Fix Exponential Growth

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

Moderator: Oberlus

How should we tackle the problem of exponential growth?

A. Do nothing, I like the snowball effect.
2
22%
B. Use the influence mechanic.
4
44%
C. Add another level to resources.
1
11%
D. Both B & C
1
11%
E. Other (please specify in comments)
1
11%
 
Total votes: 9

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labgnome
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Fix Exponential Growth

#1 Post by labgnome »

Oberlus wrote: Sat May 02, 2020 8:01 am Increasing the PP construction cost will not work, since that always hits the same wall: either it is too expensive early game or too cheap late game. You always reach that point when PP output is enough to consider inexpensive what was expensive.
Vezzra wrote: Sun May 03, 2020 12:27 pmHowever, Oberlus has correctly pointed out a fundamental issue: we simply cannot do that by trying to balance build costs, because what's prohibitely expensive at the start of the game becomes practically negligible in late game. This isn't an issue only with shipyards, this issue has been plaguing us practically every time we want to make something you should be able to acquire/build in limited amounts. And every time we are forced to resort to often ackward/not ideal workarounds/other solutions.

The fundamental issue behind this is (as I've been pointing out again and again in the past) the way resource income increases over the course of a game. It's broken, plain and simple. And with it everything that builds upon it.

A 4X game like FO basically works this way: Acquire/produce a set of basic resources -> convert those resources into assets, which help you increase acquiring/producing more of the basic resources. That's the fundamental loop, so to speak.

If the increase in basic resource production is unbalanced, everything else will be unbalanced too. IMO FO gameplay has been suffering because of that for a very long time. And it's biting us again. Why don't we fix it?
Given these sentiments on how Free Orion currently operates, I think I would like to propose some ideas the problem of exponential growth.

Use the influence mechanic: Specifically let influence operate at a deficit (allow for negative influence) and use that as a soft cap on growth. Give maluses to production and research output and even max population on planets. Personally I'm thinking that each planet not focused on research should take up about 1/3 the output if a influence producing planet, that way you can have a planet set to research and another set to industry and then some influence left over for fleet upkeep and influence projects. This also means that population should count towards influence upkeep. This way you keep the proportion of planets focused on influence constant, as increasing populations, will mean planets can produce more influence from the focus.

Add another level to resources: This could allow for the existence of resource bottlenecks. Stellaris does this with minerals and alloys and later in the game with strategic resources. What I am thinking is to introduce resources as planetary specials that would be converted into production, research, and influence. For the time being I will call these rare ores, exotic ores and precious ores. Rare ores would be necessary for production. Exotic ores would be necessary for research. Precious ores would be necessary for influence. Each empire homeworld would start out with all three of the deposits. For all colonies the extraction focus will be necessary for the rest of the empire to take advantage of the resources, while the homeworld would come with the Processing Center building, that would allow it to be set to other foci while still reaping the benefits of the ores. In addition planets set to the extraction focus would need to be supply connected to a planet with a refinery building. This would require some changes as to how stockpiling and the foci would work. Firstly, the base resources, the ores, would only be stockpiled. Secondly the foci would be changed to convert ores into production, research and influence, instead of extracting it directly form the population.
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Oberlus
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#2 Post by Oberlus »

labgnome wrote: Sun May 03, 2020 3:47 pm Personally I'm thinking that each planet not focused on research should take up about 1/3 the output if a influence producing planet, that way you can have a planet set to research and another set to industry and then some influence left over for fleet upkeep and influence projects. [...]
That gets exactly the same as multiplying current research and production factors by 2/3, with steps and some extra micromanagement.

Exponential multiplied by a constant is still exponential.
Add another level to resources [...] Extraction focus [...]
That's what Influence and Influence-focus is for. No need for anything else.
Oberlus wrote: Sun May 03, 2020 2:14 pm
  • Colonies should consume a constant amount of resources (modified by certain policies, techs and buildings). They would also produce resources, more the bigger and more advanced the colonies are.
  • Ships should consume resources (modified by certain policies, techs and buildings).
  • Buildings should consume resources (modified by certain policies, techs and buildings).
The patch for the no-upkeep decision, long due, is the future influence upkeeps. Although I'm not sure they will be actual upkeeps or just PP costs with steps (which in the end would hit the same exponential growth wall).
The problem is calculating how much upkeep (in influence points, since PP upkeep is forbidden for historical reasons) should each thing consume with respect to influence output.

This thread (WIP) is about that.

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Krikkitone
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#3 Post by Krikkitone »

To solve exponential resources you need exponential costs.
Using shipyards as an example...if they are going to be strategic (ie limited in number) they need to become more expensive later in the game. (either in PP/RP, etc.)
That increased cost can be based on how big your empire/supply group is, how "good" the shipyard is (how much PP can get shoved through it), etc.

Its why techs have increasing costs.

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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#4 Post by Ophiuchus »

Krikkitone wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 2:58 am To solve exponential resources you need exponential costs.
Exponential cost in tech tree is not really working so well. Lower layer tech costs nothing compared to higher layer tech.
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Oberlus
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#5 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 9:25 am
Krikkitone wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 2:58 am To solve exponential resources you need exponential costs.
Exponential cost in tech tree is not really working so well. Lower layer tech costs nothing compared to higher layer tech.
Maybe we should add research upkeep: the more techs you have, the more it costs to keep the knowledge body (keeping new scientists and technicians properly educated/formed, not forgetting "old" knowledge, etc.).

o01eg
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#6 Post by o01eg »

Oberlus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 9:54 am
Ophiuchus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 9:25 am
Krikkitone wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 2:58 am To solve exponential resources you need exponential costs.
Exponential cost in tech tree is not really working so well. Lower layer tech costs nothing compared to higher layer tech.
Maybe we should add research upkeep: the more techs you have, the more it costs to keep the knowledge body (keeping new scientists and technicians properly educated/formed, not forgetting "old" knowledge, etc.).
I don't like research upkeep idea, maybe better to lower cost of research for other empires depending on number of empires knows this tech.
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ThinkSome
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#7 Post by ThinkSome »

There is no problem here, the problems are:

1) Fix mapgen to be fair

2) Make later-game hulls be better than SMH and symbiotic spam

3) Turn off the upkeep mechanics after fixing (1) and (2).

Reducing exponential growth will just make the wining side take longer to win, due to less delta-resources.

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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#8 Post by Ophiuchus »

ThinkSome wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:10 am There is no problem here, the problems are:
I think you are the only one who sees it like this.
ThinkSome wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:10 am 1) Fix mapgen to be fair

2) Make later-game hulls be better than SMH and symbiotic spam

3) Turn off the upkeep mechanics after fixing (1) and (2).
1) yes, sure. that is helpful for multiplayer and also once that AI is competitive for singleplayer.

2) I do not know what a SMH is. I think chaff tactics have their place but should not be the most powerful - e.g. decide not more than 25% of the outcome.

3) we could make turning off influence upkeep a game rule after playtesting that - not sure if that is possible in a meaningful way though
ThinkSome wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:10 am Reducing exponential growth will just make the wining side take longer to win, due to less delta-resources.
I would also promote some way to speed up cleanup (e.g. a way to take a whole sector at once instead of taking single planets)
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#9 Post by Ophiuchus »

o01eg wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:02 am
Oberlus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 9:54 am
Ophiuchus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 9:25 am
Exponential cost in tech tree is not really working so well. Lower layer tech costs nothing compared to higher layer tech.
Maybe we should add research upkeep: the more techs you have, the more it costs to keep the knowledge body (keeping new scientists and technicians properly educated/formed, not forgetting "old" knowledge, etc.).
I don't like research upkeep idea, maybe better to lower cost of research for other empires depending on number of empires knows this tech.
Or the other way round. Like upping the cost of researching with the RP spend (or the number of research tiers/themes unlocked). I see no reason to add another kind of upkeep. I think upkeep is inherently more complex in game consequences than monotonic cost increase and that is also why we have the ship upkeep like it is.

edit: this would both be nice game rules: imperial research point inflation on/off, universal tech proliferation on/off (or some scaling factor to be used)
Last edited by Ophiuchus on Tue May 05, 2020 11:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Oberlus
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#10 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:50 am...
ThinkSome has not enough gameplay experience to judge any of this. In all his games against human players he has been very lucky regarding species and starting conditions and has never been in the losing side. I already explained to him what's the point of trying to make things more balanced but he will just not understand until he is in the unlucky side because he is unable to put himself in other's shoes.

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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#11 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 11:53 am Or the other way round. Like upping the cost of researching with the RP spend (or the number of research tiers/themes unlocked). I see no reason to add another kind of upkeep. I think upkeep is inherently more complex in game consequences than monotonic cost increase and that is also why we have the ship upkeep like it is.

edit: this would both be nice game rules: imperial research point inflation on/off, universal tech proliferation on/off (or some scaling factor to be used)
Upping or downing the cost of techs depending on how many you have or how many have your opponents is complex in the sense that you can't know in advance what will be the cost (or even because it can change cost mid-ways). It also is complex because there is no clear way to know how to increase or decrease those costs, and in any case it requires complex formulas.
Upkeep of already researched techs is simple because it is a readily understood mechanic with a simple formula: you have to pay a fee for the techs you have, and you pay it depending on its cost. The game consequences are another thing, I know, but there is a trade-off here: either you accept the exponential growth as a problem without solution, or you accept upkeep as the solution and deal with the issues it brings in (namely: what happens when I can't pay the upkeep? and that isn't that complex to solve: you lose stuff and deal with that, which is exactly what one would expect from controlling exponential growth).

I see those reasons to add a research upkeep, the same reason I see to add an upkeep for ships and colonies. However, I mean an actual upkeep, something that you pay on a regular basis after the acquisition of something. Currently we have no upkeeps in-game. Increasing the cost of a ship depending on number of ships, in a one-time payment, is not an upkeep, it is something else, and it does not allow to control exponential growth, as we already know (otherwise there would we no reason for the planned influence upkeep, isn't it?).

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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#12 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 12:09 pm I see those reasons to add a research upkeep, the same reason I see to add an upkeep for ships and colonies. However, I mean an actual upkeep, something that you pay on a regular basis after the acquisition of something. Currently we have no upkeeps in-game. Increasing the cost of a ship depending on number of ships, in a one-time payment, is not an upkeep, it is something else, and it does not allow to control exponential growth, as we already know (otherwise there would we no reason for the planned influence upkeep, isn't it?).
Yes, we want to address exponential growth (of planets/sources of RP/PP production) using influence upkeep. If that works there is no reason to add another kind of upkeep to address exponential growth.

One step after the other. It might even mean that we have to to make cost in the current research tree more linear.
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#13 Post by Vezzra »

I've already made a rather lengthy post on the subject of exponential growth in the other thread, but I'll repeat here what I said there:

I've suggested it many times already in the past, but one comparably simple measure we could take would be to rebalance the various boni you get from techs, buildings, specials, and massively tone them down. Also, increase the base resource output substantially. For example, let's start with a base resource output of 1 per pop (for pop based boni) for the focus setting. And have pop based boni granted by techs, buildings and specials in the range of 0.02 (very small boni) to 0.2 (very big boni).

That alone won't solve all our problems, but I think it's one mandatory thing we need to do. Being able to practically double your resource output with only moderate investment will inevitably result in an overwhelming exponential growth and just can't work. Whatever else we're going to do, we need to get in this fix.

The influence mechanic of course has to go in too. We need proper upkeep mechanics.

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labgnome
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#14 Post by labgnome »

Oberlus wrote: Tue May 05, 2020 12:09 pmUpkeep of already researched techs is simple because it is a readily understood mechanic with a simple formula: you have to pay a fee for the techs you have, and you pay it depending on its cost. The game consequences are another thing, I know, but there is a trade-off here: either you accept the exponential growth as a problem without solution, or you accept upkeep as the solution and deal with the issues it brings in (namely: what happens when I can't pay the upkeep? and that isn't that complex to solve: you lose stuff and deal with that, which is exactly what one would expect from controlling exponential growth).
So basically a research upkeep in addition to colony and ship upkeep. I think I like the idea. You'd need to have the total number of RP invested in research known.

As far as game consequences go, I was thinking that an influence deficit should reduce happiness/stability on a planet until it rebels and that this should be based on jumps from the capitol, plus any other factors already effecting the planet.
Vezzra wrote: Wed May 06, 2020 3:58 pmI've suggested it many times already in the past, but one comparably simple measure we could take would be to rebalance the various boni you get from techs, buildings, specials, and massively tone them down. Also, increase the base resource output substantially. For example, let's start with a base resource output of 1 per pop (for pop based boni) for the focus setting. And have pop based boni granted by techs, buildings and specials in the range of 0.02 (very small boni) to 0.2 (very big boni).
Given that the current output is 0.2 per pop, upping it to 1.0 per pop should also require increasing the cost of everything by a factor of 5. At least if we want to preserve any to the current cost balance.

My one concern is that such an endeavor would become so extensive that it would never get done. However I am willing to flesh out the details in this thread if you are up to it. Were you thinking 0.2 as the maximum individual bonus or as the maximum combined bonus?
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Re: Fix Exponential Growth

#15 Post by Ophiuchus »

Could you guys at least try not to reinvent Stellaris?
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