Balancing gifting with influence and stability

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Oberlus
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Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#1 Post by Oberlus »

Gifting of planets (specially) and fleets (not so much) is seen as OP:
L29Ah wrote: Sat Dec 28, 2019 6:10 pm
Oberlus wrote: Thu Dec 26, 2019 4:43 pm Do you think planet and colony/outpost ship gifting is OP?

It can be used by well-coordinated allied players to boost growth.
I think warship gifting is OP.
wobbly wrote: Fri Sep 04, 2020 9:38 am
Magnate wrote: Thu Sep 03, 2020 4:19 pm My start was not especially good but when Hyp and I exchanged species I suddenly had much more potential because I had a lot of Barren planets (poor for my Etty but adequate for George).
I'm disliking gifting more and more all the time, as it too easily takes away a race's weak points and uniqueness. What point is Gysache's weak ships if they just swap and never build Gysache? Seems different to when you have to capture a colony with weak military to get that perk. What point Etty being bad at production, when not really because you can build good production George colonies?

I guess there's good and bad to having gifting in the game, but mostly I don't like it. Any plans for this changing when influence is added to the game? I noticed allied repair became a policy, I'm wondering about something similar.
Oberlus wrote: Fri Sep 04, 2020 11:09 am Agree. It bothers me less in allied-victory games, where you can see each alliance as a team, but still...

With influence, gifting colonies could consume IP, and gifted colonies could get a stability malus (much like being conquered), as well as other colonies of the same species (a smaller malus). We need to think about this.
Magnate wrote: Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:57 am I agree too. Giving gifted colonies zero happiness/PP/RP (like being conquered) we could do now. Then when influence is working that could be the resource that allows gifting. Bearing in mind you only have to give one colony to give your ally your good pilots/research/production, it can be quite expensive.

Let's discuss how to make gifting less OP with the help of influence and stability. And any other way you can come up with.
Up to now we have we can set stability to zero on the gifted colonies (hey! you gave me away!), apply a certain stability malus to same species (hey! you gave away our brothers!), and make any gifting cost IP.
What could be the right IP cost for species-gifting, where a single gift can enable a empire to totally overcome their (starting) species disadvantages and end up with only advantages?

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#2 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Sat Sep 05, 2020 9:33 am What could be the right IP cost for species-gifting, where a single gift can enable a empire to totally overcome their (starting) species disadvantages and end up with only advantages?
Dont forget you can also gift planets without the gifting mechanic. Whatever the cost it probably should usually be cheaper than invading a planet of that species.
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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#3 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Mon Sep 07, 2020 8:50 am Dont forget you can also gift planets without the gifting mechanic. Whatever the cost it probably should usually be cheaper than invading a planet of that species.
Yes, cooperating players could exchange planets while at war by just letting each other to conquer a colony. If done with a proper timing (invasion right after colonization), the number of required troopers is negligible and the exchange can be quite cheap. And by doing it while at war they won't let other players know they are cooperating. Quite an exploit against whatever mechanics we introduce to balance gifting.

Hmmm...

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#4 Post by Geoff the Medio »

The vague plan is to make invading a planet make its species dislike the invading empire.

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#5 Post by Oberlus »

Geoff the Medio wrote: Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:00 pm The vague plan is to make invading a planet make its species dislike the invading empire.

Ways to acquire another species and their costs:

* Conquest:
- Armed ships to defeat defense (variable PP, but more than founding a colony, usually growing with size of empires).
- Troop ships to invade planet (idem).
- Invaded species dislikes invader empire, and that cause trouble (not really specific for now).

* Gifting:
- Some IP.
- Gifted species dislikes donor empire, and that causes trouble like delay on output (not really specific for now).

* Fake conquest (concealed gifting while at war):
- Troop ships to invade a just-colonized planet (minimum PP).
- Invaded species dislikes invader empire, and that cause trouble (not really specific for now).


So fake conquest would still be the cheapest way to exchange species.

Punishing empires that do not defend their planets would be bad for loosing empires: they can't defend some of their planets and not only they lose assets but they also get their remaining colonies angry at them.

There must be something...

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#6 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Mon Sep 07, 2020 2:39 pm - Gifted species dislikes donor empire, and that causes trouble like delay on output (not really specific for now).
I do not see that the general necessity for that. Is this for penalizing back-and-forth gifting? For fluff and balancing this could be true for some species. Other possible "disconnection" effects: dissociative identity disorder for george, abadonni emancipation,...

Generally I do not think that going for a mixed empire is a bad thing and species exchange is a quite natural win-win situation leading to a more mixed empire/more unified trait profile in the empires.

I think the underlying "problem" is that acquiring a trait with huge leverage needs only minimal commitment (e.g. one population of good pilots to build a better fleet).
So the solution to that problem is that in order to benefit from a species trade one must invest in that species e.g. in terms of population-space, rare-resource allocation or similar.

So tying ship build times to population would be a solution, but that "solution" is worse than the "problem".

Another solution would be tying both stability and the use of a trait to population representation (like in my government institutions/seats idea).
What i mean by that:
  • some way of marking representation. Representation leads to stability for such species. So usually you would want species with the most population to be represented to have less stability issues.
  • without representation eaxaw wont build (war-)ships. (This could be the same for all good pilots or different for species)
  • without representation of a telepathic species, telepathy is not cheaper to research..
We could try first to use only stability:
  • some restricted way of adding stability to a species. e.g. imperial palace and maybe a second building with a lower effect. Or adding stability for a species based on species-population/all-population ratio in the empire.
  • below a certain threshold of stability a planet cant build ships. maybe a higher threshold for military ships (troop, fighters and weapon parts)
  • telepathy is cheaper to research based on sum-over-planets(telepathy-population * stability), so it becomes cheaper (or simply apply the ratio of telepathic-population/all-population to the reduction)
I guess there will be many effects affecting stability so it probably will be hard to get the intended result.

Or one simply accepts that gifting is valid move and does not try to penalize it in the first place.
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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#7 Post by Oberlus »

I like those ideas, but I think they don't address the issue: sharing species is OP compared to battling for species, so that cooperative players get a big advantage over unlucky or non-cooperative players. That is not always bad from every POV, like when playing a free diplomacy game with tens of players (I would expect players to form alliances and share species), but it is a serious problem in some game settings:
- In games with few players and species, where usually only a fraction of the players will have access to the OP combo of species (e.g. good/great pilots + g/g troops + g/g research + g/g production).
- Sometimes in fixed-alliance games, if one of the alliances start with a good combo and the other doesn't.
- In non-diplomacy games (empires can only be at war, no gifting allowed), where players that cooperate as in an alliance while at war can share species at a cheap cost (small troop ship) while players that honor the "non-diplomacy" nature of the game and play solo will have to actually battle for a new species.

The first two cases are very influenced by luck, and can be put in the same category as being unlucky with planets, specials, monsters and natives around HW. The third one is more like an exploit.
I'd like to make sharing-while-at-war as expensive as actual conquering to remove the exploit, and for all three cases make species integration into empire something costly for balance purposes (lucky vs unlucky).

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#8 Post by wobbly »

Ophiuchus wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:50 am Generally I do not think that going for a mixed empire is a bad thing and species exchange is a quite natural win-win situation leading to a more mixed empire/more unified trait profile in the empires.
I'm not sure what you mean by natural here. Natural from a purely strategic point of view? I agree with that. Outside of strategy, I give you my colony in exchange for yours looks like slave trading to me. Which admittedly some empires might be fine with, though whether the people being traded would be happy with the arrangement might be another matter. I could see empires ending up with allied races naturally through civilian lines. Traders, workers etc. Though freeorion lacks a clean mechanic for that to happen with its simple segregated colonies.
Ophiuchus wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:50 am
I think the underlying "problem" is that acquiring a trait with huge leverage needs only minimal commitment (e.g. one population of good pilots to build a better fleet).
So the solution to that problem is that in order to benefit from a species trade one must invest in that species e.g. in terms of population-space, rare-resource allocation or similar.
I'd like to see the mix of pilots be a closer match to the mix of species in the empire. Not just for balance reason, but for atmospheric reason. Vast fleets made up of all the races of the empire sort of thing. Trouble is I can't think of a clean mechanic for it, due to the way freeorion lets you spend all your production in 1 place.

One of the other issues besides pilots is getting a colonize everywhere combo. Laenfa + Abbaddoni or Laenfa + George is pretty close to every planet. This seems not great to me for a couple of reasons. The first being colonize everywhere being boring. The second being a balance problem compared to combos on similar planet types. You're pretty screwed going up against that with human next to Eaxaw. Though arguably you're in a bad place no matter what there.

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#9 Post by Ophiuchus »

wobbly wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 2:23 pm I'd like to see the mix of pilots be a closer match to the mix of species in the empire. Not just for balance reason, but for atmospheric reason. Vast fleets made up of all the races of the empire sort of thing. Trouble is I can't think of a clean mechanic for it, due to the way freeorion lets you spend all your production in 1 place.
I suggested different target preferences for different species. Differing in: proud species likes to take down dangerous enemies, efficient species does not like to waste shots,...
So you could lure proud pilots to shoot at the wrong ships (putting the best shields on the dangerous ships).
wobbly wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 2:23 pm One of the other issues besides pilots is getting a colonize everywhere combo.
I hope colonize everywhere will be addressed with the influence mechanic. Meaning that influence becomes the bottleneck at least in mid-late game, not the environmental preferences.
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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#10 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 3:36 pm I hope colonize everywhere will be addressed with the influence mechanic. Meaning that influence becomes the bottleneck at least in mid-late game, not the environmental preferences.
Colonize everywhere will be tuned down by influence upkeep, but that won't fix env. tolerance superiority, since it causes the same delay for everyone (not stronger for those that colonize faster):
- Empire with poor alternatives (too far, too small, too sparse, no GG/belts) will grow slower and will have to battle for better planets, and will have to devote the same number of colonies to influence focus than anyone else.
- Empire with great alternatives will be able to grow faster unopposed.

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#11 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 9:02 am
Ophiuchus wrote: Tue Sep 08, 2020 3:36 pm I hope colonize everywhere will be addressed with the influence mechanic. Meaning that influence becomes the bottleneck at least in mid-late game, not the environmental preferences.
Colonize everywhere will be tuned down by influence upkeep, but that won't fix env. tolerance superiority, since it causes the same delay for everyone (not stronger for those that colonize faster):
- Empire with poor alternatives (too far, too small, too sparse, no GG/belts) will grow slower and will have to battle for better planets, and will have to devote the same number of colonies to influence focus than anyone else.
- Empire with great alternatives will be able to grow faster unopposed.
Not sure what you are trying to say. Good environmental tolerances is better than average environmental tolerance? Seems like intended.

My point was that i hope that empires will not invest so much in colonisation later on as to fill all the planets - as the payoff is not as big. Some for tall narrow strategy. Also with wide strategy going wide should stop paying off after a while in the sense that there are better alternatives for your investment than yet another colony.

Having a broad range of good environments available should make it possible to pack your empire more dense and thus have less conflicts with neighbors. That is a reason to trade/capture such a species and add it to your species mix. But why is that considered a problem? If you want a "fair" start in multiplayer, everyone has to start with the same empire species and a similar universe around the homeworld. Does that sound very interesting?
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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#12 Post by Oberlus »

Ophiuchus wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:26 pm Not sure what you are trying to say. Good environmental tolerances is better than average environmental tolerance? Seems like intended.
I'm talking about the colonization/population boost that two environmentally-different species get, related to species gifting. Which is what I think Wobbly was talking about when you answered that about IP uppeek becoming the bottleneck instead of available planets (environments). The point is that boost gated through cheap early species exchange (thanks to gifting) isn't countered by IP upkeep. Late game, OK, but that doesn't matter if some empires have twice the population than the rest, game is over already.

Ophiuchus wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:26 pm Having a broad range of good environments available should make it possible to pack your empire more dense and thus have less conflicts with neighbors. That is a reason to trade/capture such a species and add it to your species mix. But why is that considered a problem? If you want a "fair" start in multiplayer, everyone has to start with the same empire species and a similar universe around the homeworld. Does that sound very interesting?
I am talking about balancing the cost of acquiring species through the different means: real conquest (costly) vs fake conquest (exploit gifting) vs legit gifting. And also about keeping longer in game the differences in gameplay that comes with the different species. Obviously, removing available differences in gameplay is not the solution to increase available differences in gameplay. And obviously, removing species exchange would solve any issue stemming from species exchange, but we also don't want that. Maybe there is a solution, maybe there isn't, but the problem is there.

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#13 Post by wobbly »

Mostly what Oberlus just said. Also to some extent I'm more interested in playing say, Scyllor allied to Replicon rather then the Scyllor-Replicon allied to the Scyllor-Replicon.

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#14 Post by Krikkitone »

I see the balance working something like this

-invasion->major stability/species opinion penalty (to invader)
-gifting->tiny penalty to gifter and giftee

-species being a minority* in your empire->species opinion penalty

*can refer to total population or include things like “political strength” ie population * a multiplier based on your policy for that species (slaves or ruling class or xenocide targets)

That way it’s not just acquiring a species with good picks, it’s keeping that species from revolting

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Re: Balancing gifting with influence and stability

#15 Post by Ophiuchus »

Oberlus wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:54 pmAnd obviously, removing species exchange would solve any issue stemming from species exchange, but we also don't want that.
With (also normal) conquest being a kind species exchange. Similar for acquiring natives (though noting we design natives and empire species a bit different).
Oberlus wrote: Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:54 pm And also about keeping longer in game the differences in gameplay that comes with the different species. ...
Maybe there is a solution, maybe there isn't, but the problem is there.
You seem to think that this problem is not there for "regular" conquest, or acquiring natives.

If that is so.

For early game one could maybe tweak integration cost in a way that acquiring extra species is penalized so that if you had a choice you would keep only your starting species. For natives it is easy to set some extra PP-cost via giving some "independence"-troop bonus (with different attack-troop-bonus of starting species as a modifier).

For mid-game one could increase the cost of invading a fresh colony. E.g. give fresh colonies 15 troops in the beginning, melting one troop per turn. Even if the defending empire has no troops, it takes some turns until troop number is down.

I still dont think this is a real problem though. At least until we define a multiplayer-story which sais that early mixed empires should be expensive to acquire or another that sais all starting positions (and all possible alliances) should be equal. In board games at least uneven starting positions get evened out to a agree by the weaker ones banding together against the stronger ones.
It might be that this is different with FO because you do not have such a good overview (so you are not so sure who is strong) and its hard to strike somebody far away (so you cant really decide whom to fight).
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