Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

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LienRag
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Re: Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

#31 Post by LienRag »

Oberlus wrote: Wed May 20, 2020 11:01 am The main point of OP's proposal is the formulation of influence upkeep (periodic maintenance payment in influence points) costs for fleets and colonies, in a way that
  1. it takes into consideration galaxy size,so that it scalates well with any galaxy setting (otherwise it could only be balanced for a certain galaxy settings, which is same a saying "it's broken").
  2. it takes into consideration empires' relative sizes, so that it works well with empires of very diverse sizes.
The first point is of uttermost importance for obvious reasons (i.e. it needs to work for galaxies such as 20/2 systems/players, 200/2, 200/20, 2000/20).
This second point is very important to me, to help games in the latter stages still be fun for all players. That is, to keep difficulty more leveled depite some empires having done much better than others (either by luck o skill) so that we can avoid the issue "enemy empire has 3x more production than mine, there's no point on playing anymore, I've lost already", which is typical in MP games, or "enemy empire has 1/3 of my production, this is boring, I claim victory on my own and start a new game", which is typical in SP games.
The first point is a requirement, and you are very right to address it; I also think that the way you're addressing it is in the good direction.

The second is commendable, but very difficult to do it right.
Namely, what's the point of doing very well in early or middle game if it doesn't bring victory ? In many (if not all) strategic games, victory by surrender of the enemy is common.

The main way to avoid the very real tediousness of many endgames would be by implementing real conceding mechanisms, either through meta-gaming (like winning gives 1 point to the winner in whatever ranking system is in place, losing gives 0 to the loser; but conceding gives 0,1 point to the one who concedes and 0,9 points to the one conceded to) or through automatic thresholds (which, basically, Transcendance is).

The way AI concedes victory in Age of Empires II when unable to produce more ressources was a huge gameplay improvement on the original Age of Empires, for example.
The AoE "Wonder Building" victory mechanism was equally brilliant : when one player is clearly ahead of all his opponents in all domain, he doesn't need to crush them one by one, he just needs to to build a Wonder and defend it - if his opponents are not able to destroy it, even though they don't have to build a wonder but can put their resources entirely in their army, then it was true that the wonderboy was actually decisively ahead of them.

Now, you are right that a player can get slightly ahead at a moment of the game due to sheer luck or just one good move, and due to snowballing effect get ahead enough of his opponents that the game becomes pointless before he even had to confront the core of their strength.

That is the problem that needs to be fixed, and indeed upkeep can be one of the ways to fix it. But it's quite difficult to understand the delicate threshold between "we want a player to win if he's able to play consistently better than his opponents and to deliver decisive blows to their core Empire structure (so not just one lucky shot)" and "when a player cannot lose anymore the game should end".

Especially, we want Empires with different internal equilibrium to be able to actually compete, and Czar Alexander's answer to Napoleon
"Your campaign ends, mine has only begun" to be possible. So we want a good player to have to think its strategy to the end, including how to pay upkeep for its large army once he built it; but we don't want a clearly superior Empire stranded at endgame because he doesn't have enough influence to wipe the last remnants of his enemies, who have nevertheless no chance to reverse course.

So it's very, very delicate to balance, and I'm glad that I'm not in charge of it because I have no idea on how to manage that...

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Re: Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

#32 Post by Oberlus »

LienRag wrote: Wed May 20, 2020 11:09 pm what's the point of doing very well in early or middle game if it doesn't bring victory ?
"when a player cannot lose anymore the game should end"
That won't happen, if the formulations works as intended. It will reduce advantages, not remove them.

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LienRag
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Re: Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

#33 Post by LienRag »

Also, about your initial formula : how does it fare in actual game in big galaxies ?
I do think that the game is more interesting with many unoccupied planets (so that choosing which planet to colonize is very strategic, rather than colonizing everything) and if I understand correctly that's your goal too with this upkeep mechanism.
But on small galaxies colonizing everything will probably be the way to go (and the game shouldn't prevent that), so if you formula takes the size of the galaxy as main input, how will that make the gameplay different for big galaxies ?

Also, let's say I am empire A, and my optimal colonization would be 100 planets. Now I play against empires B, C, D, E and F, wipe out the two first before getting to my optimum so I total around 100 planets (give or take since I had to take into account some sub-optimal colonization done by my opponents before I conquer them). Then I have to conquer D, E and F, all of them around 100 planets too.
So my empire will reach 300-350 planets and get extremely overstretched even before I can finish the game...

Am I missing something there ?

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labgnome
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Re: Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

#34 Post by labgnome »

LienRag wrote: Wed May 20, 2020 10:31 pm Well, losing the game because your opponent was able to exploit the weaknesses you created in your own empire seems to be serious enough as consequences go.
And if your opponent wasn't able to exploit these weaknesses, you win because you're a better player than them. That doesn't seem problematic to me either.
Part of being a good player should be being able to balance your influence budget.
All of my contributions should be considered released under creative commons attribution share-alike license, CC-BY-SA 3.0 for use in, by and with the Free Orion project.

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Oberlus
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Re: Colony and fleet influence upkeep mechanics [RFC]

#35 Post by Oberlus »

LienRag wrote: Sat May 30, 2020 5:11 pm Also, about your initial formula : how does it fare in actual game in big galaxies ?
[...]
But on small galaxies colonizing everything will probably be the way to go (and the game shouldn't prevent that), so if you formula takes the size of the galaxy as main input, how will that make the gameplay different for big galaxies ?
Have you tried to make the calculations?

I'll make a summary of the OP to simplify things for you:

Assuming MIN=0 the influence cost of having no colonies.
Total colony upkeep per turn COL_UPK = C²*MAX*/G
where
C is the number of colonies of the empire.
G is the total number of planets, asteroid belts and GGs in the galaxy.
MAX is the maximum influence upkeep of a colony, when the empire owns all colonies (C=G). At that point, total colony upkeep paid by the empire is G*MAX.

Around that point (empire owns nearly all colonies in the galaxy), the influence output of the empire should be enough to pay for all colonies' upkeep if something like 90% (TBD) of the colonies are set tu influence focus. Empire would have the PP and RP from the other 10% planets set to production or research as well as the bonuses not dependent to planetary focus.

For a galaxy of 100 planets:
- Empire has 50 planets, enemies have 10 each: empire has 25 PP focused planets + the flat bonuses of 25 planets; each of the enemies have 9/10 planets set to production. The 5 of them together would be something like 30 (empire) v 45 (enemies) planets, noting that the big empire has likely a better per-pop influence and production output thanks to having researched more stuff, but against any single one of them it would be a cakewalk.
- Empire has 99 planets, enemy has 1: 9 PP focused planets + the flat bonuses of 90 planets vs the PPs of a single planet. Should be a cakewalk.

All this must be tested, not possible yet.
Also, let's say I am empire A, and my optimal colonization would be 100 planets. Now I play against empires B, C, D, E and F, wipe out the two first before getting to my optimum so I total around 100 planets (give or take since I had to take into account some sub-optimal colonization done by my opponents before I conquer them). Then I have to conquer D, E and F, all of them around 100 planets too.
So my empire will reach 300-350 planets and get extremely overstretched even before I can finish the game...

Am I missing something there ?
Probably.
Are we talking about a galaxy of how many planets?
If it's around 1000, and your empire has 350 planets while the remaining three have 100 each, you'd need some 100 planets set to influence, and have 250 to outproduce the 270 planets of your enemies set to production.

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