of different planet types / sizes colonized, colonizing different star types, having suitable specials, having a variety of species, having research ships very far apart on the map, etc. For industry output, it seems reasonable that after a certain threshold population, adding more population wouldn't help much, even if the industry was manual labour-based. Influence output would make sense to be rather high from very high population planets, though.
See, I'm not at all sure I agree on this, and am definitely sure that introducing such a change right now before we have other stuff done isn't the right way to go. Apart from the point that I've balanced several costs for planet improvements to make them a LOT more expensive for larger worlds (terraform build cost being the most obvious/easy to see), we currently don't have enough of the other ideas you have outlined here: I really like the idea of research bonuses based on variety though, that'd be worth putting in for, for example, Stellar Tomography sooner rather than later.

I basically don't like false caps on a variable stat unless they can't be avoided, and we already know where most of the problems are with production balance output (Black Hole Generator is the most egregious) and until we tone them down adding new, different artificial looking caps that disrupt other stuff doesn't sit right with me.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 22, 2017 1:43 am 
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I'd like to link together two concerns. One concern is about whether players can too easily snowball, allowing small early differences to magnify into insurmountably large differences later on. A second concern is about whether there should be potential for "tall" empires to compete (i.e., empires with a comparatively small number of planets, but comparatively well developed). These issues are related because, to avoid snowballing, there must be *some* way for comparatively small empires to remain competitive, and going "tall" is one possible such way (though not necessarily the only one).

In many 4x games, there are explicit tradeoffs between "going wide" and "going tall", in part to add strategic depth, and in part to ensure that empires that fail to go wide still can somehow be competitive. Without there being such tradeoffs, snowballing empires will go both wide and tall, and get even farther ahead, especially when the advantages to these two sorts of growth multiply with each other. The main way for games to avoid this is by somehow making growth in each direction interfere with growth in the other.

FreeOrion provides two quite weak forms of interference between "going tall" and "going wide". One form of interference is that the best techs for going tall differ from those for going wide, and it's difficult to research both early. However, this difference is not especially pronounced. The techs that provide economic boosts to going wide are must-have techs anyway (like nascent ai, autofactories). The techs that are most suited towards colonizing more widely (xenobio line) are pre-requisites for the ultimate "go tall" tech, Gaia transformation. A second form of interference is that limited PP can be spent either going wide (with new outposts, colonies, troop ships, and/or military fleets) or going tall (with terraforming/gaia transformations). However, FreeOrion idealizes away many of the ways in which 4X games often have players choose how to invest in infrastructure, replacing it with "population" and "infrastructure" meters that automatically grow quite independently of any choices the player can make, so what few choices the player does end up making are relatively insignificant. A further weakness in both of these forms of interference is that they are only temporary -- there's nothing stopping a player who initially went wide from then going tall too (by researching more techs or terraforming), nor vice versa.

Other 4x games build in much stronger forms of interference between width and height. For example, in Civ games, luxuries serve as a soft cap on total population, which forces players to choose whether they want to distribute their fixed amount of population across a few tall cities or widely across many shorter cities. Civ5 further accentuated this tradeoff by making some important buildings ("national wonders") and various technological/cultural advances be cheaper for smaller empires. Many games also introduce various diplomatic penalties for going wide, which helps to incentivize going tall instead. These tradeoffs remain in place throughout the game, making it much harder for an empire that gained an advantage by growing in one direction to snowball by multiplying this advantage times growth in the other direction too.

So... what does this tell us about FreeOrion?

First off, I would suggest that the proposal that started this thread is probably wrong-headed: if the goal is to allow smaller empires to better compete with snowballing wide empires, then the solution is not going to be to put caps on population-based effects, as that will just *hurt* tall empires, and hence comparatively *benefit* wide empires! If anything, you should probably be doing the exact opposite, allowing for techs that reward empires that opted to grow tall rather than wide (while also ensuring that it will be very hard for empires that successfully went wide to make use of these techs to further multiply their power).

Second, I would suggest that a better solution is probably to somehow introduce more tradeoffs between going wide and going tall. Here's a list of potential ways of doing that, staying in or near the realm of current game mechanics.

* Additional planets could cause penalties to research, production, and/or population growth (not just a minor increase in the cost of further outposts/colonies as the game currently does). This would help keep wide empires from gaining such a large advantage.
* There could be more "national wonder" style buildings that provide a nice bonus to tall empires, but cannot be feasibly scaled out to wide empires, either due to strict limitations (there can be only N instances), due to scaling prices (cost goes up the more other instances there are), or due to other forms of interference (e.g., a building that helps nearby planets but hurts more distant planets in the empire).
* Various existing techs could be turned into national wonder style buildings that provide only a regional effect, and are hard to scale throughout a wide empire (e.g., industrial centers, lategame research structures, singularity generators)
* Some techs could be made to provide bonuses only to your N largest planets, rather than to all of your planets. (This is equivalent to national wonders, except idealizing away the actual construction of the buildings.)
* The tech tree could be set up to provide more meaningful choices, e.g., separating apart "tall" and "wide" techlines so that the normal course of research wouldn't automatically fill out most of the other side's techs anyway.
* The AI diplomatic system could be enhanced to make AI players more likely to join forces against a snowballing player.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 11:44 pm 
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Telos wrote:
if the goal is to allow smaller empires to better compete with snowballing wide empires, then the solution is not going to be to put caps on population-based effects...
From here, the goal is/was:
Quote:
This should reduce the range of output levels over the course of a game, and reduce the benefit of having high population planets.

Having content designed to benefit "tall" vs. "wide" empires is also a reasonable goal, but can be accomplished other ways (such as you noted).


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