Influence mechanics brainstorming

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Geoff the Medio
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Influence mechanics brainstorming

#1 Post by Geoff the Medio »

EDIT by Vezzra: Split this thread from here. /EDIT


I've added an influence focus and species influence abilities, like for other resource outputs. It would be useful to get suggestions for which species should be good/bad/ultimate/terrible/no influence generators.

I'm also adding various new policies. It would be useful to have a list of policies that each species would like or dislike if an empire adopted the policy.

I don't want to add "upkeep" costs directly to policies, but rather as effects from the policy on objects, which are tallied up in the empire's influence output total. The Engineering Corps policy already does this with ships. I don't want policies to be auto-removed for lack of influence. Rather, they can always be de-adopted by the player if their costs are too much.

There might be some interesting choices with costs to de-adopt policies, though. Particularly if empires start with some policies in place and have to spend IP to de-adopt them to free up a slot and to remove their (probably mostly negative) effects. But this needs to be done in a way that doesn't let players de-adopt by just not having enough slots.

A downside to having not enough IP is presently that you then can't adopt any policies. Likely some additional need for spending IP to keep planets happy is necessary, though, which can't happen if you don't have any IP to spend. This depends on more stuff requiring happy planets, though, to be meaningful. I'm also pondering making issuing some orders cost IP and require IP to be issued, including focus changes, fleet move orders, or research queue manipulation.

But things need to never get in a situation where the player has no IP so can't issue an order or de-adopt the policy to remove the thing that's causing them to have no IP...

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Re: 0.5 roadmap

#2 Post by labgnome »

Geoff the Medio wrote: Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:05 pmI've added an influence focus and species influence abilities, like for other resource outputs. It would be useful to get suggestions for which species should be good/bad/ultimate/terrible/no influence generators.
I started a topic here on that subject.
I'm also adding various new policies. It would be useful to have a list of policies that each species would like or dislike if an empire adopted the policy.
I suggested grouping policies into different categories called "ideals" that species could like or dislike in these topics here, here and here. The basic idea being that species would have "values" that each correspond to a different "ideal" with binary opposing categories of each. Species would like policies with ideals that correspond to their values and dislike policies with opposite ideals corresponding to opposite values.
A downside to having not enough IP is presently that you then can't adopt any policies. Likely some additional need for spending IP to keep planets happy is necessary, though, which can't happen if you don't have any IP to spend. This depends on more stuff requiring happy planets, though, to be meaningful. I'm also pondering making issuing some orders cost IP and require IP to be issued, including focus changes, fleet move orders, or research queue manipulation.
I would tentatively be against research queue manipulation costs. Also, I think it would make more sense to have focus switching require a minimum happiness rather than cost influence.
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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#3 Post by Vezzra »

Geoff the Medio wrote: Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:05 pmI don't want to add "upkeep" costs directly to policies, but rather as effects from the policy on objects, which are tallied up in the empire's influence output total.
I very much like that approach. More intuitive and interesting IMO.
I don't want policies to be auto-removed for lack of influence. Rather, they can always be de-adopted by the player if their costs are too much.
Seconded.
There might be some interesting choices with costs to de-adopt policies, though. Particularly if empires start with some policies in place and have to spend IP to de-adopt them to free up a slot and to remove their (probably mostly negative) effects. But this needs to be done in a way that doesn't let players de-adopt by just not having enough slots.
That's a can of worms (for reasons you cite yourself subsequently) I'd rather not open. The gameplay effects are essentially the same, or at least far too similar to gaining something by adopting policies.

Because, in the end, you're spending IP to get a desired effect. If you spend that IP to remove a policy to get rid of undesired effects, and thereby gain an advantage/improvement, or spend IP to adopt a policy, and thereby gain an advantage/improvement (in maybe a slightly different way) doesn't add nearly enough distinct interesting choices/gameplay to be worth the complications that come with it.

It would just create too much corner cases/special cases you need to pay attention to, IMO.
I'm also pondering making issuing some orders cost IP and require IP to be issued, including focus changes, fleet move orders, or research queue manipulation.
Requiring focus changes to cost IP is a thought I already has too, and I think it's a very good idea. It would be a very effective means to counter micromanaging focus settings. Although, IMO, there has to be an important exception: switching to Influence focus needs to be without IP costs, to prevent the conundrum where empires short on Influence can't do anything anymore about a most likely continously deteriorating situation because they do not have the IP to switch some of their colonies to the Influence focus.

Like you pointed out yourself subsequently.

Not so sure about the other two. There could be certain special fleet orders which cost influence to carry out, but I wouldn't incur IP costs for fleet orders in general. While the idea certainly has appeal, the micromanagement potential is huge, and I suspect it would turn out to be more tedious than fun. With every fleet order you'd have to consider the associated costs, meaning you'd have to try to optimize all your fleet movements (as well as other fleet actions). Considering how big a part of the game fleet orders are (meaning, how many of them you're issuing each turn), that doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

Regarding research queue manipulation: hmpf. I'm not at all sure that the decisions the player would have to make because of this would be actually fun, or if that would be perceived as annoying/tedious. If just enqueing techs cost IP, that will lead to the frustrating experience where you loose RP because you lack the IP to enqueue techs. And you'd incur costs for something that already has a cost - RP. Just adding costs of a different resource doesn't really add anything. So this is something I'd really want to avoid.

If you incur IP costs for moving already enqueued techs - well, in a way that's also incurring costs for something that already has a cost, in a way. If I reorder the research queue, I do that because of shifting priorities, and getting that one tech sooner comes at the cost of getting that other tech later. As a player, I already have to make important, often hard decisions here. Adding IP costs on top of that sounds more like making those decisions harder, without making them really more interesting.

And you can't really (in all those cases) try to address these issues by just "getting the costs right". If you lower the costs to the point where it wouldn't be perceived as annoying or tedious anymore, they will most likely also be so low as to be negligible, and therefore pointless. If you raise the costs enough so they actually do make a difference, they most likely are going to be felt painfully.
But things need to never get in a situation where the player has no IP so can't issue an order or de-adopt the policy to remove the thing that's causing them to have no IP...
Which is why I would not infer IP costs for de-adopting policies, only for adopting them. Maybe provide a policy that improves your Influence resource output and, as a special case, has no adoption costs - instead comes with a couple of severe negative effects, which are basically the costs for your "emergency influence generation" measures.

There have to be a couple of basic things at a players disposal that allow them to increase their IP output, which do not cost IP they can't afford.

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Re: 0.5 roadmap

#4 Post by Vezzra »

labgnome wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 2:01 amI would tentatively be against research queue manipulation costs.
Agreed (see above ;)).
Also, I think it would make more sense to have focus switching require a minimum happiness rather than cost influence.
Not so sure about that (even if we replace the concept of "happiness" with "stability" here). It's essentially a completely different thing, those two can't really "replace" each other, as the gameplay effects/dynamics are completely different.

Incurring IP costs for focus switching counters focus setting micromanagement, that would be the purpose of that mechanic. Requiring a happiness/stability limit wouldn't help anything in that regard, but have competely different effects: making it impossible to manage a colony properly and therefore requiring the player to take action if they want to make the colony more useful. But for that purpose I'd rather make it so that dropping below a certain happiness/stability limit would severly/completely cut resource output (not just prevent focus switching).

Or have both (IP costs and the happiness/stability limit for focus switching). But a happiness/stability limit requirement can't do what IP costs for focus switching do (and vice versa).

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Re: 0.5 roadmap

#5 Post by labgnome »

Vezzra wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:48 amIncurring IP costs for focus switching counters focus setting micromanagement, that would be the purpose of that mechanic. Requiring a happiness/stability limit wouldn't help anything in that regard, but have competely different effects: making it impossible to manage a colony properly and therefore requiring the player to take action if they want to make the colony more useful. But for that purpose I'd rather make it so that dropping below a certain happiness/stability limit would severly/completely cut resource output (not just prevent focus switching).
Okay, I get the idea now.
FYI: I'm also in favor of stability affecting resource output.
Or have both (IP costs and the happiness/stability limit for focus switching). But a happiness/stability limit requirement can't do what IP costs for focus switching do (and vice versa).
I'm for both.
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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#6 Post by labgnome »

Vezzra wrote: Wed Jul 29, 2020 10:35 amRequiring focus changes to cost IP is a thought I already has too, and I think it's a very good idea. It would be a very effective means to counter micromanaging focus settings. Although, IMO, there has to be an important exception: switching to Influence focus needs to be without IP costs, to prevent the conundrum where empires short on Influence can't do anything anymore about a most likely continously deteriorating situation because they do not have the IP to switch some of their colonies to the Influence focus.
What about each focus having an associated influence cost? Say something like the following:
  • Influence focus: cost 0 influence
  • Production focus: cost 25 influence
  • Research focus: cost 25 influence
  • Stockpile/Distribution focus: cost 50 influence
  • Defense focus: cost 50 influence
  • Logistics focus: cost 50 influence
  • Bioterror focus: cost 100 influence
  • Spatial Distortion focus: cost 100 influence
  • Stargate Send focus: cost 100 influence
  • Stargate receive focus: cost 100 influence
  • Planetary Star-Drive focus: cost 100 influence
  • Psi-Domination focus: cost 200 influence
Something we may need to consider is that we may need to also implement influence projects as well, in order to have sufficient influence sinks.
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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#7 Post by Vezzra »

labgnome wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 12:15 amWhat about each focus having an associated influence cost? Say something like the following...
Yes, good idea, makes sense to me. Some focus settings are definitely more powerful than others, and incurring higher IP costs for them would provide an effective means to balance them.
Something we may need to consider is that we may need to also implement influence projects as well, in order to have sufficient influence sinks.
Influence projects are most definitely on the roadmap. Probably not already in 0.5, as that will likely be too much, but certainly in subsequent releases.

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#8 Post by labgnome »

Vezzra wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 10:43 amInfluence projects are most definitely on the roadmap. Probably not already in 0.5, as that will likely be too much, but certainly in subsequent releases.
I was thinking something skeletal, like maybe just moving the outpost colonization to an influence cost.
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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#9 Post by Vezzra »

Based on the things we want to include into the main focus of 0.5 (see this post in the 0.5 roadmap thread), a couple of preliminary ideas have already been discussed at yesterdays online voice chat meeting.

Influence maintenance costs for colonies: Currently the ideas floating around seem to tend toward having influence cost per colony, and maybe also per system, but we haven't been specific at all regarding that in yesterdays talk. The consensus is merely that colonies should cost influence each turn. I'd suggest, for a first implementation, to keep to something very simple (meaning, not yet taking into account all possible factors, but maybe just have a cost of x IP per system an empire has colonies in, plus y IP per colony).

As the basic idea is to have IP costs not grow linearly, but exponentially with number of colonies, a first very simple formula that has been suggested is making the IP costs dependent on distance to capital, with another increase in costs if a colony/system isn't supply connected to the capital.

IMO such a "prototype" implementation should give us a first feeling about how that mechanic is going to work, and what dynamics it will create.

Consequences of an IP deficit: There are various ideas (see above, IP costs for fleet orders etc.), some of which might have issues (again, see discussion above). One thing that will work "out of the box" is that you can't do things that cost influence of course (so, e.g. no adopting policies). That alone won't be enough though, so another thing we could agree on yesterday was that an IP deficit should impact the stability (former happiness) stat. Once stability drops below certain tresholds, things should happen.

For that to work, things have to be tied to stability, that will be impaired or outright stop working if stability drops too low. With such a mechanic, an IP deficit won't have immediate consequences (which is what we aim for). Stability on your colonies will begin to drop, giving the player the opportunity to react, and only a continued shortage will lead to stability dropping so low that actual consequences kick in.

Those are the ideas so far, details to be discussed (preferably in dedicated threads). But this is the general direction we propose.

Designing and implementing all that will give us already a lot of ground to cover, so it's probably best to keep things simple for 0.5. We can always make things more sophisticated, or change what doesn't work later on.

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#10 Post by Oberlus »

Vezzra wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:08 pm As the basic idea is to have IP costs not grow linearly, but exponentially with number of colonies, a first very simple formula that has been suggested is making the IP costs dependent on distance to capital, with another increase in costs if a colony/system isn't supply connected to the capital.
Will that be dependend on the number of systems so that it scalates well with galaxy size?
Otherwise, it will be impossible to occupy big galaxies or the upkeep will be negligible for small galaxies.

I suggest setting the maximum colony (or system) IP upkeep depending on the total number of systems (something like this).
It is not more complex (would use same kind of formula, with galaxy size in it), and testing from start what seems better would save time.

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#11 Post by Oberlus »

How do influence meters work currently?
I glanced over the FOCS code and this is what I understood:

- Each planet and ship has a influence target meter and influence meter.
- There is a imperial (hidden?) meter with the accumulated influence points provided by each colony/ship.
- Adopting policies consume accumulated IP via "adoptioncost" int the policy definition.
- Other effects to consume IP does it by affecting the TargetInfluence meters of their targets (planets or ships), like the influence malus from PLC_ENGINEERING that gives -0.1 TargetInfluence for each ship.
- Current PP upkeep mechanics are still in place, affected by some policies (like ship upkeep, that is halved by PLC_ENGINEERING).

I think splitting the responsability of empire balancing (counter snowball, compensated effect of unbalanced starting conditions, etc.) into the two resources of PP and IP is a bad idea, difficulting the labor of balance. If not in 0.5, soon after that upkeep mechanics with only IP costs should be tested. But I recommend doing it now, by disabling completely the PP upkeep factors and initializing the starting influence target meters of ships and colonies (that AFAIK are currently set to zero) to some negative value depending on the number of colonies/ships (exactly like the current PP upkeep, with any necessary adjustment of constants).

Is there a way to make one-time withdrawals from the accumulated IP, like when adopting policies, in FOCS? Or all effects should be applied to target influence meters (so one-time FOCS effects would be possible only by applying the influence malus on a single turn)?

Does target influence meters allow negative values (so that each turn they take from the accumulated IP)?

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#12 Post by labgnome »

Vezzra wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:08 pmAs the basic idea is to have IP costs not grow linearly, but exponentially with number of colonies, a first very simple formula that has been suggested is making the IP costs dependent on distance to capital, with another increase in costs if a colony/system isn't supply connected to the capital.
We will probably need an "administration center" building to ameliorate the penalties for supply disconnected empires like the Sly. Probably make it 1 per supply group and not able to be built supply connected to the capitol.
Consequences of an IP deficit: There are various ideas (see above, IP costs for fleet orders etc.), some of which might have issues (again, see discussion above). One thing that will work "out of the box" is that you can't do things that cost influence of course (so, e.g. no adopting policies). That alone won't be enough though, so another thing we could agree on yesterday was that an IP deficit should impact the stability (former happiness) stat. Once stability drops below certain tresholds, things should happen.

For that to work, things have to be tied to stability, that will be impaired or outright stop working if stability drops too low. With such a mechanic, an IP deficit won't have immediate consequences (which is what we aim for). Stability on your colonies will begin to drop, giving the player the opportunity to react, and only a continued shortage will lead to stability dropping so low that actual consequences kick in.
I already proposed something like that over here. The idea could probably be re-worked into something that fits into what we're discussing now.
Oberlus wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:42 pm I think splitting the responsability of empire balancing (counter snowball, compensated effect of unbalanced starting conditions, etc.) into the two resources of PP and IP is a bad idea, difficulting the labor of balance. If not in 0.5, soon after that upkeep mechanics with only IP costs should be tested. But I recommend doing it now, by disabling completely the PP upkeep factors and initializing the starting influence target meters of ships and colonies (that AFAIK are currently set to zero) to some negative value depending on the number of colonies/ships (exactly like the current PP upkeep, with any necessary adjustment of constants).
I agree, which is why I think that ship upkeep and planet upkeep should be rolled out together.
Does target influence meters allow negative values (so that each turn they take from the accumulated IP)?
I would also like to know this, as it would effect what kinds of ideas I would like to propose.
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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#13 Post by Vezzra »

Oberlus wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:34 pmWill that be dependend on the number of systems so that it scalates well with galaxy size?
Otherwise, it will be impossible to occupy big galaxies or the upkeep will be negligible for small galaxies.
One way or the other we'll have to make sure that IP production will scale well enough to meet the IP maintenance costs of even very big empires on very large maps. We must avoid a hard cap - meaning, there must not be an upper limit of systems/colonies an empire can sustain with all IP production boosts maxed out (all max boni from techs, buildings and specials). The IP maintenance costs have to stay a soft cap on even the largest maps.

How to achieve that is a different question. Scaling the costs depending on map size is one option, probably the most simple one. It's certainly something we can always fall back on if everything else fails, but personally I'd prefer if we could achieve that goal by clever design and balancing of the involved mechanics and elements.

However we're going to do it in the end, the concern most certainly is valid and needs to be addressed. A hard cap on how big empires can grow is not acceptable.

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#14 Post by Vezzra »

Oberlus wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 3:42 pmI think splitting the responsability of empire balancing (counter snowball, compensated effect of unbalanced starting conditions, etc.) into the two resources of PP and IP is a bad idea, difficulting the labor of balance. If not in 0.5, soon after that upkeep mechanics with only IP costs should be tested.
I couldn't agree more. But then, it's not exactly a secret that I've never been a big fan of the current upkeep mechanics and always wanted them to see replaced with something better... ;)

However, that said...
But I recommend doing it now...
...I still wonder if it really would be that much of a problem if, for 0.5, we'd just stick with adding the colony maintenance costs and leave switching the current PP upkeep mechanics for ships in 0.5.1. In 0.5 things will be not very well balanced anyway, we can't expect to get things right on the first try - unless we're willing to commit to an excessively long release cycle. I'd remove the current PP cost increase mechanics from colony buildings and colony ship parts though, as it doesn't make sense IMO to have both IP and PP maintenance costs for the same thing.

That said, if you guys want to change the ship maintenance mechanics to IP costs already in 0.5, I'm not really strongly opposed to it.

Geoff however might have an opinion on that matter, especially considering that he still seems not entirely convinced about completely removing the current PP upkeep mechanics and replacing it with IP maintenance costs. Judging by the Engineering policy he added, and various statements he made, I think he'd prefer to have both and have policies decide what kind of upkeep mechanic you want to employ in your empire. Geoff?

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Re: Influence mechanics brainstorming

#15 Post by Vezzra »

labgnome wrote: Thu Jul 30, 2020 11:26 pmWe will probably need an "administration center" building to ameliorate the penalties for supply disconnected empires like the Sly.
Good point. We need to provide means for such empires so they remain viable/playable.
I already proposed something like that over here. The idea could probably be re-worked into something that fits into what we're discussing now.
From what I can see by a quick glance, what's discussed there sounds more like a long-term goal, about what we want in the end. For 0.5 we just need something more simple, that will be extended or even replaced by something more sophisticated/better other later on.

E.g. the whole species-empire, species-species relations and allegiance thing is something I definitely don't want to tackle in 0.5 already. One step at a time... ;)

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