Refining the Imperial Stockpile

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Ophiuchus
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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#16 Post by Ophiuchus » Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:38 pm

@alleryn the stockpile gets cut at 100% in the c-code, so in theory you shouldnt be able to get more than 100% out of it. (But you are right, probably the late techs need to be nerfed again. A transfer ratio of 0.9 means about 11% more production cost. Any evidence and ideas how late game settings should be?)
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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#17 Post by Ophiuchus » Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:42 pm

Ok, the upgrade as it was just got merged. Should be in the next test builds :)

Probably we should open a new playtesting feedback discussion thread for the new settings.
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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#18 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:58 pm

Oberlus wrote:An obvious remark: maximum efficiency comes from no using IS at all, since that way you are wasting no PPs in conversions.
Yeah, well, it's been deliberately designed to work that way. The IS mechanic introduces a potentially powerful exception to an essential game mechanic (PP distribution by supply connections, PPs have to be used immediately and can't be stockpiled). Like stargates introduce a powerful exception to an essential game mechanic (ship movement only being possible along starlanes). Because of that, stargates come at a high price and with some severe restrictions, so the essential game mechanic isn't made pointless.

The same applies to the IS. It circumvents normal PP distribution along supply connections and lets you stockpile PP for later use. That has to come at a sufficiently high price and with severe restrictions, otherwise the essential game mechanic (normal PP distribution, PPs have to be used immediately and can't be stockpiled) could become mostly or totally irrelevant at some point in the game.
For particular purposes, like speeding up the production of something that you can not yet produce (requirements not met yet) so that you save for it in advance
That has never been the idea, so the IS mechanic not being useful to achieve that purpose is intentional.
or like getting some use for PPs that would have been wasted otherwise (supply lines cut off and nothing useful to do with the PPs of the secondary resource groups, appart from stockpiling them to use in the main group).
That's one of the cases where the IS can be of benefit. You may not be able to prevent PPs from being wasted, but at least you can reduce your losses and save some PP which would otherwise also be lost.
it could also be, more often, the result of an enemy invasion of imperial space. In such case, I would prefer to produce military ships in each of my resource groups and figure out how to make the forces of each group to strike at the same time and place rahter than stockpiling say 60% of the PPs of the secondary groups for the primary one and waste the other 40%.
Provided you have a shipyard within the resource group which has been cut off. More often than not, that's not the case. In all my test games, I rarely had a situation where, when a part of my empire got cut off, those parts had shipyards. By far the most common case is that one, or maybe a few systems get blockaded/cut off, which ususally happens at empire borders, and shipyards don't tend to be there.

Meaning, in most cases where systems of mine got blockaded/cut off, unless it made sense to start producing some building there, all the PP produced there were lost. With the IS mechanic, some of those PP could be preserved. Not the main purpose, but certainly a nice side benefit.
In case I have 80% efficiency or better and I can spend stockpiled PPs at rates close to 50 or 100 per turn, then I can consider it a viable strategy.
That's precisely what I want to avoid. An efficiency that high, coupled with an extraction limit that allows for serious production at cut off locations makes it far too easy to work around the limitations of how PP distribution and usage normally works. The exception would become too affordable and weakly restricted.

That wouldn't be just a viable strategy anymore, but an essential or the normal way to go. That not the plan.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#19 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:28 pm

Dilvish wrote:I think there is no problem with the rudimentary imperial stockpile capabilities being unlocked at the very beginning of the game, nor a problem with them being very basic.
The problem I see is that it gives a wrong impression of what that mechanic is supposed to be. It is not an essential/core game mechanic, but an optional special case thing. Something you should be able to go through an entire game without having to bother with it, but provide the means to pursue a special strategy if you want to.

Consequently, you should have to unlock access to that special feature by at least some moderate research. Getting the feature to really powerful, effective levels should require very focused, substantial research efforts. I'm thinking Blackshield, high end Death Ray, Black Hole Collapser etc. levels here.
The efficiency is so low that it is not a big giveaway, and it helps make clear what the related UI elements are really for. But even though the efficiency is very low it's not totally worthless
Maybe not totally worthless, but close enough, so that I much prefer to not have it available by default, as if it were some standard thing, see above.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#20 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:34 pm

dbenage-cx wrote:Would propose to allow some minimum amount to transfer with little or no efficiency loss.

For both stockpile and stockpile transfer, it may lend well to adapt them to a softer max capacity, similar to charging a battery.
For stockpile, exceeding capacity would result in an increasing rate of decay (loss of stockpiled PP), until capacity is reached.
For transfer, exceeding capacity increases the transfer efficiency loss.
IMO too complicated, and not really necessary. The problem is not the efficiency of the PP to stockpile conversion (actually, that's way too high IMO), but the low extraction limit. You can fill the stockpile far easier than depleting it. Making the conversion efficiency battery like won't help with that.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#21 Post by Oberlus » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:50 pm

Yeah, Vezzra, I also understand this mechanic as s special alternative to boost/make possible certain strategies.

Regarding this, IS should be a valid tool to make viable a full pacifist, scattered, hidden colonies strategy for early/mid game (e.g. with Laenfa). But from my games I get Laenfa is better ignoring IS techs and playing normally (i.e. keep one single supply group). This is, I think, my only real point from the comments you quote.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#22 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 3:59 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:Im happy that finally people have tried and came to the same conclusion - that the stockpile in its current form is way underpowered.
No, it's not underpowered, it's unbalanced (to be more precise, its key elements are).

Based on the feedback given here, and my own playtesting, the problem is the extraction limit. You see, the PP conversion rate (which is basically the input factor of the IS) scales with empire PP production (and therefore with map size, planet density and all the factors that determine the scale of a given game). The exraction limit (which is the output factor) does not. It's a fixed value which can be increased of course by researching techs, but even that happens at fixed steps. So whatever values you choose for the extraction limit, they will either be too high or too low in most setups: on small maps the limit will be too high, on large maps it will be too low. Especially in mid and late game, where the map size becomes the limiting/determining factor for the scale of the game.

With current numbers, the extraction limit is far too low for the mid and late game stages.

I don't think having one scaling dynamically and the other being scaling in a "static" way will work. Either we introduce something that allows the extraction limit to also scale with the game at least to some degree, or we change the way PP to stockpile conversion works to something that scales "statically" (e.g. by having a "conversion limit", which determines how much excess PP will be transferred to the stockpile at max).

Considering how vastly different FO games can be in scale, and how much things can scale up within a given game, I guess making both factors (PP to stockpile conversion efficiency and extraction limit) scale dynamically is the way to go. Especially considering what the original intent for that mechanic is.
How about a having a flexible extraction limit?
Maybe not the way you proposed here, but I think this is going into the right direction. Make that a dynamic value, in the sense that it scales with empire size/production capacity/whatever within reasonable bounds, and the entire thing should become much more useful.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#23 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:02 pm

Oberlus wrote:IS should be a valid tool to make viable a full pacifist, scattered, hidden colonies strategy for early/mid game (e.g. with Laenfa).
Yep, I know, and I agree. I'm slowly working my way through all the comments and feedback in this thread, and will get to this eventually. I just have to ask for a bit of patience (don't know if I'll have enough time today to put together my thoughts and ideas for the IS). ;)

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#24 Post by Oberlus » Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:20 pm

Vezzra wrote:Based on the feedback given here, and my own playtesting, the problem is the extraction limit. You see, the PP conversion rate (which is basically the input factor of the IS) scales with empire PP production (and therefore with map size, planet density and all the factors that determine the scale of a given game). The exraction limit (which is the output factor) does not. It's a fixed value which can be increased of course by researching techs, but even that happens at fixed steps. So whatever values you choose for the extraction limit, they will either be too high or too low in most setups: on small maps the limit will be too high, on large maps it will be too low. Especially in mid and late game, where the map size becomes the limiting/determining factor for the scale of the game.

With current numbers, the extraction limit is far too low for the mid and late game stages.

I don't think having one scaling dynamically and the other being scaling in a "static" way will work. Either we introduce something that allows the extraction limit to also scale with the game at least to some degree, or we change the way PP to stockpile conversion works to something that scales "statically" (e.g. by having a "conversion limit", which determines how much excess PP will be transferred to the stockpile at max).

Considering how vastly different FO games can be in scale, and how much things can scale up within a given game, I guess making both factors (PP to stockpile conversion efficiency and extraction limit) scale dynamically is the way to go. Especially considering what the original intent for that mechanic is.
How about a having a flexible extraction limit?
Maybe not the way you proposed here, but I think this is going into the right direction. Make that a dynamic value, in the sense that it scales with empire size/production capacity/whatever within reasonable bounds, and the entire thing should become much more useful.
Very good point.

Suggestion: make absolute output value coincide with the maximum stockpiling value. I mean, if you produce 100 PPs per turn and has 60% stockpiling efficiency, maximum stockpiling value is 60 PPs, so you could draw up to 60 PPs that turn. It's dynamic, tied to the production ratio as well as the stockpiling efficiency and should scale well with the map size. You can thnik that the PPs needed for the delivery of those 60 PPs abstracted in the "tax" that you already payed when stockpiling, and that high capacity of stockpiling should imply high capacity of un-stockpiling.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#25 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:06 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:The way i see it in the beginning the main problem with the imperial stockpile is that conversion ratio is too bad to be useful except in extreme circumstances.
Well, "extreme circumstances" is probably not the right term, but if you say: the conversion ratio is too bad to be useful except for special purposes/strategies, then I'd say that's what it's supposed to be (if anything, IMO the current numbers for the conversion ratio is too high).
Later on I think the extraction limit is the key.
As I already mentioned in my above posts, I think that is the main problem currently.
How about we increase the extraction limit and in order to nerf remote production add some specials which are necessary. E.g. building the incubator for organic ships needs an organic flora special (and every planet with organic homeworlds should have that one), building a transformer or stargate needs some Rarelyobtainabium special in the supply network.
That can't work. Specials are an optional game element (they can be completely turned off), whereas the different hull lines are an essential element. For obvious reasons, making an essential element dependent on an optional one breaks the game.
That means dangerous production in the back of your enemy is only possible in some cases you have to consider strategically.
E.g. by making it sufficiently difficult/expensive.
alleryn wrote:My understanding is that part of the motiviation behind the introduction of the Imperial Stockpile is to make stealthed expansion more viable
yes, thats the main one.
This! IMO that can't be emphasized enough, because this is the key consideration: what exactly do we want the IS to be good for? What options/choices/strategies should it make possible for the player? I think that's a major reason why some of us are a bit at a loss what viable use the IS is supposed to have. To me it looks like some of us have lost track what the original idea/intend behind that mechanic is, why we (or better, you) came up with it in the first place.

It all started with this idea about "Generic Supply Ships", which, after a lot of discussion and challenges when it came to implementation, has been abandoned in favor of the Imperial Stockpile mechanic. And the original intent has been a "special case": to be able to get some PP to a location that (for whatever reason) has been cut off the rest of the empire, so it would become possible to build at least some basic things at such a location, instead of not being able to build there anything at all.

Together with the idea of "stealthy empires" that finally lead up to what you said above: the main purpose of the IS mechanic is to enable a unique, special strategy: to make a fully pacifist, scattered, hidden expansion strategy viable (to rephrase a bit what Oberlus said), as a distinct alternative to the usual military conquest approach.

In order for that to work however, first of all, you need way higher extraction limits, that scale with the size of your empire (as I already mentioned in my above posts). But that alone isn't enough, we need more elements/mechanics to make that work, and those elements/mechanics aren't in place yet. Which is the reason why it's so difficult to find viable use cases for the IS ATM.

However, the solution can't be to just beef the numbers until the IS becomes sufficiently efficient to rival the "normal" strategies/approaches. Because once the IS has an efficiency comparable to "normal" PP distribution and usage, the "normal" mechanic would become irrelevant sooner or later in a game. Which is not the plan.

The right approach to solve the current uselessness of the IS is to put in other elements/mechanics that together with the IS will make "stealthy empires" a viable strategy. Until then the IS is going to be a feature that will be fun to experiment with, but have not no, but probably limited use in-game.
disconnected unstealthed expansion would be also interesting, but I dont know how one could pull that off as soon as you are getting close to your neighbors
While the idea has some appeal, I don't see any way how to make that work reasonably well. Simply because as long as you make it hard/expensive enough so it doesn't make supply connection dependent PP distribution irrelevant, it won't be a viable option (usually the costs for connecting that extremely valuable, but far out planet will outweigh the benefits that planet can provide). But if you make connecting planets out of supply easy/cheap enough so it actually pays, supply connection dependent PP distribution will be quickly rendered irrelevant. I don't think it's possible to balance such a thing in a way that makes one strategy viable without making the other irrelevant.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#26 Post by Vezzra » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:23 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:From my local games I found a more usuable setting for the stockpile:

Code: Select all

                           cost Tu  Transfer Ratio  Use Limit
Predictive Stockpiling      0RP  1   +0.2 -> +0.4   +2 ->  +3
Generic Supplies           40RP  4      +0.20       +3 ->  +7
Transcendent Design       150RP  5      +0.00          +0
Interspecies Academy (6x)  30PP  5      +0.05       +2 -> +15
Interstellar Entangle Fac 200RP  5      +0.20       +5 -> +15
Made a branch/PR out of it:
https://github.com/freeorion/freeorion/pull/1912
For the reasons I argued in my above posts, I don't think this is a step in the right direction. Conversion rate has been too high already, in my test games I had the problem that my stockpile grew far too fast, with no way to use up all those PPs with the current values for the extraction limit. Once you start to produce several K of PP, an extraction limit of 50 or even 100 gets you nowhere (especially considering how much things cost in mid and late game).

My proposal: conversion rate has to go down: starting with 10%, and maxing out at 50% with all the best high end tech. Extraction rate has to go up: a few techs that give a limited fixed increase is perfectly fine, but then we need some techs that increase the extraction rate based on e.g. the number of colonies in your empire, or the number of colonies you have on industry focus, or something along these lines.

Once you have a PP resource output of e.g. 5K, being able to draw e.g. 500PP from the stockpile sounds fine (assuming you need your IS techs maxed out to get that of course).

And the RP costs for the IS techs are way too low, but for testing purposes we should keep them cheap for the time being.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#27 Post by Ophiuchus » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:39 pm

Vezzra wrote:
Ophiuchus wrote:The way i see it in the beginning the main problem with the imperial stockpile is that conversion ratio is too bad to be useful except in extreme circumstances.
Well, "extreme circumstances" is probably not the right term, but if you say: the conversion ratio is too bad to be useful except for special purposes/strategies, then I'd say that's what it's supposed to be (if anything, IMO the current numbers for the conversion ratio is too high).
[/quote]
The old ratio was unusable for any strategy IMHO, even after the first tech. With this I mean any sane player comparing choices would choose a strategy without the imperial stockpile.
It could be ok to use in extreme cornercases.

Maybe I play completely different. But the playtesting feedback of all other players indicated that.

You mention my original supply ships (which would also have been ok). Those had an efficiency of 90% from the start and no extraction limits.
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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#28 Post by ovarwa » Thu Dec 14, 2017 7:45 pm

If the point is to make stealthed empires work better, why not a much simpler mechanic that directly allows stealthy supply lines to not be intercepted?

Interdicting a supply line then requires being able to see it, with the possibility of multiple empire supply lines traversing a system.

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#29 Post by alleryn » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:42 pm

A few minor questions/comments:
Vezzra wrote:It is not an essential/core game mechanic, but an optional special case thing. Something you should be able to go through an entire game without having to bother with it, but provide the means to pursue a special strategy if you want to.
Is it the intention to permanently keep the stockpile as a separate icon on the main screen, along with PP and RP? This seems to lend to the impression of IS as a core mechanic. Perhaps it could be rolled into the industry icon/tooltip in some way? I'd rather see things like trade/influence (eventually) become more prominently featured alongside PP/RP on the top bar.
Vezzra wrote:but then we need some techs that increase the extraction rate based on e.g. the number of colonies in your empire, or the number of colonies you have on industry focus, or something along these lines.
Number of colonies with industry focus sounds like an invitation to micromanagement.
Oberlus wrote:Suggestion: make absolute output value coincide with the maximum stockpiling value. I mean, if you produce 100 PPs per turn and has 60% stockpiling efficiency, maximum stockpiling value is 60 PPs, so you could draw up to 60 PPs that turn. It's dynamic, tied to the production ratio as well as the stockpiling efficiency and should scale well with the map size. You can thnik that the PPs needed for the delivery of those 60 PPs abstracted in the "tax" that you already payed when stockpiling, and that high capacity of stockpiling should imply high capacity of un-stockpiling.
I like an approach somewhat similar to this. I agree that moving the Stockpile Use Limit from flat to percentage based is the correct approach, to allow for reasonable numbers in a variety of galaxy sizes.

Either what Oberlus is suggesting here, with a percentage of your total industrial output for the use limit, or a percentage of your total stockpile. (Something like you can use 10% of your stockpile each turn, and that ratio can be increased with tech).

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Re: Playtesting feedback on Imperial Stockpile

#30 Post by MatGB » Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:59 am

Tech(s) to increase extraction: linked to stealth and fuel/supply techs, at least one of which is called "Smugglers" and is the only one that can work for blockaded systems.
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