Request for Comments: Multiple Research Steps Per Turn?

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Geoff the Medio
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Request for Comments: Multiple Research Steps Per Turn?

#1 Post by Geoff the Medio »

I'm currently adjusting the research screen and system so that you can enqueue techs that you can't currently actually research. The idea with this is that you can enqueue a whole tree of techs at once, and if you've got all the right prereqs for a tech in the queue, eventually it will become researchable and be researched without you having to go back to re-enqueue things every time you finish a tech and something new becomes researchable.

In doing this, I've arrived at a design decision I'm not sure of the best way to handle. The scenario is that you have two techs enqueued. One is a prerequisite for the other. The first will finish in one turn, but there will be enough RP left over after finishing the first, that some RP could be then put towards the second on the same turn as its prerequisite is completed.

The question is, should you be able to put RP towards a tech on the same turn that you research its prerequisites?

In the extreme case, with current filler content, there are a number of techs in prerequisite series that all have 1 turn and 1 RP / turn as their time and cost. In this case, if you can put RP towards a tech on the same turn you research its prerequisite, you could research a whole string of multiple prerequisite-dependent techs all on one turn if you had them all enqueued. The alternative would be to require one turn per each tech in the series, with a tech not being researchable on a turn unless it starts that turn being researchable.

Thoughts?

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#2 Post by noelte »

I think that's a matter of taste. I, for instance, would say that you shouldn't be able to spend left over research points to a depending research project.
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eleazar
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#3 Post by eleazar »

The difference in gameplay wouldn't seem to be huge. I suppose it could theoretically allow a player to research several levels of a tree in one turn with high research levels, but i'm not sure that's a problem.

But the interface could be a bit clearer if you had to wait till the next turn to start a new tech.

Enqueued techs that are un-researchable should be drawn in similar colors to the ones in the tree, to indicate they are un-researchable. Otherwise the player could easily have his queue full of techs he can't research without realizing it.

Marking techs that are normally un-researchable, but will get some spill-over research is somewhat problematic. I can't think of an obvious way to distinguish them, but if we need the feature, something could be devised that will make sense to the player if he reads the help.

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#4 Post by jmercer »

It would be nice if queueing a tech automatically queued all dependencies before it.

You may have to differentiate between explicitly queued techs and techs queued to satisfy deps. This would be for the case where a dep is X or Y. The line to get X might not be known when you've explicitly queued a tech and so the line leading to Y gets queued, but at some later point tech X may be discovered/stolen/bought and so the explicit tech should be researched and the techs automatically queued to satisfy deps should be dropped.

Perhaps explicitly queued techs are shown as normal and techs fulfilling deps can be dimmer (higher alpha, closer to greyscale or something).

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#5 Post by Moriarty »

eleazar wrote:The difference in gameplay wouldn't seem to be huge. I suppose it could theoretically allow a player to research several levels of a tree in one turn with high research levels, but i'm not sure that's a problem.
Are you sure about that? It can have an effect.

Here's a quick breakdown:

a) RP's carry though - you can research many levels of a tech at once.

b) They don't carry through - one tech level per turn.

Obvious yes, but I thought it needed clarifying - anyway. They can result in different play styles.
Most games seem to go for A.
Which is useful for my play style - I spend lots of RP's in one or two fields and level up slowly to a higher level than the enemy (usually areas that will allow even more RP's to be generated).
Then when I'm sufficiently high in those fields, I dump my RP's into fields I previously didn't touch (and are thus very low) and can gain many many levels a turn (depending on the game etc). Games with more techs and more RP's make this easier (Space Empires is the most extreme).

This tactic wouldn't be possible if B was implemented.


----

On a more realistic note - wouldn't it be EASIER to research tech lvl 3 if you've just finished tech 2 and the lab is all kitted out for this stuff, etc? I could probably make an arguement that finishing a pre-req in the same turn results in lower cost for the following tech, but I don't think I will.

Personally I think I lean towards a - it allows more options and is more realistic IMHO.

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#6 Post by Geoff the Medio »

eleazar wrote:The difference in gameplay wouldn't seem to be huge. I suppose it could theoretically allow a player to research several levels of a tree in one turn with high research levels
The difference will be at most one turn of extra time to research a tech, which is genearlly insigificant, as most techs will have minimum research times of 5 or more turns. Note that even if a player has enough RP generated per turn to pay a tech's whole cost at once, it still takes the minimum research time to complete, due to limits on how many RP/turn can be put towards a tech. So, you'll never actually be able to research several levels of a tech in one turn, as you'll aways run up against the per-turn limit on a multi-turn tech. The multiple levels in one turn scenario is only relevant for testing cases where techs cost 1 RP for 1 turn, in which case you could pay the whole cost on one turn, if allowed.
Enqueued techs that are un-researchable should be drawn in similar colors to the ones in the tree, to indicate they are un-researchable.
Already happens, both on research and production screens (the latter if you have a build item enqueued that can't actually be produced this turn for some reason).
Marking techs that are normally un-researchable, but will get some spill-over research is somewhat problematic. I can't think of an obvious way to distinguish them, but if we need the feature, something could be devised that will make sense to the player if he reads the help.
It's probably not that important. Both on the queue and on the tree, colouration indicates whether a tech is researchable immediately, which is defined as having its prereqs already researched. How long it will actually take to be researched is indicated by the number of turns to completion, which are reasonably accurately predicted regardless of whether the tech is currently researchable.
jmercer wrote:It would be nice if queueing a tech automatically queued all dependencies before it.
That's the plan. Before I could do that though, I needed to have the queue handle enqueued techs that aren't yet researchable, during which the present issue came up.

I am presently pondering what order in which to enqueue the prereqs though. I can traverse the tree backwards, and add all the techs to the queue easily. But presumably it'd be nice if they were in order with the earlist prereqs first, then the later ones... and perhaps ordered by lowest to highest cost after that, but I'm unsure of how specifically to decide between ambiguities.
You may have to differentiate between explicitly queued techs and techs queued to satisfy deps. This would be for the case where a dep is X or Y. The line to get X might not be known when you've explicitly queued a tech and so the line leading to Y gets queued, but at some later point tech X may be discovered/stolen/bought and so the explicit tech should be researched and the techs automatically queued to satisfy deps should be dropped.
This likely won't be an issue, as I believe we'll make it impossible to steal or buy a tech for which you don't already have prereqs, and make it take several turns to do the stealing or to finish learning the tech you bought. This prevents gameplay exploits (such as what Moriarty seems to like doing), and is more realistic (contrary to his claims).

As for techs enqueued because you enqueued something that depends on them, but then removed the tech that depended on them, I'd rather just leave the extra techs on the queue. It's simpler and less error prone, particularly since all the prereq techs have other uses than just being prereqs for the tech you initially enqueued, and it's not necessarily the case, after removing the originally enqueued tech, that the player will no longer want any of its prereqs.

Moriarty's post was based on faulty assumptions. See reply to eleazar's post above: either way you can never research many levels of techs in one turn, except for test cases that are unrepresentative of the actual game's techs. All techs have minimum research times, presently with numbers like 5, 10 or 20 turns, though these will change with balancing.

I don't see why he/you calls it more realistic to research many levels at once though... You need to spend time learning the basics before the more advanced stuff can be learned. That doesn't happen immediately, regardless of how good your lab equipment is or how much money you throw at the researchers / students.

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#7 Post by utilae »

I think if you have the RPs your should be able to spend all in one turn on multiple techs, including their prerequisites.

After all, what is the point in having power, if you are restricted in its use.


Also, in the case where a player queues a tech without queing prerequisites first, then it would be good if prerequisites were auto queued.

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#8 Post by jmercer »

This may muddle things but what if you need to convert standard RP to weapon_RP before they can be "spent" on weapons research. The conversion rate can be dynamic so that there is an initial "build up" time. You can start focusing on weapons research 100% from a cold start but the conversion wouldn't be optimal. This lets you research missile tech 2 faster if you have just researched missile tech 1 or autocannon tech 3 in the previous turn since your RP->wRP conversion is nearly 100%.

Perhaps some races can achieve a RP->wRP better than 100% or the buildup from cold start to 100% is faster.

This dynamic conversion takes into account the fact that your scientists are shifting focus. Machines or hives may be able to do this instantly but a bureaucratic race may take time.

There are many downsides to this, how do you convey this info to the player. Perhaps not that hard, but it also effects efficient scheduling of queued techs. Better to do Weapon, Weapon, Society, Society than W, S, W, S. Can techs be researched in parallel?

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#9 Post by eleazar »

Geoff the Medio wrote:
eleazar wrote:The difference in gameplay wouldn't seem to be huge. I suppose it could theoretically allow a player to research several levels of a tree in one turn with high research levels
The difference will be at most one turn of extra time to research a tech, which is genearlly insigificant, as most techs will have minimum research times of 5 or more turns. Note that even if a player has enough RP generated per turn to pay a tech's whole cost at once, it still takes the minimum research time to complete, due to limits on how many RP/turn can be put towards a tech. So, you'll never actually be able to research several levels of a tech in one turn, as you'll aways run up against the per-turn limit on a multi-turn tech. The multiple levels in one turn scenario is only relevant for testing cases where techs cost 1 RP for 1 turn, in which case you could pay the whole cost on one turn, if allowed.
I forgot that 5 turns was the minimum for any tech.

On further reflection, i think that research on a tech shouldn't begin until after it's dependancies are finished. It's not a huge issue for me, but it seems more consistent with the minimum-number-of-research-turns tech system. If having extra RP doesn't give you a head start in researching a segment of an individual tech, why should it give you a head-start on the next tech?
Geoff the Medio wrote:
jmercer wrote:It would be nice if queueing a tech automatically queued all dependencies before it.
That's the plan. Before I could do that though, I needed to have the queue handle enqueued techs that aren't yet researchable, during which the present issue came up.

I am presently pondering what order in which to enqueue the prereqs though. I can traverse the tree backwards, and add all the techs to the queue easily. But presumably it'd be nice if they were in order with the earlist prereqs first, then the later ones... and perhaps ordered by lowest to highest cost after that, but I'm unsure of how specifically to decide between ambiguities.
I agree, it will be a nice feature to have the game automatically enqueue all dependancies when you enqueue a unresearchable tech.

As far as the enqueueing order, off the top of my head i'd:
  • 1) all currently researchable techs
    — sorted by RP cost
    2) the next "layer" of techs
    — sorted by RP cost
    3) etc.
    4) the desired tech.

Or, on second thought, simply adding everything according to RP cost with the target tech at the end will work out just as well. I assume if the next tech in the queue is unresearchable, the RP goes down to whichever tech can use it, so having the list out of order won't really matter. Enqueuing according to RP-cost (i think) would often be optimal, but would always be obvious.

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#10 Post by marhawkman »

Um yeah.... you can research multiple techs at once using the current system.
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#11 Post by SowerCleaver »

I think not allowing RPs to carry through to the next research project will reward tedious micromanaging of the research investment slider, and therefore is not good. I heard one of Civ IV's goal was to eliminate the "extra RP purging" at the end of a tech discovery, which was the case in Civ III. In Civ III, I heard people had to stop right before a tech was to be researched and switch over to another tech in order not to lose the extra RP, if sizeable. This would translate in FO a micromanagement of the research investment sliders to get the exact amount of RPs for the first tech and put all the extra RPs in other areas of research. If the result of that micromanagement is not good for the normal research pattern of the player, he/she will have to micromanage the sliders back in the next turn. There's no fun in doing that.

The fact that the second tech requires the first tech as prerequisite should not change this analysis. We can simply think that the first tech was finished at some point of time between the last turn and this turn, and the remaining RPs were invested in the second tech.

Also, what is the reasoning behind the hard 5 turn minimum research duration? It disfavors scientific race and favors spy race, maybe in an unbalancing scale. We can balance the research time by adjusting the RP costs - I don't see any need to put a hard cap.

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#12 Post by Geoff the Medio »

jmercer wrote:Can techs be researched in parallel?
Yes. One could have just finished researching missile tech 1, but still also be researching three other non-weapon techs. Also, we already have planet focus changing penalties (between mining, research, farming, etc.)... Perhaps you should read the design document or play the game?
eleazar wrote:On further reflection, i think that research on a tech shouldn't begin until after it's dependancies are finished.
OK, I think there is some confusion here. I'm not asking whether you should be able to put RP towards project 2 if you have enqueued, but not yet researched, project 1. The question only applies to the exact turn on which you finish project 1. On that turn, after spending the RP to finish project one, should you be allowed to put RP towards project 2, or should you have to wait until the next turn? There is no "head start", in that you have to have actually finished researching all prereqs before starting researching each new tech.
I assume if the next tech in the queue is unresearchable, the RP goes down to whichever tech can use it
Yes; unresearchable techs on the queue are ignored.
...so having the list out of order won't really matter. Enqueuing according to RP-cost (i think) would often be optimal, but would always be obvious.
It doesn't *really* matter, though I'd like to have some semi-optimal and semi-sane ordering of techs when they're enqueued, to make the queue easier to read after multiple techs are auto-enqueued for you...
SowerCleaver wrote:I think not allowing RPs to carry through to the next research project will reward tedious micromanaging of the research investment slider
Again, this is not about whether to allow RP to spill from project n to project n+1 on the queue. This already happens, and it's expect that there will be 5+ projects on the queue at a time, all being researched in parallel. This issue is only about when to allow certain projects whose prereqs are finished to start being funded. If those projects aren't funded, the RP will go to something else instead.
Also, what is the reasoning behind the hard 5 turn minimum research duration? It disfavors scientific race and favors spy race...
You assume spying is instant. I expect/intend that it will not be, and that spying (and trading) will have a multi-turn minimum time to complete, likely equal to or a simple function of the tech's research minimum time.

Also, minimum time does not overly disadvantage research races. Rather than finishing each tech faster, these races will be able to research more techs simultaneously, or research more expensive techs at maximum speed (if you have too few RP, techs take longer than their minimum research time). Regardless, that aspect of the design is decided and not up for further design discussion.
Last edited by Geoff the Medio on Wed Feb 28, 2007 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#13 Post by jmercer »

Perhaps you should read the design document or play the game?
good suggestion :)

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#14 Post by SowerCleaver »

Geoff the Medio wrote:Also, minimum time does not overly disadvantage research races. Rather than finishing each tech faster, these races will be able to research more techs simultaneously, or research more expensive techs at maximum speed (if you have too few RP, techs take longer than their minimum research time). Regardless, that aspect of the design is decided and not up for further design discussion.
If the number of "researchable" techs is small at any given time, this will still result in loss of RP. In that case, players are motivated to micromanage the overall funding to research rather than individual field of research. Anyways, I hope this is balanced out by RP costs and spying mechanics, since it is set in stone...

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#15 Post by Geoff the Medio »

SowerCleaver wrote:If the number of "researchable" techs is small at any given time, this will still result in loss of RP.
In general there will be more techs available than you can research simultaneously given their cost and your available RP. You'll need to choose between them, likely focusing on two or three categories of techs, while neglecting others.

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