Not so first impressions

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby sven » Sat May 28, 2016 11:15 pm

Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you decided to come back for a look at the current build :) But there certainly is more work to do with strategic resource balance.

faijeya wrote:Food is a ponzi scheme here as you've got to expand to get more food, that will feed population that will need more food, so you have to expand.
Levelling up farms staves the hunger of for a hundred turns or so, but there are only three farm upgrades.

My own hunch, at the moment, is that the best way to fix the food situation in mid/late games is to change the formulas so that each unit of population on a garden/paradise world is self-sufficient in terms of food production (assuming appropriate techs/improvements) .

The core problem, right now, is that food is produced only by farms. And the total number of farms in your empire is bounded by a curve that's nonlinear, relative to population.

I think we need to shift to a model that's more like wrench production, so farms provide some kind of bonus, but, (in certain cases, at least), most of the food production is actually coming from the citizens themselves. Other testers have brought up the same point, and radically changing the food formulas is one big adjustment that remains on my TODO list.

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby Arioch » Sun May 29, 2016 12:46 am

I haven't really had problems with food in the late game. One just needs to have some dedicated food-producing worlds, and keep enough transports in the pool to move it. The only problem that arises then is that when you get blockaded, some population will immediately starve, but I'm sure there's anything wrong with that.

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby faijeya » Mon May 30, 2016 12:15 pm

If you're in for painting a whole galaxy, you'll run out of food in your conquest.
It's too much of a hassle to repurpose conquered wolds into farms.
I don't know what exact victory conditions there will be, though.

It's too late for any core changes in the game.
If there was more time, I'd entertain the idea of making farms and mines less of a usual resource, but a strategic resource like in Civ V.

Imagine each planet can have only so much factories.
Poor planets can have one, normal can have two, rich can have three.
Then each additional factory costs 1 metal to work (or more, it's a balance parameter).
And each mine gives 1 metal * mine_lvl * planet_richness_modifier.

Imagine each population on its usual climate type is perfectly able to sustain itself.
To colonize uninhabitable worlds you have to have a food surplus, 1 food per 1 pop.
If there is zero surplus food, well, the population on poorly suited planets just won't grow.
Therefore you need farms to sustain such colonies, each farm gives 1 food * farm_lvl.

What happens - you want to have specialized worlds so you have to get metals from somewhere, so you want to colonize some small planets to provide you with metals.
But these colonies require food to grow (and usually metal-rich planets are bad for vegetation), so you need other small farm-worlds.
But at the same moment if you stick to your home planet type and don't really specialize, you're fine.
But at the same moment if you want to bump up the pop cap of a colony by introducing aliens into it, well, these aliens may need the food, thus making the quite imbalanced mechanics of creating 25+ (or 49) pop planets to have its own price.

But, well, I don't really know if it's worth it.
The victory conditions can end the game before the system starts getting out of control.
Just removing the food and farms will not really impact the game.
And the metal mechanics can be tightened up (though you're still bound for it to skyrocket in the mid and late game as there are no consumers for metals except for building ships).

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby bjg » Mon May 30, 2016 4:05 pm

faijeya wrote:If you're in for painting a whole galaxy, you'll run out of food in your conquest.

I didn't (on the hard/99) - many times.
faijeya wrote:It's too much of a hassle to repurpose conquered wolds into farms.

It wasn't, even your own.

Pretty much all you are suggesting I've seen in different games. It makes sense, which doesn't necessary mean SiS should do it. ;)

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby faijeya » Tue May 31, 2016 3:15 pm

Okay, let's start with a typical late game situation -
Late game as in "you start steamrolling".

There are several factors that lead to it.

First, the food production model is quite complex.
On a first glance we've got several tiers of planets: paradise and coral have base output 5, island and native for the race have 3, glaciers have 2, arid has 1, barrens, ice and inferno have 0.
We've got 3 tiers of farms, each tier of farms gives planet_base_output+2, +4 and +6 respectively.
Then we run into exceptions or variances depending on the temperature (it's not exactly clear), however, a third tier farm on a paradise planet gives 10 food, not 11 and on a coral it gives 9.

But the food consumption model is fairly simple - you sum your base output and all farms and substract the population.
Ok, so what do we have here?
Planet size 5 and lower have 4 improvement slots.
Planets 6-10 have 5 improvement slots.
Planets 11-18 have 6 improvement slots
And planets with size of 19 and more have 7 improvement slots.
As a rule of thumb (with bionomics), all planets with cap less than 5 can't have farming, most of planets capped on 6 can't too.

To sustain itself a 6-10 colony has to spend 20-40% of its capacity on farms (keep in mind that low cap means low base output).
A 11-18 colony needs to spend 33-50% of its capacity on farms.
A 19+ colony needs to spend 28-72% of its capacity on farms. In the worst case (Gaia, 51 cap and no farm techs) you'll have to cover it all with farms.

Ok, we've got an empire, we got freighters, we got the technology and it's clear that the planets should be specialized.
Well, it works while you're sitting in your corner and don't start invasions.
And you'll need invasions as bombing colonies into oblivion without a "drop all" button is pretty exhausting, starting a war with anyone who'll decide to settle on the freed space is exhausting too.
And then you get unsustainable planets falling into your lap, by twos and by threes. And while you can buy the first farm for 150 gold, they aren't enough and you need the money for the actual war.

The starvation starts and it works in an interesting way.
The population decreases in a proportion to the colony's food balance, so the specialized worlds are hit instantly and hit the hardest. Your largely useless worlds get out unscatched, but your prized worlds suffer.
Ironically, the population increase speed does not depend on the food surplus (if you count out that special project you won't be starting on your best worlds, because they are researching or churning out ships all the time).
So, yes, it's avoidable by painstakingly preparing for a war, as it doesn't make sense to have a huge food surplus all the time, you'd better use that space on labs.
But whether you can prepare depends on the map and not on your skill.

Sure, in the late game you can terraform.
But the terraformation rules are quite complex (why I can convert some inferno worlds into gardens, but not every one of them, and why can't I do the same with arids?) and it's a long or costly ordeal.
It would be better with an project "terraform and colonize" using the resources of a developed planet, not 1500 or 3000 out of your pocket you may not have.

Freigthers are nice in the early game.
However in the midgame you start yearning for a "produce straight to pool" option.
In the late game you also have stargates and can transport population instantly...
...but the food is still distributed by freighters and is a subject to freighters shortage or blockades.
As in the very late game you can easily have 600-800 food transported around, well, it's easy to do the math and the number of "send to trade" clicks.

So it goes.
After a crisis or two you just can't force yourself to take it all into account and just hate the mechanics.

Interestingly, the sweet spot for a specialized world is about 19 or 20 population cap.
Top-tier factories and labs give +20 which is roughly equivalent to 10 pop.
However not bringing in risks of a sudden -3 pop is far better than expanding the planet to 30-35 cap.

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby SilasOfBorg » Tue May 31, 2016 5:06 pm

I always thought it was odd that space games included mechanics that involved hauling food between worlds.

Hauling meatbags, I can understand. The meatbags are normally difficult to grow locally, at least until you have cloning.

But food? If you can create conditions under which a meatbag can live somewhere, you can almost certainly grow the meatbag's food there too.

Furthermore, I cannot imagine a planetary governor being comfortable with a situation where a blockade/freighter accident/weird warp closure event would result in millions of people starving.

I would not be at all upset if SiS decided to abstract things to a single number for each biome for each species: call it infrastructure, and let it represent how developed that particular biome is to suit a particular species. Population would be limited by available infrastructure. Increasing infrastructure would have its cost, from a little (compatible biome) to a lot (humans on an Ice/Vents world). Bombing and warfare could reduce infrastructure. More people than infrastructure = dying. Other way around = growing. Relevant production capped by either pop or infrastructure, whichever is lower.

Imperial actions could help. Given sufficient freighter capacity, materials/specialists/machinery could be delivered to assist with the world-building. Again, abstract to "spending money/metal/freighter capacity" from the imperial pool. Now metal has a use other than building ships.

Planetary buildings are fine -- they just become abstractions of planetary specializations, that are not easily changed. But instead of being flat adds they should probably just be multipliers.

e.g. production = pop * 20 * (1 + #factories/3)
mining = pop * (1 + #mines/5) * planetary mineral rating

Then each planet can have a slider or dial or some way of indicating how much production is going into infrastructure development, 0 if you want a surplus of production and metal and 100 if you want it all plowed back into infrastructure development.

I think I am thinking about this too much. Sorry guys, I know its probably too late in the dev cycle to do anything other than look at my post and say "hmm interesting" and then move on. ;)

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby sven » Tue May 31, 2016 5:25 pm

SilasOfBorg wrote:I think I am thinking about this too much. Sorry guys, I know its probably too late in the dev cycle to do anything other than look at my post and say "hmm interesting" and then move on. ;)

Hmm, interesting :) More seriously though, while it is probably too late to make major changes to the UIs, changing the core formulas behind things like resource production, resource costs, and resource consumption rates is generally 1) easy, and 2) something we're very much planning on doing quite a bit more of. So theory crafting of this sort is not necessarily wasted effort. We're listening, and plotting out our own plans ;)

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Re: Not so first impressions

Postby faijeya » Thu Jun 02, 2016 1:17 pm

Well, regarding UIs...

The ship design UI should be slightly modified.
When you select a hardpoint on a ship, only the applicable modules should be left in the list on the right side.

The automatic configuration generator does a very good job when you discover a ship type.
All other updates you have to do manually, an "upgrade to latest tech" button invoking the same functionality would've been nice.

Usually you don't have a lot of configurations for a ship type.
I'd hazard a guess you usually have only one active configuration for a ship type.
So there definitely should be an option to refit "to type".
Rare corner cases when for some reason you want to have some destroyers "heavy-hitting" and some "point defense" can be handled as they are handled now.
The inefficiency of mass refits is very badly affecting the play for Yoral, who rely on lots of destroyers.

Come to think of it, the refit functionality should be placed in the fleet management UI.
A single button doing an automatic disperse, refit on multiple shipyards and automatic fleet assemble would do wonders.
While implementing it in the most optimal way is probably an NP problem, doing it better than a human will does not require that finesse from algorithms.

The troopship that lost its troops and became a transport ship should retreat to the nearest friendly system and go straight to the pool.
The military transport on the other hand is useless, because it costs too much for its PD worth and costs even more for its troops worth.
To be useful, the military transport should provide some flat bonuses to the invading troops.

The progression from tanks through hovertanks to mechs is too quick.
I think I saw hovertanks used once or twice.
It's fine, but what for are they in game then?

Ok, I've inched to the weapons and combat, so I'll hop right there.

Fighters are not solved philosophically. I.e. what for are they in game?
The only advantage a fighter has over a missile is that a fighter is reusable.
However, mid (and especially late) game PDs make short work of them, so they can't even form a "special attack unit".
The only way to make them usable, I think, is for them to stop at 1.5 of enemy PD range, the next turn get into the PD range, fire off some missiles and return back to that 1.5 PD range in the same turn. And then fly back to recharge, magically or out of munitions reserves on a carrier.
They will be really annoying this way, so maybe they should be given these anti-missiles as a weapon that no one actually uses or develops.

PDs (combined with slots availability) are woefully inadequate in the early game, and are somewhat adequate in the midgame with turbolaser PDs.
However, the primary beams PDs are monsters and fare much, much better than most primary weapons due to their sheer number and quite a sizeable damage.

Stellar converter is breaking the late game defense.
Sure, you may have three of them on a planet and if your enemy doesn't have them, he's done.
And if he has them, two battleships with a stellar converter on each just disintegrate your defenses during their move.

Planetary defense grids are a strange thing.
Due to the very limited number of slots they are very inflexible.
Due to the ease of upgrading them (just change the template) they are very upgradeable.
I don't really know what to do with them without breaking this or that.

The weapons aren't really differentiated by range.
There seems to be three ranges, one for heavy and sieges, one for usual and one for PDs.
So your ship design boils down to upgrading to what packs the most punch.

The weapons are, however, really differentiated by size, how much of them fits into a hardpoint.
The older weapons are quickly obsoleted by new ones, especially if you just beeline to advanced turbolasers or to railguns.
The older weapons can be made more interesting by automatic miniaturization.
I.e., each new discovery in the field the weapon belongs to adds, let's say, +3 weapons on a PD mount, +1 on a usual mount and +0.5 on a heavy/siege.
Yep, it works only on already discovered weapons. What do you want, an X-Ray modifier now or +1 for turbolasers later?
Yep, that'll throw a monkey wrench into the system and will create imbalanced spikes depending on the actual progression route of the player.
But it will be fun, it'll bring in the strategy in the research and the need to use obsolete weapons too.
How will an AI use this, I don't really know.

There's not so much in systems department.
While reactors can lag behind the overall tech (earlier reactors are cheaper), there's not much incentive to upgrade them.
Also, ships are flying on the main map with all the same speed.
What if a ship with a warp lane stabilizer (that should eat a significant amount of energy) not only flies x1.5 times as far, but also x1.5 times as fast? And with two it flies x2.25?
You get a real fast ship that lacks non-missile weaponry and shields, but may be just the thing you need to counter emerging threats in your empire.
There should be an incentive to build ships without shields, because shields have four faces, regeneration and give the armor a run for its money.

The inflexibility of hardpoints is sometimes really annoying.
Why can't I put in half of a usual pack of PDs into a usual mount? Or into a heavy mount?
Why can't I put a heavy weapon in a siege mount?
It won't be imbalancing as the hardpoints are used in a sub-optimal way, but it may be a solution for a particular task a player has in mind or a stop-gap solution if you just don't have siege weapons or shield capacitors.

It all stems from the absence of clear roles for each hull type in each segment of the game.
Usually the ships progress from heavy-hitter to second line to PD to obsolete.
However, most midgame hull types are molded in the way they can't be actually repurposed, only sacrificed to enemy's alpha strike.

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