Testing Economic Balance Changes

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zolobolo
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby zolobolo » Mon Jun 17, 2019 7:10 pm

I have been observing Coin income changes in my latest game and find that the player starts the unwanted accumulation of Coin right after its first succesfull war in the following fashion:
1. AI usually declares war on player underestimating military power and/or potential
2. AI looses its core fighting force but does not sue for peace
3. Player begins slowly occupying planets. This is done with only a handfull of tank battalions at first due to low production on core worlds and mostly relies on bombing tactics to take over enemy planets with 1-2 pops and no buildings remaining
4. AI does not sue for peace, and if it does, this only happens after the player has occupied 20-30% of their planets and does not offer any compensation in return
5. Player occupies another set of planets or all of the planets of the agressor
6. Player starts building markets on newly conquered planets to combat moral penalty due ot bombing and since all planets are viped clean of buildings and markets instantly give trade route capacity making them ideal investments
7. Trade income starts to rank up and the planer economy rolls into snowball effect

To combat the above process I suggest the following concept (some elements I have already mentioned in other places):
0. Implementation of habitability degreadation is assumed for this concept. Its affect:
- Reduce max population the planet the support
- Reduce maximum number of buildings that can be built
- OPTIONALLY: Create or increase existing Hostile Environment Cost
1. AI should offer peace earlier as soon as main force has been wiped out and especially after loosing a planet or two on top of that
2. AI should offer compensation to make the deal interesting for the player compared to taking the planets via bombing (at this stage they will not be able to take them via tanks)
3. Due to the negative effect of bombing, the player is not able to conquer high-value planets in large amounts in the early to mid game so when above deal is offered, they are tempted to accept and income snowball is halted
4. If player refuses peace offer and carries on taking the planets, these planets will have lower quality (due to bombing) hopefully for a long time and thus provide less building slots + increased costs when hostile environment costs are as well due to bombing
5. If player does decide to build markets on the few remaining slots to combat moral penalties and rank up income, the markets should only provide trade routes in line of staffing. If only staffed 50%, they should only provide 50% of their normal trade route capacity
6. Since overall population cap is also lowered by bombing, the markets cannot rank up trade capacity as no more then 1 market can be fully staffed devastated planet (or not even one if huge planet and fully devastated) - Thus income snowball is halted under all circumstances and the player cannot game the system

The above would increase enjoyement to be had in diplomacy as well as invasion mechanic making for interesting decisions.
Downside is a somwhat slower game after teh first succesfull game, but since the player is still allowed to take a few planets at this stage withouth much of any penalty (they can produce a few tanks to do this), it would not feel like an unfair roadblock

Long-term, the player can of coruse invade with dozens of tanks to take the planets unharmed but that would not lead to income snowball either as:
1. Planets taken like this, will keep their existing buildings, and the player is unlikely to demolish them for the sake of spamming markets
2. Even if they do, the staffing dependency of market pool bonus would prevent the extreme gaming of the sytems (like having 2 or more markets on a small planet with 4 pop)

Thus with the above system, reduction of base market income and icnrease of ship upkeep cost is not needed at all from stable build
But I would still recommend also doing ship upkeep increase for larger ships in order for the AI to prioratize them less, and produce more smaller and mid-size ships instead to increase its felxibiltiy and competitiveness

Please let me know if you agree or if I have missed something

nathanebht
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby nathanebht » Tue Jun 18, 2019 2:01 pm

Dragar wrote:Maybe shift? There is certainly a way to box select.


Yes, found you can drag select using the shift key. You cannot have any ships selected before trying to drag select or nothing will happen. Guess I was expecting it to work more like Window's drag select.

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sven
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby sven » Wed Jun 19, 2019 12:06 am

zolobolo wrote:Please let me know if you agree or if I have missed something


Well, I agree that economic and AI balancing is generally pretty complicated, and there are a whole bunch of different intertwined factors. Being smarter about starting and stopping wars is one more thing I should look at. Ideally, as you said, I think AIs should sue for peace prettymuch /immediately/ after losing a decisive battle. And again, ideally, I think that those peace offers should probably come with incentives, like territorial concessions. Some logic along these lines is actually already in the game, it just doesn't seem to be working particularly well and/or consistently.

I'm still holding out hope that I can get the AI feeling fairly good on the in_development build -- I put in a pile of patches over the last 2 days. As of r38088, I think it's feeling ok-ish, but, my own sense is that the in_development AI is still easier on 'Hard' than it is on the stable build, which is not quite where I'd like things to be. The issue I'm focused on right now is early game production allocation -- striking a good balance between expanding, building up an early military, and then dedicating planets to trade/research/mining as appropriate. As of r38088, at least, I'm noticing that the AI seems to be sortof stalling out after an early burst of expansion, and I'm not quite sure why that's happening...

zolobolo
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby zolobolo » Wed Jun 19, 2019 5:11 pm

sven wrote:I'm noticing that the AI seems to be sortof stalling out after an early burst of expansion, and I'm not quite sure why that's happening...

From what I have seen during testing for the dev branch is that in all three games, all races seem to have been producing starbases: 2 even on low-prio worlds instead of ships. Even if I was observing a weak faction, it eventually grinded out the starbases as well if I waited long enough

In some cases, it even then destroyed a starbase afterwards to build a shipyard in place of it which as you can imagine cripples any empire even in mid-game if not the strongest of entities (building 2 bases, then building a shipyard, and then the metal cost is even higher per turn for ships there :))

Did you check this and already ruled it out as the cause?

It seems also logical that the AI would now prioratize bases more heavily since they do not have any upkeep but still pack a punch - we have even had this same issue in the early versions which got fixed with tweaking the build priority

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby sven » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:27 pm

zolobolo wrote:From what I have seen during testing for the dev branch is that in all three games, all races seem to have been producing starbases: 2 even on low-prio worlds instead of ships. Even if I was observing a weak faction, it eventually grinded out the starbases as well if I waited long enough


Yeah, you're right that this was a problem, and you're right that it was connected to the maintenance cost changes. In r38078, (this Monday), I made some fairly sweeping changes that included a drastic reduction in the prioritization of Starbases, along with a hard rule that should prevent doubling up on Starbases on a single world. That said, AI's still do sometimes build Starbases, and for reasons I don't quite understand, they sometimes do so instead of investing in more important stuff, outposts and colony ships.

So; it's a work in progress.

zolobolo
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby zolobolo » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:44 pm

Great to hear, will check out the dev stream as soon as I am done with the current game

Have you consdiered reducing also amount of trade routes a market provides based on staffing? I find that this is the most prominent factor in why the player can economy snowball (building 3 markets on a small world with 4 slots and 4 pop provides a huge income while the AI tends to neglect markets mostly, which is fine if their effect is not so overly valuable)

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby nathanebht » Wed Jun 19, 2019 7:59 pm

zolobolo wrote:Great to hear, will check out the dev stream as soon as I am done with the current game

Have you consdiered reducing also amount of trade routes a market provides based on staffing? I find that this is the most prominent factor in why the player can economy snowball (building 3 markets on a small world with 4 slots and 4 pop provides a huge income while the AI tends to neglect markets mostly, which is fine if their effect is not so overly valuable)


Nerf the queue filler bonuses down to 5 to 10%. It would then matter much less that the AI is weak in their planet builds.

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby SgtArmyGuy » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:11 am

Did a test run on the new r38090 build, uploaded game_8256 for review. Yoral on Hard.

The AI fixes have given my enemies their balls back, so my biggest concern and reason of complaint is gone! The mid-game against Ashdar Imperials and especially the late-game against Humans featured some BIG fleets, and unlike in the previous build, I felt challenged again (or would have felt unless playing the Yoral - those damn Torpedo Destroyers are just broken). Looking at the graphs, everybody seemed to be advancing at pretty much the same pace, and overall things felt quite balanced especially in the early game. No massive AI fleets at first contact as was the case in most Hard games on the vanilla build. I think I now saw what you were trying to do to the early game balance with these changes - and I kinda liked it!

However, it still kinda worries me that smaller fleet sizes at early game give an unfair advantage to the player. The AI's are not very threatening in small numbers as they are not very smart. At equal fleet sizes, the player always wins. My two cents is that the new economy (still) leads to faster snowballing: you can go to that first big war earlier (with a smaller fleet than before) and after defeating a few ships the enemy no longer has anything to throw at you. And in mid-game and onwards, the economy changes (still) lose all relevance as you end up swimming in coin anyway.

Tl;dr: early game is easier and goes into snowball faster, but feels more "fair" and "balanced". Mid-game and onwards is not affected. If that's your design goal, I think you can go for it with this build.

...And I probably should do another test run on something else than Yoral before saying anything too definitive: those damn Torpedo Destroyers really screw up the early game balance and exacerbate the snowball effect. I brought down 9 Star Harpies with just two or three ships and nuclear-level technology. And with end-game Anti-Matter Missiles they can one-shot any capital in the game. There's not enough PD in the galaxy to stop the buggers from scrapping your ships and bombing your planets - four was enough to invade any planet with defenses. They are cheap, fast, long-range and can overwhelm enemy PD by simply throwing more missiles at them than the PD can shoot down. Don't OVER-NERF them, but I don't think removing one of those four missile slots would be an awful loss. I hate playing against the damn things, and I didn't really enjoy playing them myself either. :roll:

Other notes:

The Starbase spam is now gone - literally gone-gone: I only saw one Starbase in the whole game. Maybe the AI build logic still needs a little tweaking? A strategic Starbase or two might have at least slowed down my Torpedo Destroyer shenanigans. The AI seemed to fancy Space Stations instead. Shipyards were present as well.

The Arda Seed Herald tech exchange has some missing tooltip texts; I wrote down "EMP Warhead" and "Miniaturization" as having missing tooltips, but there might have been others as well. Worth looking into?

AI fleeing now seemed logical, no issues there anymore. However, it occured to me in one of the big battles that the AI could benefit from a comparison of loss percentages. E.g. if in turn two it has lost 50% of its fleet and caused 10% of casualties to the enemy, it SHOULD think "OK, this WILL end badly as I can expect this to only get worse, so lets get out of here!" Now I was able to destroy the entire Human main fleet because they didn't realize that although they had BIG ships and LOTS of them, the balance had already slided to my favour and was only going to get worse. Adding this functionality to the retreat logic could make the AI seem a lot smarter and humane, hm?

"Sparse" galaxies seem to cause some extra trouble to the AI. I fell in love with Sparse after I realized it creates buffer zones, bottlenecks and other strategically relevant borders to the galaxy. However, as the sad story of the Orthin on Bacabs shows, the AI doesn't realize when it's boxed in and won't start researching the correct technologies to get out of there. The Phidi also got a less-than-favourable starting location. :lol: Maybe the galaxy generation parameters need to be taken a look at? Or can the AI be made to realize it's "boxed in" and do something about it? Personally I had success with building "Torpedo Raiders" (a Torpedo Destroyer with an extra-range system installed instead of a deflector screen) - that would seem like a reasonable refit in box-in situations.

Pirates and raiders are still a major issue for the AI. At least my Tinker allies did not seem very proficient at killing them off, but were wasting a lot of time and effort attacking them anyway. Every time I would have benefited from allied fleets on the war fronts, the Tinkers were instead chasing off pirates at their own backyard - and even spending something like 9 turns in-flight to get there. Maybe add a simple "do not engage pirates if in war with a major faction" logic to the AI? This would fix a myriad of issues with the current pirate/marauder balance that was collaterally hurt by the economy changes (less AI ships but equally many pirates leads to very happy pirates).

Did you do something about the routing logic of allied fleets already? Beside the pirate shenanigans, the AI empires seemed to be concentrating their forces rather well now, although the Imperial main fleet took off somewhere at the start of the war instead of continuing their successful conquests. I didn't have the scan range to see what they were doing or where they were stationed exactly. Usually alliances cause issues for AI fleet placement. They should focus on defending their own empire more instead of hanging out on shore leave in the neighbouring allied tourist worlds.

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby sven » Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:03 pm

SgtArmyGuy wrote:Did a test run on the new r38090 build, uploaded game_8256 for review. Yoral on Hard.


Thanks for all your feedback. There's still more adjustments I want to make before rolling this out, but, I'm glad to hear the balance in this build is feeling better.

SgtArmyGuy wrote:Did you do something about the routing logic of allied fleets already? Beside the pirate shenanigans, the AI empires seemed to be concentrating their forces rather well now, although the Imperial main fleet took off somewhere at the start of the war instead of continuing their successful conquests. I didn't have the scan range to see what they were doing or where they were stationed exactly.


Yes and no. I did add in some extra logic that should make the AI less inclined to send it's fleets off on long field trips when there's something more pressing to do, but, that doesn't mean they can't get caught in weird behavior patterns. Sometimes I still see really odd behaviors around routing ships for an attack -- and it seems to be most noticeable when fighting pirates or marauders. This is an old bug (I'm pretty sure versions of it are also happening on the current stable build), but, I'd like to get it fixed if I can.

SgtArmyGuy wrote:Usually alliances cause issues for AI fleet placement. They should focus on defending their own empire more instead of hanging out on shore leave in the neighbouring allied tourist worlds.


Guarding allies is a thing I'd like the AIs to do sometimes. They're probably doing it too aggressively as things stand though. I should perhaps add in another heuristic to dial that behavior back a bit.

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby sven » Fri Jun 21, 2019 11:52 pm

SgtArmyGuy wrote:Maybe add a simple "do not engage pirates if in war with a major faction" logic to the AI?


Yeah, that's a good idea. A version of it should be implemented as of r38093. (Which also includes some fixes for bugs in the attack fleet routing logic.)

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby zolobolo » Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:10 am

sven wrote:Guarding allies is a thing I'd like the AIs to do sometimes. They're probably doing it too aggressively as things stand though. I should perhaps add in another heuristic to dial that behavior back a bit.

The below screen nicely sums up all the issues the AI has with positioning (And some planet MGMT issues)

Situation: Player is controlling Tinkers, is in war with everyone and everyone is in alliance against player - simple
What we are looking below is what the Phidi AI thinks on the situation

Pelase note:
1. They have absolutely no defensive fleets around their core system providing the production, money and 90% of theit pop. I did not destroy their fleet, they did not station anything around their core systems
2. Their core world: Philosir (but not Seralta) is in range of my fleets around them and they are going to be there from Schedar in 1 Turn (from their persective they are still stationed in the systems around them
3. Their ONLY goal is to guard Unukalha: they are amassing all of their combat ships here to ptoect another empire
4. I am also bombing their planet in Alphard but they have no priority to try and protect it
5. Even after my fleet arrives in Philosir, the system did not get any guard priority

So if we are talking hard rules: I would suggest they:
1. Always have at least as many Guard priorities on own worlds as on that of allies
2. Never commin more then 50% of power to help ally, and if defense force is destroyed, pull back all froces fro mallies to try and defend own planets before destruction

One could also argue that their economy is completely devistated and they need to sue for peace at all (coin) cost sicne that is the only thing they have left before a speedy demise or join another ally but we have already discussed this
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zolobolo
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby zolobolo » Sun Jun 23, 2019 4:36 pm

Tested the latest build on hard difficulty, huge ellipse galaxy all factions, and all other default settings:
- AI was very agressive especially in colonisation and sesearch: noticed that all faction (except Phidi for some reason?) get a base 75% leader discount
- Havent seen almost any starbases so far so the depriorisatio nworked wonderfully, maybe even to well :)
- Trade pool increase from diplomatic treaties has been also fixed
- Tech progress was messy: at Trun 100 the player needed to fight off heavy cruisers with heavy weapons and invade planets protected by plasma heavies - needless to say this has lead to much delay and boarding action
- AI territorial expansion was much more rapid than on stable Normal difficulty and the AI has formed 3 large empires, each capable of destroying me and my ally
- One of the three big empires was formed from merging factions: this was basically an amalgation of all the races that have lost the war against the player and ally: this is good, as this empire was neither overly developed and the way it came abouth made sense and was interesting
- Despite their rapid expansion, planetary improvements were quite ineffective (and likely mirrored the bonuses the AI is getting): many planets had 5-6 factories and mines were often not build at all on mineral rich planets. Income of the AI was relatively high insipe them only rarely building markets
- Due to rapid tech progress, one of the 3 empires has reached engame tech at turn 200, and the other two were well on their way
- Have seen some minor improvement on fleet positioning and attacks seemed to be a bit more coordinated when the AI had many ships (though there were also several occasions where ships were sent into a blocakded systme one by one which I dont think have seen before)

As far as overall challenge goes, the difficulty level is fine if one is not looking for a fair challenge: the AI does not get broke or stall and neither does the player so the situation is fitting in my opinion to Hard difficulty.

Will try with Normal to see how the AI fares there

nathanebht
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby nathanebht » Mon Jun 24, 2019 5:54 am

Completed a game started with r38093. Hard difficulty as the Phidi. Uploaded game_8268.

The AI expanded very aggressively. Allied in the late game with the humans and they started colonizing the lesser planets in my empire!

In the middle and late game, the AI was out researching me. The AI bonus in research is too much for hard difficulty. Dinky little empires shouldn't be racing ahead of my larger empire with several dedicated research worlds.

Capturing research from planet take overs is very lucrative. Its relatively easy to capture a planet. Do this a few times and you get several free top tier techs. I like the mechanic. It just needs to be a bit less beneficial.

The AI's planet builds are sometimes exactly like my planet builds. This is great! However the AI builds shipyards at planets with no manufacturing plants. Sometimes the planet will have just one or two manufacturing plants. This obviously wastes a lot metal. Suggest shipyards be made to cost a more reasonable 500 or 750 metal.

Diplomacy was a pretty good experience throughout the game. Waves of war and then a sudden temporary peace. Empire mergers occurred where it made sense.

I know the Phidi are supposed to buy mercenaries but its not that great. You can't see the merc ship loadouts beforehand. It costs diplomacy points for some reason and I need that money for other things.

With the smaller size of fleets, large numbers of missile destroyers are very effective. Carriers are too ineffective. Not sure what buff to suggest for carriers but they do seem to need one.

Planetary defenses look to have very expensive upkeep costs. Star bases have zero upkeep costs. Not sure why you'd make planetary defenses have such a high upkeep cost.

Dragar
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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby Dragar » Mon Jun 24, 2019 5:54 pm

Smaller fleet sizes probably make missile destroyers worse, if anything. It's just that missile spam is very cost effective.

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Re: Testing Economic Balance Changes

Postby SgtArmyGuy » Tue Jun 25, 2019 6:49 pm

Did Humans on Hard on the r38093 build. Uploaded game_8270 for review.

Stardate 1232: AI decides to engage some Harpies far away from the front lines when at war with me, leaving its system defenses wide open. Maybe this behaviour needs the same treatment as the previous (now non-existent) marauder issue?

Stardate 1238: AI offers peace, then resumes war on the next turn. What happened there?

Found another missing Herald technology purchase screen tooltip, this time it was "Improved solar panels".

The Mendorn system (that contains no planets whatsoever) gathers Outpost Transports like flies throughout the game. The record was four Outpost ships from four different empires at the same time! :roll:

Overall, the experience was very similar with my previous Yoral playthrough, and confirms my earlier feelings about it. The AI is competetive and was able to over-produce me in the beginning (as it should with Humans). It builds enough ships, but doesn't doom-fleet them into stacks of dozens like in the vanilla build. This time the economy actually bottlenecked my fleet growth, and forced me to go into war so I could build some Markets on my freshly conquered worlds! :lol: That was fun, and couldn't have happened in the vanilla build. I think this one's pretty ready to roll out.

Other notes and ideas:

Starbases really are non-existent. Also, the AI seems to be building Shipyards on planets with no Production.

I think the AI could afford to use its rare doom-stacks more aggressively. The Imperials had some impressive fleets with impervious 720 shield ships, but they rather sat on their own systems and watched me bomb everything around them than go do the same to MY systems. In this game it was the Imperials vs. the rest of the galaxy, but I've seen this behaviour on 1v1 situations as well. If you do intend to make the AI sue for peace earlier on (as I have understood is your idea), why not give it a "main fleet"? A super-aggressive doomstack that actively attacks the enemy systems, and doesn't necessarily follow the rules of other AI. Then you can associate the "sue for peace" event with the destruction of this "main fleet" (or "fleets", if the AI empire grows big enough). Narratively and gameplay-wise, the "main fleet" would create an incentive for fighting a decisive battle (which is a good thing in a tactic-focused 4X). If you DON'T destroy the main fleet, it WILL come to your doorstep and f**k your sh*t up - but if you DO take it on, and take that chance of losing, you have a good chance of making the AI sue for peace. Currently it's just too easy to avoid that big battle and destroy the enemies around the doomstack. This is not very fun, or very narratively engaging.

...and when I say the main fleet should be a "doomstack", don't interpret it too literally. I just mean: give the STRONGEST fleet a "special" AI logic and role in the game. It's bound to wreack some havoc when unleashed, and would require the player to re-adjust their strategy! Basically, you would have the choice of encountering the doomstack or going around it, and each choice would have a more clear-cut "cost" to it.

Also, maybe captured ships could trigger some sort of "prisoners of war" diplomatic events? In case you need more ideas for new diplomatic events.


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