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Topic: early advanced soldier gameplay balance

ypopezios
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Posted at: 2018-10-02, 18:24

king_of_nowhere wrote:

it is still more effective to kill your opponent before he can achieve another win condition

Very true. However, alternative win-conditions are desirable when no side can dominate the map.

It would be a big pain, especially on small maps where your food production is scarce.

Either a big pain or a big challenge/fun. No pain no gain.

Nordfriese wrote:

That would change the character of Widelands quite a lot

That's an exaggeration. It will change a lot the military aspect (which is what people asked), but the rest of the game will remain the same.

There is no money in WL, and introducing it would change the game´s character too much in my opinion. On the other hand, "wages" could be paid in iron ingots for lower-level soldiers and gold bars for heroes.

Exactly. No money, just some special ware.

existing food (and perhaps payment?) should be retained in the building when it´s conquered by another player ?

If we want consistency with the rest of the game, then there should be no retaining.

It just seems illogical to me that soldiers should lose promotions.

Widelands doesn't have promotions. The non-deployed soldiers just lose their fitness. An alternative could be to retain their internal rank, but lose its effectiveness (that means an extra variable for each soldier), until they get again deployed for a long enough time.

Do you mean to forbid to send soldiers away? -1, the possibility to do it at any time is important and must be preserved.

That possibility is the cursed micromanagement. This can and should be fixed separately, so as it is no more important.


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einstein13
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Posted at: 2018-10-02, 18:30

I think that the change of gameplay should be in more than one ways.

From my perspective king_of_nowhere's idea about promoting trainers is very good and makes it hard to get level 10 soldiers. So that getting to this point is rather long-term. This probably will change the goal for most of the games (from reach supersoldiers and fight to make efficient economy to make supersoliders to fight).

But Ypopezios idea is quite interesting and makes the game even more exciting. But - as always - idea needs polishing. Food consumption is a very good idea, but wages as gold/iron inglots is too valuable for me. What if my economy runs out of them? What if I can't find any in mountains? What about scenarios where you have to fight against highly trained soldiers somewhere? I don't think that it is a good idea.

For that I have a slightly different idea: food consumption depends on how many soldiers are inside military building (and can depend on if they needs some healing). So when you have only one soldier, the consumption is 0 - even very bad player can play with that. And fortresses have rather big consumption when they are occupied. The consumption can depends also on soldiers level, but it should be rather slight difference (f.e. 12 lvl0 = x; 12 lvl10 = 2x) or - another possibility - level 0 soldiers have none or almost none consumption.

This idea is completely different than origins of Widelands (Settlers series), but it is worth to discuss.


einstein13
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JanO
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Posted at: 2018-10-02, 19:13

As I am one of those guys who like complexity a lot, I give +1 to experience for trainers and +1 to maintenance-cost. For the experience model I've got an additional idea: Maybe trainers should be soldiers, who gained their experience in a fight before. As a consequence, every player could only start promoting his army after contact with an enemy. Smaller NPC-controlled military buildings on the map (like the monsters in Warcraft 3) possible.

The whole maintenance-discussion should take place in another thread, I guess. It seems to already become quite detailed face-wink.png

Edited: 2018-10-02, 19:14
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king_of_nowhere
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Posted at: 2018-10-03, 16:40

einstein13 wrote:

ll change the goal for most of the games (from reach supersoldiers and fight to make efficient economy to make supersoliders to fight).

Just a minor nitpick to say that at this point there is much exaggeration on the importance of supersoldiers, as if they made economy obsolete. True, they are a big advantage, but

1) they still are expensive, so you still need a strong economy if you want to afford a supersoldier fast

2) if your opponent is close to your skill level, then getting a supersoldier won't win you the game in five minute, and soon the opponent will also have one. you'll need to field more supersoldiers than your opponent, so economy is still damn important.

supersoldiers do not take attention away from the economy. they simply set some boundaries on it and the way they are developed


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GunChleoc
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Posted at: 2018-10-04, 08:56

ypopezios wrote:

king_of_nowhere wrote:

it is still more effective to kill your opponent before he can achieve another win condition

Very true. However, alternative win-conditions are desirable when no side can dominate the map.

How about an option to have the game end immediately whenever an opponent is killed? For win conditions with cumulative stats, the defeated player might still have more points than the conquering player.

Edited: 2018-10-04, 08:57

Busy indexing nil values

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ypopezios
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Posted at: 2018-10-04, 11:03

Here I mostly express things that have already been said or implied.

The problem of many strategy games like Widelands is the single-point-of-success. The winner is the player who manages to reach there a little faster than the opponent. Adding prerequisites to that point, it only shifts the rush to whatever is the next prerequisite. Sometimes this is a race to conquer a valuable resource on the map. Other times it is the race to produce an advanced soldier or weapon or technology. And other times it is simply the race to produce more (which can mean zero strategy, like the players are isolated from each other). That makes every action of the user to be rated not according to the overall improvement of the empire, but according to how much it helps in reducing the remaining time before achieving the next prerequisite.

The more complicated the combination of prerequisites, the less visible this phenomenon and the more chances that an inexperienced player (or some weak AI) may lose his/her initial advantage. But when it comes to experienced players, that phenomenon becomes very obvious and makes the game less interesting. Cause whoever gets the early advantage, will most probably win the game, no matter how many hours later. In such close races, any little advantage gained by micromanagement can make all the difference (like in many formula-1 races, where cars make endless circles for many hours, but their finishing-order has been decided since the first-turn-decisions, or even earlier in the garage, since the alteration of some detail in some part of the car). And such a game-experience is no more strategy, it is racing with clicks (no need to mention how boring this is).

Therefore, adding elements to the game to simply delay the inevitable is not a real solution. The solution has to make the initial advantage almost irrelevant to later stages of the game (meaning that if the player fails to translate the early advantage into an early victory, it won't be crucial anymore for a victory after many hours). Some games try to achieve that through sudden upgrades to higher levels, which make lower levels obsolete. But again that simply shifts the rush, it doesn't give a real solution.

A real solution is possible only if some of the actions of the players don't give a direct and permanent progress towards the single-point-of-success, but instead their usefulness depends on their timing, in relation to other actions of the user (e.g. when to initiate an attack) and mostly of the opponent (e.g. when to move advanced soldiers from the training sites to the borders). This is not about some detail that needs fixing, but about a design-decision that may affect the character of the game. Of course most games don't bother about addressing that situation, and many players are happy with them. But if Widelands' community wants to do better than that, it is possible in a future build.

Thus I'm personally negative to changes that supposedly address that problem, but don't really achieve much.


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king_of_nowhere
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Posted at: 2018-10-04, 18:57

GunChleoc wrote:

ypopezios wrote:

king_of_nowhere wrote:

it is still more effective to kill your opponent before he can achieve another win condition

Very true. However, alternative win-conditions are desirable when no side can dominate the map.

How about an option to have the game end immediately whenever an opponent is killed? For win conditions with cumulative stats, the defeated player might still have more points than the conquering player.

I remember suggesting that collectors or tree gnome had cumulative score, so that a defeated player would keep the score intact and may yet possibly win. My proposal was rejected.

ypopezios wrote:

Here I mostly express things that have already been said or implied.

The problem of many strategy games like Widelands is the single-point-of-success. The winner is the player who manages to reach there a little faster than the opponent. Adding prerequisites to that point, it only shifts the rush to whatever is the next prerequisite. [snip]

The more complicated the combination of prerequisites, the less visible this phenomenon and the more chances that an inexperienced player (or some weak AI) may lose his/her initial advantage. But when it comes to experienced players, that phenomenon becomes very obvious and makes the game less interesting. Cause whoever gets the early advantage, will most probably win the game, no matter how many hours later.

Therefore, adding elements to the game to simply delay the inevitable is not a real solution. The solution has to make the initial advantage almost irrelevant to later stages of the game (meaning that if the player fails to translate the early advantage into an early victory, it won't be crucial anymore for a victory after many hours).

I completely disagree with this whole philosophy. If an initial advantage is irrelevant, then what's the point of achieving it? It completely undermines the whole concept of "strategy".

There is especially a false dicotomy here that I point out:

Cause whoever gets the early advantage, will most probably win the game, no matter how many hours later.

and

make the initial advantage almost irrelevant to later stages of the game (meaning that if the player fails to translate the early advantage into an early victory, it won't be crucial anymore for a victory after many hours)

those two scenarios actually describe the same thing. Even with single point victory, if you fail to translate an early advantage into victory, it won't matter later. If you gain the first supersoldier, but you fail to capitalize on it, then it won't matter in the slightest a couple hours later, when both sides will have dozens.

No, the way single point victory works is that you translate an early game advantage into a greater advantage. Take my latest game with worldsavior at the 2017 tournament: he got a supersoldier 30 minutes before me by some crazy micromanagement, while I built some more the economy: at this point, he used that supersoldier to kill all my weaker soldiers before I could get supersoldiers of my own. At that point I had more production, but he had the greatest army due to inflicting me more losses; so he kept pushing and burned some of my building, took some of my land. Thus my economy was damaged, and he surpassed me economycally, and that's where I surrendered. But his early advantage only mattered cause of follow-through: if he didn't kill my army with early advantage, I would have outproduced him. If he didn't kill my land after killing my army and before I could make a new one, again I would have outproduced him. And the strategy only worked because it was a small map with early contact, and so it allowed to capitalize advantage.

Early advantage only matters if one can capitalize on it by turning it into a greater advantage. If one cannot, then it is not real advantage. Consider a large map where players can't ffight before several hours: getting the first supersoldier is completely meaningless in that situation.

Then you can have an asymmetrical situation with different armies; one has early game advantage, the other late game advantage. but it doesn't change the victory condition. The side with early game advantage must capitalize on it enough to overcome the late game disadvantage. If it does, it will win, otherwise it will succumb.

The only way to avoid this is to increase randomization, which however frustrates those players that are more strategy-oriented.

In the end you only can have two kind of games: strategy games, where you can capitalize on any kind of small advantage and eventually win through it, or games of random where any advantage is easily nullified by chance; most games are a micture of those, though. The closest thing you can have to something that is neither is a sport like football, where having the ball close to the opponent goal is an advantage that is very easy to lose. But football is not even close to a strategy game, and can still be modeled as a strategy game where having correctly advanced close to the goal gives you a higher percentage of scoring, after which if you fail the random you will lose the temporary advantage. Or you can model it as a succession of many mini-games, where every time the ball is stopped the old game ends and you start what is by all accounts a new game. And the victory goes to whoever won the most mini-games.

So, for somebody who likes to see his skill and investment rewarded, there is no alternative to single point of success. You make it sound like it's bad, but it's the only kind of game that rewards strategy and skill. The way to keep it interesting is to make it very difficult to capitalize on an early advantage, so that it is perfectly reasonable to lose it. And widelands does it well, I think. You are putting so much stress on getting the first supersoldier, the strategy by which I started to dominate, the strategy worldsavior improved and defeated me with. You see two people defeating everyone else with that strategy, and you think it's all about micromanagement of the fiirst supersoldier. But the economy tournament showed that we are also much stronger than everyone else at making an economy, with worldsavior having a small advantage over me even there. It's no coincidence. Getting a supersoldier first is but the result of setting up a full working economy first. Skill at making a supersoldier requires skill at economy.

So, delaying the supersoldier with my proposal would not change the single point of victory principle, because that's inherent to any game with strategy, and it's not undesirable. It would however have the following positive effects

  • more delay for the victory means more chances for the advantaged player to make a mistake, which is the closer you can have to randomness while still rewarding skill.

  • more delay means an easier time balancing the tribes. getting the first supersoldier 10 minutes earlier matters much less if the game is already 3 hours long.

  • more delay means no chances to skip segments of the economy to arrive faster.

  • more delay means a time to use a feature of the game (half-promoted soldiers) that would otherwise be ignored.


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ypopezios
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Posted at: 2018-10-04, 19:59

@king_of_nowhere

For the sake of brevity, I will answer only the beginning and the ending of your long reply.

Concerning the beginning, there are strategy games where an initial mistake or an initial unpredicted move can decide the game, to the point that surrendering is reasonable to save the time of everyone. But unless people play only for victory (and not for fun), that destroys the experience. In my opinion, Widelands should not encourage that.

In contrast to that, there are other strategy games where the winner is not decided until the map starts getting exhausted. Cause only at that point it becomes obvious which player made the best usage of resources, including space and time. Those games can maintain the interest for much longer. In my opinion, Widelands would benefit a lot from heading towards that direction.

Concerning the ending of your replay, when it is about experienced players (that is a given condition for the whole discussion), more delay only means more time spent. Nothing else gets magically solved. You can spend a whole day until meeting your opponent, only to find out that you have no chance of winning and you better surrender. There is no fun in that, you may as well play without an opponent.

I won't touch the rest of the misconceptions in your reply. I don't think that it is a philosophical matter, but if it is, so be it.


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king_of_nowhere
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Posted at: 2018-10-04, 23:58

ypopezios wrote:

@king_of_nowhere

For the sake of brevity, I will answer only the beginning and the ending of your long reply.

Concerning the beginning, there are strategy games where an initial mistake or an initial unpredicted move can decide the game, to the point that surrendering is reasonable to save the time of everyone. But unless people play only for victory (and not for fun), that destroys the experience. In my opinion, Widelands should not encourage that.

In contrast to that, there are other strategy games where the winner is not decided until the map starts getting exhausted. Cause only at that point it becomes obvious which player made the best usage of resources, including space and time. Those games can maintain the interest for much longer. In my opinion, Widelands would benefit a lot from heading towards that direction.

Concerning the ending of your replay, when it is about experienced players (that is a given condition for the whole discussion), more delay only means more time spent. Nothing else gets magically solved. You can spend a whole day until meeting your opponent, only to find out that you have no chance of winning and you better surrender. There is no fun in that, you may as well play without an opponent.

The confusion stems because it's not clear if we're talking of widelands or more in general, and it's not clear what we mean by "the winner is not clear".

But if you are referring strictly to widelands and by "the winner is clear" we mean the point where there is no hope of changing the result, then I can assure you that getting the first supersoldier does NOT mean an automatically won game, unless the map is small AND the other side can't get a supersoldier for a long time.

Unless both conditions are true, the first supersoldier doesn't matter.

A good example is the tie-break of the 2016 tournament, with 2 games of me against worldsavior. In the second game of the second phase, worldsavior got the first supersoldier against me, but I was able to delay him and give up ground llong enough to get supersoldiers of my own. In the end he won because he completely killed my ally while I was stalling, and he had me outproduced. We could say we reached the point you think is good, that of "exhausting the map": we both took all the land we could, and it turned out I was outproduced and could not hope to increase my production, not to break the siege. So I surrendered.

In the third game of the second phase, I was able to field my supersoldier before him, but again he stalled a bit, gave up some middle ground, and was able to recover fine enough. However, I was still slightly outproducing him, AND I was getting luckier in fighting, so I eventually managed to get enough advantage to break through his front. And only then the game was won. Different luck may wel have turned the game in his favor, and it's difficult to say if my advantage would have been enough to win with even luck. Certainly, if he managed to hold long enough, he'd have won the end game, as I was bound to suffer when i needed to upgrade my mines. So that was also a game that wasn't decided by the first supersoldier but by economy.

And in the 2017 game which I mentioned before, ws won by supersoldier because he got it half an hour before I did. If I had gotten mine 10 minutes after him (10 minutes may seem a very short time to some here, but consider that game lasted less than 90 minutes total, and ws got his soldier at 35 minutes; taking 10 more minuntes would have literally meant being 30% slower than him, not a small difference), I could have defended the early game. The losses I had taken up to that point could have easily been compensated by fighting on the defensive for a while. There is also an instance in the 2015 tournament where einstein was able to stall me for almost one hour, though the terrain helped him. In that case I won cause I was able to produce more and keep producing more, not for being first.

Does that satisfy your "only at that point it becomes obvious who is making the best use of resources" condition?


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einstein13
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Posted at: 2018-10-05, 10:19

Great discussion... face-smile.png

The problem of many strategy games like Widelands is the single-point-of-success.

I don't think so. First, most of the games are single-point-of-success. That is the measure who won the game. Second, if we change that condition, the game will be completely different. For example if you consider any strategy board game, you can win it by gaining some kind of points (more than opponents) or total domination over opponents. I will show two modern examples: Game of Thrones (reference link) and Risk (reference link).

Game of Thrones is a single-point-of-success with "points" which are special places on map. You have 7 of them = you win. You can gain them only by military expansion, which can be done easily when you start the turn early, which can be done only by gaining the throne, which cost resources, which can be gained easily by military expansion. There is a "circle" of relations. But still it is a single-point-of-success. Why? Because in any game we have to measure who win and who is not.

Risk is based on total domination. You gain military, to expand, to gain military. The end is when you conquer all the enemies. Easy to get, easy to loose, since dices are in use. The game has also some strategy and probably politics included, since you can make allies for some time and move all the soldiers to one or two front lines. Or you can conquer whole continent, which have only narrow connection to other ones.

Both games are very good and are taking hours from players' life. But they have to measure who is the winner. It is much easier to decide which is bigger: 1 kilogram or 2 kilograms, than: 1 hour or 2 meters. So that every win condition have to have one single point of measurement.

Going back to Widelands: there is always a possibility to make more points of measurement. (Here I have to say that this is only a simplified example, so don't argue that this will never work. In perfect world it will work face-wink.png ) Let's take an example of the game where loosing whole territory will not say that you are the looser. The win condition can be considered as wage-sum of:

SUM of:
    0.3 * who_is_the_winner
    0.25 * who_produced_more_weapons
    0.2 * average_productivity
    0.15 * peak_of_workers
    0.1 * total_produced_wares

Then the game will look completely different. Why? Because loosing your empire will not conclude loosing the whole game.

But introducing this possibility in Widelands as default, will make the game completely different. For sure more complexity will means less players. Nobody will understand the rules and that will frustrate.

And there is another possibility of avoiding situation of what you have written. OK, not complete avoiding. You still have a single-point-of-success, but you can change the middle milestones. I can see several ideas (which are existing or will exist):

  • Special designs of maps which are good for defending, bad for attacking
  • Adding seafaring to non-connected islands
  • Including possibility of trading and other non-military stuff between players
  • Making win conditions more flexible
  • Prohibit players from reaching/ attacking each other

All of above (and probably even more ideas) can be used to make the game more complex and you can reach the winning point in different ways. Note here: first two points are map-designs and can be used in current development situation, so feel free to make maps that fulfil your needs or use already existing ones face-smile.png .


einstein13
calculations & maps packages: http://wuatek.no-ip.org/~rak/widelands/

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