Changes to the early game

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Dinkelsen
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Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Wed Apr 08, 2015 6:27 am

After some changes to the early game I started a few games and had a closer look at the early game:

I know that many things are not implemented and not balaced as they should but I want to give some feedback how the game feels for me at this point.

Survivability of scouts
The scout you are given at game start is now much more able to survive a pirate encounter than a month ago. The unmodified scout is easily able to survive an encounter with 2 Gremak Marauder destroyers and barely able to survive 2 Human pirate ships. It can also get away from 4 Gremaks but 4 Human pirates will obliterate it. (I did encounter 4 Human pirate destroyers quite early in the game it happened when I had a pirate encounter and my neighbor scoutet the same system a few turns later. When I checked the ships in the system, there were 4 pirate ships plus the scout they captured. If the scout is fitted with a PD Laser Turret, it can survive 2 human pirate ships easily.

Summary: As long as you repair your scout between encounters, it can last far longer now which makes the early game more enjoyable. You will eventually run into a wall of nuclear missiles, but that's life...

The best weapon in the early game: Marines
I was so royally upset when the pirates started capturing my destroyers in the early game phase until I tried that myself. And boy did that go well!

My current strategy for the early game is:
- Scout near systems
- Hope for a habitable planet in a pirate free system. If you do not find one before your cash runs dry things get hairy.
- Found colony and set up a trade route. Cash flow should turn around now.
- Build a few factories on homeworld then build 4 destroyers. (Destroyers with system slots are even better as they can house more marines)
- Engage any pirate fleet with 2 ships in the neighbourhood and capture the ships - as wepaons are so weak destroying them takes ages anyway. Every encounter will provide 2 more destroyers. I only destroy ships when I run out of marines to capture them.
- Engage all pirate fleets with 4 ships. By now my destroyer fleet is large enough to overbear these, too.
- Tech to Military transports and start invading independants.

If you play humans you can even refit the captured human pirate destroyers wich allows them to get even more powerful as pirates tend to have quite low-tech weapons.

Summary: Capturing ships is quite effective at the moment. I read a post from Arioch where he was aware of that "problem" (its not that problematic for me...) so I'll enjoy ot while it lasts... :)

Pirate infestation
In the last 2 games I counted the systems with pirates vs the systems without pirates. The results were 50% pirate infestation in the first and 80% in the second game. In both games it felt like "a lot". In one game I had trouble finding a suitable planet for colonization before my cash ran dry. In onother game I could not find a planet fast enough. Since there is virtually no opposition (see next topic blow) I can "sit it out" and simly wait until my economy allows building destroyers to clean the surrounding systems but with working AI these games would probably be lost in the first 10 turns.

On the other hand, if you DO manage to get a foot on the ground despite these odds, it DOES feel good.

Medium to Late game observation
Quite contrary to the threads title, something that is bugging me since the beginning of the beta: Are the AI empires supposed to do anything? In each and every game I played until now they didn't do much except use their one colony ship to colonize a second planet in their home systems and very rarely a second system. I have never encountered an AI empire with more than 2 planets.

After that they chain build scouts and send them to me or a pirate infested system where they lose them. Very rarely (I think I saw it only twice) they build a fleet of warships with which they go to town. But even then they still don't found new colonies or capture existing ones. I suspect the pirate presence to be a major road block fpr AI empires, they seem to be locked in a "need to scout but can't" cycle.

Now I know its a beta and many things are not finished so I only want to ask one question: Is this above behavior "normal" for AI empires in the current state of the game or is there something wrong?

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Wed Apr 08, 2015 3:02 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:Are the AI empires supposed to do anything? In each and every game I played until now they didn't do much except use their one colony ship to colonize a second planet in their home systems and very rarely a second system. I have never encountered an AI empire with more than 2 planets.

After that they chain build scouts and send them to me or a pirate infested system where they lose them. Very rarely (I think I saw it only twice) they build a fleet of warships with which they go to town. But even then they still don't found new colonies or capture existing ones. I suspect the pirate presence to be a major road block for AI empires, they seem to be locked in a "need to scout but can't" cycle.

Now I know its a beta and many things are not finished so I only want to ask one question: Is this above behavior "normal" for AI empires in the current state of the game or is there something wrong?


Something is wrong. As you've correctly inferred, the introduction of NPCs a few months back has badly confused the AI. And I've yet to fix it. The alpha-version AI was notably less-terrible -- and getting the AI back to a state where it's behaving in roughly sensible ways is one of the things at the top of my current TODO list.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:20 am

sven wrote:[...] getting the AI back to a state where it's behaving in roughly sensible ways is one of the things at the top of my current TODO list.


And whatever you did, boy did it have an effect. When I played yesterday I noticed AI empires colonizing planets so I immediatly statrted a new game as humans.

Now humans don't have the best start there is but I was lucky to discover a paradise wold nearby that I built up to be my new homeworld. Also having 2 colony ships and 4 transporters already built mitigated the sub-sub-sub-par homeworld a bit. Before that I ran into 4 human pirate system on a very early turn which forced me to reload as they vaporized my poor scout.

Then the pan-galactic carnage started.

Since Stars-in-Shadow's diplomacy system would make a Wh40k fan happy ("there can be only war...") the AI empires had a rough time starting an empire. They did build lots of colony ships and colonized like crazy but they didn't defend them. I managed to capture a colony ship and started a pet Gremak colony.

Things looked quite grim with me racing from colony to colony to defend it, it seems I overstretched my defenses a bit. But when I was able to build planetary defenses the game was significantly easier. I also helped that all empires fought themselves too, so I could slip under their radar a a bit. Then it was a matter of teching to docking fields and waiting ages for the assault cruisers to finish. Since humans do not have a dedicated assault ship (like the Ashdar of Orthin which have an assault ship with 1 or 2 innate tanks) I had to wait for 5 assault cruisers to be able to invade those juicy pirate systems - plus the Phidi, who were living next door)

The fleet composition the AI empires sent to me was a bit weird as well, either its 1 scout cruiser or its a fleet consisting of 1 carrier and a lot of scouts. I have seen a few destroyers here and there, too. Speaking of weird things, the Phidis had a system with 2 settled planets and they fortified the 4-population world with a space station and left the 17-population world undefended. This resulted in a lone Orthin scout being able to bomb that planet to 5 population, at which time I "rescued" them. (After all, we have those empty oceans that are a perfect living place for Phidis, we can't allow them to be exterminated. Of course, they need a new government, as the old one has proven its ineffectivity. It was an entirely altruistic move...)

I do understand that there is a lot to balance but I wanted to report what I experienced.

Short summary of actions I haven't witnessed before:
- AI empires colonizing planets
- AI empires sending raiding fleets to my colonies
- AI empires bombing enemy colonies (=all colonies but their own)
- Pirates sending destroyers to "visit" my colonies.

What I want to do this evening is secure my corner of the galaxy and wait if the AI empires manage to build up to be a significant threat again, like there were in the beginning of the game. Maybe I'll help one of them...

I will upload the game for you to look at.

Regrads, Dinkelsen

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Tue Apr 14, 2015 1:31 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:
The fleet composition the AI empires sent to me was a bit weird as well, either its 1 scout cruiser or its a fleet consisting of 1 carrier and a lot of scouts. I have seen a few destroyers here and there, too. Speaking of weird things, the Phidis had a system with 2 settled planets and they fortified the 4-population world with a space station and left the 17-population world undefended. This resulted in a lone Orthin scout being able to bomb that planet to 5 population, at which time I "rescued" them.


Thanks for the report :) As the patch notes suggested, these latest changes are just a step towards less-terrible AI, there's still a number of things I need to work on. Fleet composition is one of them. More than that, I think the AI needs some very simple ability to learn from it's mistakes -- right now, if it sends 3 ships to attack a planet, and fails, it will keep on sending 2-3 identical ships against the same planet -- over and over, because its threat-estimation doesn't adjust after combat losses. That makes for some very weird behaviors.

Ideally, I think wars between AIs ought to escalate -- with each side building bigger and better fleets until one wins a decisive victory, then destroys the other. The big-fleet, big-battle strategy isn't necessarily an optimal one -- but, it leads to a more dramatic game history -- endless destroyer raids get boring pretty quickly, and can make for a weirdly static universe.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Tue Apr 14, 2015 3:40 pm

As promised, game_139 is for you to look at.

I noticed two yoral frigates simply disappear in mid-flight. Maybe they were just scuttled, maybe there is something fishy going on. It happened the turn just before where game_139 is at.

Regards, Stephan

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Tue Apr 14, 2015 3:50 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:I noticed two yoral frigates simply disappear in mid-flight. Maybe they were just scuttled, maybe there is something fishy going on. It happened the turn just before where game_139 is at.


The Yoral are still there -- they've just moved out of scanner range. There's a lot of somewhat unintuitive edge cases related to when enemy ships do or don't show up on your radar -- one of them being that if you haven't explored a system at all, you'll never see ships inside of it. So, in this game, even though you have a large scanner range, there's still a lot going on just outside your borders that's invisible to you, as you haven't mapped most of the nearby systems :)

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Arioch » Tue Apr 14, 2015 5:29 pm

I often see a situation in AI home systems in which the homeworld has no orbital infrastructure at all, but the marginal planet in the same system has two starbases. I'm assuming this is because the AI faction is running out of money and having to sell its stations; if so, it's odd that the game always seems to sell infrastructure on the more-populous world rather than the less-populous one. It's detrimental to the effectiveness of the AI faction, since without a station it can only build destroyers and scouts.

A possible short-term hack to improve the performance of the AI would be to disable the auto-sell function. Either allow the AI factions to go into debt without having to sell things, or just make it so their treasury can't go below zero.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:05 pm

Thanks for your answers, Sven and Arioch. I also appreciate you answering all the questions I have posted in the bug report thread. Thats a lot of work you invest. I just don't say so there because I don't want to clutter the thread.

I have found something else that puzzles me:
Uploaded game: game_142 (dev build)

The production numbers seem to be a bit off:
I have researched Nanoscale Fabrication so according to the factories window (the one you get when you click on a factory icon), my factories should create 15 production points.

Altair I (Arid): 1 factory, 2.1 million Haduir - should be 15 + 4 = 19, is: 13
Altair III (Glacier terraformed to Garden): 2 factories 3.6m Haduir: should be 30 + 7 = 37, is: 22
Procyon III (Arid): 1 factory, 3.4 million Yoral - should be 15 + 9 = 24, is: 22
Suhail II (Barren): 1 factory, 1.3 million humans - should be 15 + 2 = 17, is: 9 (this colony was definitely founded by me)
Suhail III (Glacier): 2 factories, 2 million humans - should be 30 + 4 = 34, is: 22
Fargone I (Arid, human "homeworld"): 1 factiry, 3.6m humans - shoulkd be 15 + 6 = 21, is: 19

Then there are those planets where the calculation is correct:
Tendao (Island): 3 factories 17 million Phidi - should be 45 + 17 = 62, is: 62
Castor II (Glacier): 3 factories, 9 million humans - should be 45 + 18 = 63, is: 63
Spica II (Island): 3 factories, 17 million Gremal+Threshers) - should be 45 + 34 = 79, is: 79
Gaia (Paradise): 4 factories, 14.2m Gremal and Humans + 6.1m Phidi - should be 60 + 28 + 6 = 94, is: 95 (ok, fractions of millions seem not to be truncated, still correct for me)
Eluz (Glacier): 1 factoy, 4m Phidi - should be 15 + 4 = 19, is: 19

I don't know where this could come from, some of those planets were conquered, some were settled when they already hat factories on them. Maybe the factories don't get updated to my tech level? But still if that was the case, there are cases that wouldn't fit.

I will tear down and rebuild some factories and see if the numbers correct themselves.

Did these things to the poor colony:
- terraformed Suhail II from barren to Glacier. Production is still 9.
- tore down the factory and built a new one. Production still at 9.
- ferried 1m humans to Suhail II, production increased to 14 (hmmm, I think I have an idea)
- tore down the lab on Suhail II, production jumped to 21 (the correct value)
- ferried another 1m humans to the planet, production increased to precalculated 23

So its seems you need 2m population per installation (except planetary defenses?) on a planet for the installation to run as designed. If you have less, there will be a penalty.

It can be so easy...

(I will still post it even if the issue is already answered)
Regards, Stephan

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Fri Apr 17, 2015 7:37 pm

With all those balancing changes flying around, I started a new game.
This time: Haduir. (Dev build r12257)

Bear in mind that I am very accustomed to the old behavior of the game and might have difficulty adapting.

My experiences so far in no particular order:
- Ashdar prime is one hell of a planet. 20 population really does it.
- Scouts and destroyers are now very easy to build (Ashdar prime churned destroyers at 1 per 3 turns) which was percieved as a positive change.
- To compensate, destroyers are now very weak. Especially the Ashdar ones. But its no problem, as I can build a lot.
- The universe got more dangerous again. Scouts rarely survive 2 human pirate destroyers. Since they can be replaced more easily, thats ok.
- The Assault Transporter (transporter with invasion capabilities) is a welcome change. I tried rushing to docking fields parallel to building 5 of them, but was finished building transports far earlier. Transports were eventually refitted and sent on trade duty. Good change!
- The AI scouts, exands and colonizes, but does not protect its colonies. Most of them get bombed to dust. (The pan-galactic-carnage as I call it)
- The Gremak homeworld can now be terraformad and changes its appearance. (But I leave it from now on to have a collectors world...)
- Planetary defenses are strong. Saved by bacon on many occasions.
- Nuclear missiles do 15 damage, Fusion 16. Hm...
- In general, being able to build the first factories and colony ships in shorter time was percieved as positive. Of course, the enemy never sleeps and has the same capabilities.

Regards, Stephan

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Fri Apr 17, 2015 7:48 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:With all those balancing changes flying around, I started a new game.


Thanks for the testing. I think the station costs are still off, and I think the default marauder destroyer loadouts are now far too weak. But, in general, I too think the balance feels "less terrible". Good to have someone else confirming that :)

The bigger emerging problem (which has always been there, but is now, I think, even more troublesome) is that the AI is doing a number of things that are both irrational and annoying. The main one being the policy of producing endless scouts, and sending a steady trickle of them to harass your worlds.

So... I may just tweak the marauder weapon strengths a bit, mark all these balance changes as 'stable', and then see if I can push the AI towards making some slightly more sensible strategic choices.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Fri Apr 17, 2015 7:58 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:So its seems you need 2m population per installation (except planetary defenses?) on a planet for the installation to run as designed. If you have less, there will be a penalty.


You have indeed correctly reverse-engineered this formula. I'm not 100% confident that the under-staffing penalty is a good idea, but, it made a certain kind of sense of Arioch and I, back when were were designing the core improvement rules. If we do keep the penalty in the game, I think we probably need to make an effort to better explain what's going to players.

It's also worth noting that the efficiency penalty is currently documented inside the game -- if you know where to look. Clicking on one of the empty improvement slots in the planet production pane should bring up the exact penalty formula. And as I admitted to luciderous, it's probably over-explaining the details of the mechanics to include that much in the in-game docs. But, particularly when we get into playing around with the resource model, this is one of the things I'll be actively soliciting feedback on. particularly from those of you who are more hardcore about theory crafting :)

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Arioch » Fri Apr 17, 2015 8:21 pm

It's nothing that a few well-placed tooltips can't fix.

A mouseover tooltip could be added to the factory icon that tells what the output of the structure is, and include a message if it's understaffed and what the penalty is. And then the left-click infobox can contain more detailed information about how production is calculated, for those that are interested.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Sat Apr 18, 2015 11:34 am

sven wrote:Thanks for the testing. I think the station costs are still off, and I think the default marauder destroyer loadouts are now far too weak. But, in general, I too think the balance feels "less terrible". Good to have someone else confirming that :)


Marauders are weak, yes, but what you have in the period when you encounter them first is weak as well, so I think that is balanced enough. In the current state of the game weapons are of lesser importance on early game ships as I do most of my fighting by boarding enemy ships with marines. So its a matter of surviving the inital missile salvo and then capturing the ships. I dread the day when this gets changed and I have to think about actual fighting strategies in the early game. :-)

You somewhere said that the station costs were off, I found them to be quite fitting. The space station was priced right for my feelings and the dock station (the one that reduces costs to 70%) was more expensive but I thought that was a good change. After all, its quite an investment and should cost accordingly.

I developed a new hobby: Colony ship capturing. Steal a colony ship from every race in the game and settle the colonists on a planet for... scientific study. Its fun...

sven wrote:The bigger emerging problem (which has always been there, but is now, I think, even more troublesome) is that the AI is doing a number of things that are both irrational and annoying. The main one being the policy of producing endless scouts, and sending a steady trickle of them to harass your worlds.


This behavior might be studip, but it was not annoying - at least for me. As soon as I had my planetary defenses in place, I stopped caring about single scouts/destroyers. The AI does send fleets of 8-10 scouts sometimes, too. I had a game where the Yoral ruled half of the galaxy. Even there they would send powerful, but single ships to me. (Advanced derstroyers, Torpedo destroyers, things like that.) Of course, they lost.

sven wrote:It's also worth noting that the efficiency penalty is currently documented inside the game -- if you know where to look. Clicking on one of the empty improvement slots in the planet production pane should bring up the exact penalty formula.


Oh... Yes there it is... I must admit I would have never clicked on an open colony slot if you hadn't told me. But thats no problem, I like throwing around some numbers and trying to determine how the game works on the inside.

Personally, if you would ask me if the understaffing penalty should stay in the game I would opt for "yes", because it makes building up planets an easier task. When the planet cannot support more installations, it can build ships wthout having to worry about if its better to build all installations before building a ship. So a planet can build an installation, a ship or a space station and then, when the population has grown enough, another installation. I would say that benefits the early game.

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby Dinkelsen » Sat Apr 25, 2015 7:29 pm

Started a new game as Haduir (I am cycling hrough the races and it was their turn)

Some observations in no particular order:
- Taking away the easy-win-by-boarding everything in the early game was a good change. Made it much harder for me, but that doesn't matter. :-) Having to mount a "Boarding Pod" instead of a turret is a good move in my eyes. I had a dedicated cruiser design for boarding which worked out very well.
- The research queue seems to work, I used it to chain research Terraforming, it did what it should. I still have to torture the mechanic a bit.
- Disruptors are an anomaly (sort of) in the research tree. They can be researched after completing Ion cannons and Fusion and they like tripple the damage output of what you had up to then. I understand the research tree is not final but you might have a look at that specific tech.
- Captured Colony ships of other empires (my hobby, yes...) follow the colonizing rules on my empire instead of the rules of their original empire. I captured an Orthin colony ship en route to an Iceball planet and suddenly they weren't able to colonize it anymore. (I had not researched Habitat Domes yet) This seems strage. They should be able to colonize there since the ship was build and sent there. But I guess the new Haduir captain refused to land there, as it was far too cold for him...
- Pirates do not send harrassment destroyers this time. To be honest I haven't seen them for quite a while.
- AI empires can get quite large, but still the systems are mostly undefendet.
- The AI sends ships to annoy me by bombing innocent Haduir colonies. Made notes. Ordered vengeance.
- I do not quite get what Turbolasers are for. Heavy Turbolasers are a step up from normal Lasers but the normal Turbolasers do 1 damage less than lasers. Am I missing something?
- I a, having trouble selecting a planet in tactical view (to fire the planetary defenses weapons) It takes a lot of clicks until the planet stays selected. I also could not determine if the planet is now selected or not as the mouse over information showed if it was selected or not.

A few suggestions:
A series of clicks that I find myself clicking ver often is:
- select planet
- select production
- close production
- close planet
Since the X at "close production" and "close planet" is not at the same planet I have to move the mouse and find the other X to close the planet window. I experience this as tedious and would prefer a way to close those two windows with fewer clicks/mousemoves.

Somehow I find myself building huge amounts of transports to generate income. This is also tedious, as I have to build each transport separatly. I would rather have the option of "build transports until I say something else" if you understand what I mean.

Regsards, Stephan

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Re: Changes to the early game

Postby sven » Sat Apr 25, 2015 8:54 pm

Dinkelsen wrote:- Disruptors are an anomaly (sort of) in the research tree. They can be researched after completing Ion cannons and Fusion and they like tripple the damage output of what you had up to then. I understand the research tree is not final but you might have a look at that specific tech.
- I do not quite get what Turbolasers are for. Heavy Turbolasers are a step up from normal Lasers but the normal Turbolasers do 1 damage less than lasers. Am I missing something?


The base turbolaser damage was a typo -- I think it got copied from the "Defense Turbolaser" tech :oops:

You're right about disruptors being very off as well -- I've nerfed them significantly on 'dev' -- though, of course, there's a whole collection of different connected things that need to be looked at here. The clearest problem with disruptors, I think, it that putting twin disruptors in a heavy mount tended to be unambiguously better than mounting a similar tier dedicated heavy weapon (in particular, they offered both higher damage and higher range than a Plasma Cannon).

The damage numbers on 'dev' are still less than ideal, but, hopefully, a bit less glaringly wrong.


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