Oberlus wrote: ↑Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:27 pm
"another increase in costs if a colony/system isn't supply connected to the capital": Supply disconnected empires would suffer.
That concern has already been raised, and I agree, it needs to be addressed. The question is how...
They already suffer the low stockpile extraction capacities, losing production when setting some planets to stockpile focus, and having to devote also extra systems to compensate for extra influence costs will have to be balanced somehow, since distributed empires are currently not the most efficient or effective strategy. Maybe a policy that reduces or disables the increased IP costs for disconnected systems, or reducing/disabling it depending on the stockpile trait of the species in the disconnected systems/planets, or both, or something else. I prefer a policy than a building, like the one suggested by labgnome.
This is true, and needs to be addressed. However, this, as you correctly point out, isn't just, or better, isn't really an issue with distance based IP costs, but a much broader issue with supply disconnected empires and how to make them a really viable choice.
I've opened a separate thread
where I want to propose a mechanic that should help address the fundamental issues raised by supply disconnected empires.
In any case, managing this restriction seems not easy (when an empire has N supply groups, how does the malus apply? equally to every supply group? to all but the one connected to the capital system? other?).
I'm not sure I follow - what has the number of spearate supply groups to do with it? The only factor would be "is a colony supply connected to the capital". If yes, normal costs apply. If not, the costs are increased by a certain factor (1.1 or whatever, I would not set it too high, at least not in the first iteration).
The only special case I see that will be difficult to handle is if there is not only no supply connection, but if there is no starlane connection at all (for whatever reason - a starlane has been removed, you gained a colony in a disconnected part of the map because of an event, etc.). Then it wouldn't be possible to calculate a hop distance at all, meaning the IP costs for such a colony needed to be calculated differently. Basically we need a fallback for that special case.
Fortunately that's a very rare edge case.
So I recommend to just discard this requirement for 0.5, or at least until the rest of the mechanics are in place and we can see how it works
That's certainly an option. Personally I don't expect the issues you brought up to be a real concern, especially if we address the issues of supply disconnected empires with the proposed "Origin" concept, but I'm not that strongly opposed to the idea to first try it without incurring extra costs for not supply connected colonies.
"x IP per system an empire has colonies in": I would stick to just "y IP per colony". Otherwise we are encouraging empires to focus on multi-planet systems, which are already the preferred ones (easier to defend from multiple planetary defenses, usually with asteroids or GGs to boost production). And this also hinders stealth distributed empires (that usually focus on getting only the planets good for the high stealth species, like GGs for Sly or swamp/ocean/terran for Laenfa).
IIRC the idea behind this was to encourage exactly that - players focusing on multi-planet systems, and make putting colonies everywhere more costly, so that colonizing as much systems as possible isn't really viable. Of course, if you want such a dynamic very much depends what your personal preferences are. So I can certainly see where you're coming from.
The best idea would probably to have a policy for that - depending on what the "default" case should be, either a policy that removes the system IP costs in exchange for higher colony IP costs (in that case having system and colony IP costs would be the default), or a policy that reduces colony IP costs, in exchange for now having to also pay IP costs for each system you have colonies in (in that case having IP costs only for colonies would be the default).
The latter is probably better, expecially if we want to start simple for 0.5.
As far as supply disconnected empires are concerned -> "Origins" would solve that.
- "a first very simple formula that has been suggested is making the IP costs dependent on distance to capital": distance is appealing, easy to understand and relatively easy to manage (you want the closes planets first).
Exactly. And the "exponentially increasing IP costs" effect would more or less happen automatically, no need for complicated formulas or calculation, as you seem to assume - see my answer to your concerns below.
But again this goes in detriment of stealth distributed empires
Which I hope can again be addressed by the "Origins" concept.
and requires more complex calculations if using hop distance (unless inter-system distances are calculated and stored just once, IDK). The formula would be something like
IP_upkeep(colony) = C * (1+R)^distance(colony, capital)
- C is the starting IP cost per colony (say 1).
- R is the growth rate (e.g. 0.1 for a 10% increase per distance unit; I'm not suggesting that value).
- distance between colony and capital is measured in hops or straight line (more meaningful the former, but more computational demanding; both similarly easy to estimate by players).
For C=1 IP, R=0.1 and distance in hops, the IP consumed in each colony depending on distance would be 1.1 for one hop, 1.21 for two, 2.59 for ten, 6.73 for twenty...
Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on for a moment, not so fast!
You think way too complicated, my idea was much more simple: colony IP cost depend on distance to capital - period. No need to increase the costs of a hop the farther away we get, so just:
IP_upkeep(colony) = C * distance(colony, capital)
Assuming C=1 (for simplicity sake), that means colonies one hop away from capital cost 1IP upkeep, 2 hops away will cost 2IP upkeep and so on. Increasing IP costs for colonies the bigger your empire gets comes, as I said above, automatically, because the bigger you get, the more and farther away colonies (which are more expensive) you have to sustain - non-linear growth of IP costs, checked.
And it's achieved by the most simple formula possible. Which is why I would try that for 0.5 and see how well it works, because if it does, we'd have something that is both effective and simple. I don't see how you could get non-linear IP cost increase for colonies more KISS than that...
Of course, as you very rightly point out, that leaves the issue of how to avoid a hard cap to be solved.
R could be adjusted to the galaxy hops diameter, so that average colony upkeep when conquering the whole galaxy implies IP costs to force most colonies (80%? 95%? not easy, needs math) to influence focus.
I don't think that such an approach is necessary, or desired. The IP maintenance cost mechanic is supposed to slow down the snowballing growth effect
(caused by exponentially increasing resource output), not
to actually make very large empires harder to maintain. It should just require more effort to get there, not make it impossible.
Meaning, I don't see the need to actually balance the mechanic in a way that would require the player to sacrifice an ever growing part of their colonies to Influence focus. There should be means (which of course need to be acquired by making investments like researching certain techs) that allow an empire to cut back on the number of colonies it needs to dedicate to IP production, or to sustain more colonies with the same amount of colonies set to Influence focus.
It requires to estimate average colony upkeep for a "unbiased" capital world location (not in the center, not in a corner). The fact that center empires get benefited on the long run from this formula seems interesting for balance purposes (empires starting in the center tend to be in disadvantage). Because galaxy shapes do influence that average value, we would need several equations (maybe not as many as galaxy shapes). All this seems rather non-simple, especially for implementation (the equations must be right) and player estimation of future costs. However, if someone can come up with the equations for each galaxy shape, I guess the player concerns are of less importance here.
Galaxy shape most certainly is going to have a significant impact if we base IP costs on distance to capital, but that's actually a good thing IMO, because it makes the choice of the galaxy shape more interesting, and the different galaxy shapes offer more distinct gameplay experiences. The effect it has on where you start (center or edgde) is also something I like very much.
The key, again, will be to design the entire mechanic in a way that it can scale dynamically with map size, by providing the player with the means to boost their IP production, reduce their colony IP costs, and whatever else can help in that department that will ultimately allow them to create empires of any size.
Ignoring distance in the upkeep costs and just considering percentage of galaxy colonized by the empire means that all concerns about hindering distributed empires get solved at once, and that only a single equation to adjust IP colony upkeep to galaxy size is required.
The alternative I suggested in the other thread does not take into account distance to capital, just galaxy size, but it used a linear growth equation. We could use something like the following instead to ensure exponencial upkeep cost increase:
IP_upkeep(colony) = M^(empire_colonies/galaxy_planets)
- M is the maximum cost per colony when the whole galaxy is colonized by the empire.
M should be adjusted so that most colonies would be forced to influence when 100% of the galaxy is owned by the empire, and that is easier than with distance models (see the other thread for some discussion on the subject).
That approach simplifies things when focusing on the one end of the problem - end game, when empires encompass significant or the largest part of the map, avoiding the hard cap. But aside from being less interesting than e.g. distance based IP costs, it actually raises very different issues on the other end of the problem - game start.
Because if you set up a game where map size and number of players is chosen so that there are, say, ~30 systems per player, it doesn't (or it shouldn't) make any difference at all how big the entire map is up until at least
the point where empires reach a size of ~30 colonies. And even then things shouldn't make much of a difference, aside from the fact that you now need to fight for space because you've run out of it. But a 100 colony empire should not play differently on a 200 systems map than on a 2000 systems map.
You can't sustain that when you start adjusting costs (regardless for what) to map size. Because it makes costs for things very different right from game start, when you're still far from becoming so large that being on a extremely big map triggers issues. Wether a colony costs 1IP or 0.1IP when you start will have tremendous impact on how well the IP cost mechanic can do it's job, balance completely changes when costs changes.
Scaling the IP costs with map size will have the effect that empires on large maps grow significantly faster than on small maps - and I don't think that's a good idea. The reason why you might want to play on a big map might be that you want a game with a lot of players, but still 30 systems per player. And the game shouldn't go faster just because you're on a bigger map.
Aside from the fact that how much of an advantage your starting species having good influence or how much of an disadvantage having bad influence will change drastically, basically screwing up balancing species traits. Which brings me to the core problem of that approach: you're creating a balancing nightmare. You can't just balance one element or factor in the whole equation that is the game and all it's mechanics and elements - if you scale with map size, you'd have to scale practically everything. Otherwise the balance between stuff that scales with map size and stuff that doesn't will change (drastically!) depending on map size...
I hope you can see the issue.
My solution would be to provide enough things the player can acquire so they can continue boosting their IP production and reducing their IP consumption. Some of which have to be kind of "repeatable", meaning, you have to be able to apply them an infinite number to times, while still getting benefit from them.
Example: the "Administrative Center" labgnome suggested elsewhere. IP costs for colonies could be calculated based on distance to the nearest Adminstrative Center (which would make the colonies they are placed on some kind of "Sector Capital") instead just the capital (or, more precise, the Imperial Palace, which would count as a Administrative Center for that purpose). Unlike the Imperial Palace however, the colony the Administrative Center is build on will have vastly increased IP costs, based on distance to the capital - thus discouraging spamming Adminstrative Centers.
Add to that techs that let you increase IP production, decrease colony IP consumption (e.g. by reducing the IP costs per hop), have refinements for the Imperial Palace and the Administrative Center that make them more effective, and ultimately, as some very high end late game tech, provide something that finally brings IP cost increase for additional colonies down to linear progression (which basically allows for inifinte further growth of the empire), which at that point in the game shouldn't be an issue.
That would be my approach to tackle that admittedly tricky issue.