Multiplayer interaction incentives

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

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Sapphire Wyvern
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Multiplayer interaction incentives

#1 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

A multiplayer game should encourage its players to interact with each other as much as possible. Having a bunch of people playing essentially a solo game with humans replacing AI is not a good game.

Therefore, I dedicate this thread to methods for encouraging player interaction. We want to get people out there, not just developing some corner of the galaxy, fortifying the borders and then sitting there shouting "la la la, I can't hear you!" until they develop the "I win" technology! :) Obviously, that should be an option for the dedicated isolationist, but it should be something the game discourages.

So let's hear some ideas.

Here's a first suggestion: randomly seed the galaxy with items (Orion artifacts, or what have you) in the famous Civ/SMAC style. However, unlike traditional goody huts, these things work like set items in Diablo: they provide a small benefit by themselves, but magnify synergistically as you collect extra elements of the same set. There should be multiple different sets in any one game to improve game balance - we don't want the game to devolve into Pokemon.

This would encourage player interaction by providing a unique resource to trade/launch wars to acquire/steal via espionage. The fact that the components are seeded randomly means that no one Empire will discover a complete set within its own borders; the fact that there are multiple largely non-overlapping sets encourages trade; and the fact that they're valuable encourages wars! These are all good things.

Another suggestion: an auction house in the game for trading resources, planets, starships, technology etc. I would really like to see the game offer SMAC-style "contracts" as diplomatic options, but more versatile: instead of just credit loans, it would be very cool to be able to contract to supply a certain number of PP or RP per turn, in exchange for upfront lump sums or a similar contract, etc. This would allow specialist races to leverage their advantages in trade.

noelte
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#2 Post by noelte »

A multiplayer game should encourage its players to interact with each other as much as possible. Having a bunch of people playing essentially a solo game with humans replacing AI is not a good game.
That's just your opinion. To me multiplayer doesn't mean that the players have to or even should interact with each other (other than fighting each other). Interaction is only needed if you form alliances or such sort of things and have to adjust you strategies to reach a common goal. I don't see that's fo needs to focus on mp interaction.
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Sapphire Wyvern
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#3 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Well, I'm against "have to interact" and for "should interact".

I've played too many boardgames which eventually turn out to be a race between the players to see who wins their game of Solitaire first. It's a sign of bad board-game design. I mean, what's the point of playing with other humans if they're irrelevant to how your game proceeds?

If you're going to have the world's best intelligences (ie real ones rather than AIs) acting in the same setting, interaction is the key. This doesn't mean diplomacy or chat, necessarily. Warfare counts. So does espionage.

So we want to encourage all these things. What must be ruthlessly discouraged by game design is just sitting there playing Solitaire and hoping to beat everyone else in their game of Solitaire. :)

That said, if someone really wants to play multiplayer Solitaire, it should be possible. Just not encouraged by the game mechanics.

Anyways. That's enough about multiplayer game design holy wars. Anyone else got any good ideas about encouraging multiplayer interaction?

Sapphire Wyvern
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#4 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Contracts for PP and RP could be implemented thus:

When you contract with another empire to provide some number of RP or PP per turn for some number of turns (which is done through the Diplomacy UI), the contract appears as an item in your Empire Build/Research queue that consumes the agreed number of RP or PP per turn until the total number of RP/PP agreed has been transferred. Once the agreed total is reached, the contract "project" is complete and removed from the queue. The production you expend servicing the contract is credited to the receiving empire's production next turn.

The build prioritisation buttons I recommend here do not appear for contract-type "projects". These projects are always billed at standard 1-to-1 rates.

If the contract is at the bottom of the build queue and does not get serviced completely (or at all!) the receiving empire is credited with whatever was actually put into the contract and a diplomatic reputation penalty is assessed against you. (I assume there will be a reputation system for penalising betrayals, broken treaties, etc). If the contract is cancelled from the build queue, a reputation penalty is assessed against you. In addition, if a contract is underfunded or cancelled, the other party in the contract is notified in that turn's SitRep.

This system can also be used for handling tribute: tribute is simply an agreement to provide some number of RP/PP/credit every turn indefinitely, rather than to a specified duration.

Sapphire Wyvern
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#5 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Here's another way that multiplayer interaction can be encouraged: Mutually exclusive technology research. I realise it may not be a popular idea, but it's worth looking at (and probably has been! Pointers to previous decisions/debates would be appreciated).

Remember "Creative" in MoOII? It was easily one of the best racial traits to pick, because it made isolationism so much easier and more effective.

If FreeOrion made it possible to acquire a complete set of technology via trade, conquest, and/or espionage, but *not* through massive production of RP alone, that would certainly help encourage interaction. It also makes the decisions of which technologies to research into a major strategic choice, rather than an exercise in queuing.

This is actually analogous to the "build slot" debate, so if we're looking at limiting the number of buildings that can be constructed (mutually exclusive choices) rather than simply limiting by construction/maintenance cost (queuing) we should definitely look at mutually exclusive research to improve the multiplayer dynamics.

Any thoughts on this idea? Maybe this particular idea restricts the isolationists too much: unlike the "artifact sets" proposal, it's much more stick than carrot.

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#6 Post by Impaler »

I could see some good in denying the player some of the games tecnologies as was done in MOO1 (the first and still the best). Because many of the tecnologies fell into linear paths (Improved factory controls I, II, III, IV ect ect...) what one realy ended up with were GAPS in ones progress that only temporariy hurt you. In MOO2 the tecs were much more unique so being limited to roughly 1/3 of all tecnologies vs MOO1 roughly 1/2 hurt the player a lot compared to the creative races. I am think we will have a more MOO1 style with our refinment system, so if we give the player access to all Theories but randomly skip over the refinments (example I start with Laser I then skip to Laser III) we would have a good system.
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#7 Post by Sandlapper »

All techs will be available. None will be skipped or randomly blocked. That has already been decided.

I argued, to no avail, for random tech skipping; which would force a different path thru the tech tree every game. I think any given player, with all techs available, all the time, every time, will quickly develope a repeated routine of selecting the same techs, over and over again. They will have a perceived "best" route thru the tech tree, even though in theory the tech tree will be "balanced".

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#8 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Even if all techs can always be researched during a game, it doesn't meant the can't be game-to-game variation as desired. For example, rather than making certain techs available or not, the effects or unlocked items of those techs could depend on the available of a strategic resource ala Civ3. Or, in a more subtle sense, as emrys put it in response to your post...
emrys wrote:...I think the best way of getting people to think about their tech choices anew each time they play is by making sure that the [/b]game situation is the strongest determiner of what are the best choices to make at a given point. If that isn't the case then a randomly holed tech tree is at best only going to make players think "damn no uber laser this time, oh well, let's make do with these other things for a few turns until I can get to the next step in my standard plan, and that'd better be there or I'm scrapping this game."

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#9 Post by utilae »

Sandlapper wrote: I think any given player, with all techs available, all the time, every time, will quickly develope a repeated routine of selecting the same techs, over and over again. They will have a perceived "best" route thru the tech tree, even though in theory the tech tree will be "balanced".
If the tech tree is large enough and is designed in a way where there aren't for example weapons only in category A, but in category B, C and D. Then different paths will be chosen.

Sapphire Wyvern
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#10 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Sandlapper wrote:All techs will be available. None will be skipped or randomly blocked. That has already been decided.
Okay, thanks for that info. There is so much I don't know about existing decisions which are not listed in the design document. Can you provide me with a pointer to the relevant thread? I'd like to see the reasons for the decision.

So, given that that particular interaction incentive is a no-go, let's get back on topic here. Anyone got novel ideas for interaction incentives?

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Geoff the Medio
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#11 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Sapphire Wyvern wrote:There is so much I don't know about existing decisions which are not listed in the design document. Can you provide me with a pointer to the relevant thread?
I linked to it twice in my previous post in this thread.

In this case, the fact that the design document does not say something to the effect of "in each game, for each player, some techs will be made randomly unavailable" is in effect the design document saying that that won't happen.

We can't list every feature that won't be implimented...

Sapphire Wyvern
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#12 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Geoff the Medio wrote:
Sapphire Wyvern wrote:There is so much I don't know about existing decisions which are not listed in the design document. Can you provide me with a pointer to the relevant thread?
I linked to it twice in my previous post in this thread.
Thanks. Don't know why I missed that. Chalk it down to being distracted by (from?) my Computer Vision programming assignment.
In this case, the fact that the design document does not say something to the effect of "in each game, for each player, some techs will be made randomly unavailable" is in effect the design document saying that that won't happen.

We can't list every feature that won't be implimented...
Fair enough. However, it's true that the design document lists the features that are required for implementation in a particular version; it doesn't (and can't) say whether a particular feature is planned for future versions or has been rejected in toto for the entire game. So the only way I can find out at the moment is to ask - I haven't time to read the entire back forum ATM due to exams & so on. Besides, most of the design archive threads don't actually seem to include a "final post" that definitively states the actual decision taken!

So my apologies for bringing up old ground. There is perhaps room for a "negative document" that simply summarizes the results of design decisions taken, including rejection of proposals - sort of "Design minutes" if you will listing decisions & pointers to the relevant threads, without listing all the arguments either way. I suppose this is what the Design Archive is intended to do, but it's so full of chaff that's it quite hard to find the wheat.

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#13 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Sapphire Wyvern wrote:There is perhaps room for a "negative document" that simply summarizes the results of design decisions taken, including rejection of proposals - sort of "Design minutes" if you will listing decisions & pointers to the relevant threads, without listing all the arguments either way. I suppose this is what the Design Archive is intended to do, but it's so full of chaff that's it quite hard to find the wheat.
It's a recurring request to have a non-design-document list of facts and decisions, which would presumably include decisions to exclude things. It sounds good, particularly for new people trying to learn what's been decided, and were I the one to have written most of the design document, I'd likely have put more of such stuff into it (along with numerous other nitfixes), but unfortunately just isn't that practical to do so in all cases. Even at the time a decision is made (let alone months or years later), design threads can get to be hundreds of posts long, and last weeks or months. There are whole subconversations that start and end midway through that are completely unrelated to conversations happening a few pages before or after. By the time the thread is done, and Aq or whoever goes to summarize it or make a decision whilst taking the apparent consensus into account, it's probably rather difficult to come up with a detailed and complete listing of all potentially relevant decisions or points that were discussed (particularly if said whoever is not particularly details oriented).

And actually, I don't recall ever hearing of this particular decision before... It was decided before I started posting / reading, and as you point out, is not in the design document explicitly, or anywhere else in a summary post. I'm actually wondering if this really was decided, or if Sandlapper was just shot down by a few people on that page and then dropped the issue and it was never actually decided on officially... (I haven't read the thread too thoroughly obviously...). Maybe pm Aq and see if he remembers...?

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#14 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Thanks, I will. In any case, I'm not in favour of randomly skipping technology; I would prefer players to have to make choices. If it's decided that this won't going to be a core game feature, I still think it would make a good "game configuration" option set on the server for the reasons I've listed above.

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#15 Post by Sandlapper »

Yeah, Aq decided it here(same thread):

http://freeorion.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7743#7743
* There will be no 'random' element to the tech tree that blocks certain tech; however, specific modules may allow or disallow certain specific techs to certain races. Similarly, it will not be possible to research applications without fulfilling the pre-requisites, although of course alternate means of getting technology (such as spies, events, or diplomacy) do not require you to have pre-requisites.
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