Author Topic: Developers requesting feedback: Long-term balance discussion (warning: long).  (Read 1180 times)

Offline x4000

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Well... 1.004 was a disaster, wasn't it?  Sorry about that.  1.005 to the rescue.

Meanwhile, if you look at the 1.005 notes, you'll notice that there's still an unresolved edge case; a remainder, if you will.  Various players have pointed out a few issues at an advanced level of play, and I've been mulling these myself, and am going to make an outline here of what I think the salient issues are.

Potential Problem Spots
To some extent, the crazy nature of this game is going to guarantee that some strange edge cases come up where the game is too easy.  The most specific sources of this (but this is by no means comprehensive):

1. Mythological creatures are much stronger than human ones.  Thus without an incentive to build human units, the tendency to just use the former arises.
a. However, the whole point of the mythologicals is that they are stronger than humans.  Nerfing them would make the game less fun and less balanced for the regular gameplay style.  Plopping down a minotaur to alter the tide of battle means nothing if the minotaur is not extra strong.  And that's rather core to the game, eh?

2. In various ways, there are all sorts of clever ways you can create choke points.  Whether it's hiding towns behind other towns, or making thin mountain passes, or smiting tiles, or... whatever... these have a lot of potential for abuse.  But they also have a lot of potential for fun, and feature prominently in many strategies.
a. You know, even for me, I've remarked many times before that I am a natural turtle when it comes to strategy games.  I want a front, and I want some protected behind-the-lines areas.  With the rules as of 1.005, you can do a lot of that sort of thing, but not to an extreme degree... most of the time.

3. The god powers are insane, and are meant to be insane.  Some of them, like the Skadi ability that makes all those mountains, implicitly cause all sorts of choke points and even complete blockages.  I wouldn't want to nerf that into oblivion, because where's the fun in that?  This is a rather subversive game when it comes to the genre at hand, and shaving off all the craziness just pushes it back into the land of ordinary.

4. The problems arise when it becomes trivial to solve all your problems with such tactics.  Booooring.

Lack Of Consequence Is The Real Problem
In AI War, the game would be trivial if you could just take every planet and the AI did not get stronger in response to that.  If that were the way the game played out, it would just be one long, uninteresting grind.  Instead there's all this grand-strategy goodness with hard choices to make as you try to achieve your goals without pissing off the AI too much.

Skyward Collapse is a bit of a different beast, in the main.  It encourages you to deal with a swirling mass of chaos, but your only real goal is to tame that.  That is super fun (and funny) when you are learning or when you have a challenging scenario, or for the first X amount of time in a particular savegame.  But once you have it tamed, then it's just basically "click through for a while until the end, or possibly go for some higher score goals."  The fact that you can tame the chaos at all is something I'm not thrilled with, and the changes I've made thus far (such as the 1.004 ones) were basically aimed at making it un-tameable.

The problem with that thinking, of course, is that taming chaos is fun.  And it's satisfying when you do.  And it's impossible to stop.  There is always someone too clever for the system, who will find a way around it.  The better solution is to make them not want to find a way around it.  Either by providing rewards for not doing so, or by providing some sort of counter-balance to the mix.

But that has to be done with care.  Once you've tamed the chaos, and, you feel like you've won, it's not fun to keep playing a savegame past that point.  Okay.  So that causes the endgame of some savegames to be very boring... while others are an exciting and nail-biting experience until the end.  How to solve the former without making the latter impossible?

Endgame Reward Structures
I'm not sure how possible it really is to provide rewards that are compelling in these circumstances, unless the potential for further hilarity and "interesting things that crop up only near the end that you don't want to miss" is there.  In other words, if you missed some things that only happen in the last x% of the game by stopping early, then that would be interesting.  If there was the "coming of Ragnarok" at the end of the game, and you had to basically survive Armageddon right at the end, that would be interesting.  Then if there's some point where you've tamed the chaos, it's not boring: it's an opportunity to improve your position to deal with Ragnarok.  And if you smash up the Armageddon stage of the game, well -- that's both short and satisfying, so hooray.

But!  Those end-game reward structures are also hard to balance, and I think some folks would still find ways to subvert it.  So you might even call it impossible to balance.  It might still make the game more interesting in general, and thus might be a worthy addition: and it might solve the late-game doldrums in games where the score cap has already been reached.  But it might also make the game unpleasantly hard for when you're already struggling to reach your score cap.  Those games that are currently exciting right up to the end might become super frustrating instead.

Lobby Options Are Not A Great Way To Solve That Last Issue
We could always add more options to the lobby to allow for customization... and to an extent that is okay, but boy that gets overwhelming fast.  I mean, look at AI War's lobby.  I don't want to do that approach in this game, as this game simply isn't that hardcore.  And I also don't want whatever changes that are implemented to be something that have to be optionally turned on: sometimes a cheese strategy or un-fun doldrums happen to occur right in your very first game, and you're unlikely to have enabled any advanced options then.  So then you just conclude the game isn't as fun as you'd hoped, and you move on.  Despite the game actually offering something much more fun that you would enjoy, if only you played some more with different options.  Having to dig that much isn't a good thing; the good stuff should be right there from your first game.

Simply Letting The Game End After Score Gates Are Reached
This really isn't great either, for a lot of reasons.  Sure it lets you skip the doldrums in savegames where you hit them, and doesn't impact the games that are already nail-biting to the end.  So from that vantage it's an elegant and simple solution.  But I think it's not a wise move in the end, for these reasons:

1. The score gating provides some secondary goals, but it's all too easy to subvert a score goal with specific tactics.  So while the score gating is interesting to a point, I am not sure how central I see it as being to the game.  You can also turn it off, and then the doldrums are right back in those games.  Some people don't WANT score gating, so what do we do to help them?

2. Overall the score gates are something that you can set differently from the other difficulties, right?  So you can set a super low score gate, and super high other difficulties, and basically win during the age of man in a super boring way.  The game is over hardly before it's begun.

3. In general the goal of the game has always been to last a certain number of turns, and changing that is... pretty drastic.  It's likely to have a lot of secondary effects as unpleasant as the things reverted in 1.005.  I'm not sure that something that fundamental should be changed; at least by the current evidence I'm not convinced.

4. Not having the game last a certain amount of time, but having the ability to end early, also impacts our ability to later do other victory conditions.  Aka, things like peaceful victories or other challenging things.  Kind of like building a spaceship to Alpha Centauri in Civilization, for instance.  In those cases I would think that they actually WOULD potentially allow you to win the game early, but only under certain really difficult conditions in the third age.  Those sorts of secondary win conditions can have all sorts of very specific rules; but what we're talking about here are the general rules that would affect everything, even secondary win conditions, and I think the ability to end early in the general rules would be very constraining.

Reactive Balance
Don't you just hate rubber-band AI in Mario Kart and certain other games?  That's really frustrating, because it's completely arbitrary.  You start doing well, so mysterious your opponents also start doing even better.  Bleh.

But with AI War, the "AI Progress" is more a manifestation of Newton's Third Law of Motion.  That's interesting, because it's neither arbitrary nor unpredictable.  You know that when you push X hard against the AI, the AI is going to push back Y hard (in some unpredictable manner, but still you know generally the scale of what will happen).  This is where the strategy comes in, because you're deciding where and how to push, and how hard.  You try to make your pushes as efficient as possible, and this is fun and interesting.

To me, that's a funky mix of both the carrot and the stick.  The important thing is that it's fun and interesting, though.  It also solves the issue that most strategy games -- including Skyward Collapse, Civilization (all of them), Age of Empires (all of them) and so forth -- all have.  Namely, that past a certain point your victory is assured and you're just going through the motions.  You've passed the tipping point, balance is in your favor, and you can't lose.  That's why quitting early is sportsmanlike in Starcraft 2.  Why drag out something pointlessly?

With AI War, thanks to AIP you don't run into that because the final showdown is epic and your risk of loss is often extremely high right at the end.  Running into that is at worst a very edge case, anyhow (and sometimes when you think you've run into that, that's actually a bit of hubris and right when you lose in a surprising fashion because you missed something the AI was doing).  All of that is thanks to the reactive balance nature of the game, and that's something I'm really fond of; saying "gg" and quitting early is a bit of an anti-climax in a lot of ways, unless it's really right near the end (in cases like Chess, where again it's sportsmanlike to bow out before the actual checkmate once you are seeing there is no possibility of escape; but that's waaaay in the endgame, not just a "marshaling of forces" in the midgame).

More to the point, there isn't an opponent in Skyward Collapse, and detecting valid "gg" situations is notoriously hard unless we go back to the score gating thing above (which again I don't like).  So that's where reactive balance comes into play, potentially.

Napkin Sketch Of Reactive Balance For Skyward Collapse
This is just something brief I've been thinking about this morning, so it's not polished or ready for trials.  But basically, what if the game were detecting certain circumstances, and this added to some form of AIP-like meter?  Chaos, perhaps?  Possible candidates for chaos-increasing circumstance might be:

- Way more mythologicals out on the board than humans.
- Not enough human units being destroyed in a certain number of turns.
- Not enough red or blue buildings being destroyed in a certain number of turns.
- Too high of resource stockpiles.
- Unused action points going above 9 and thus being wasted.
- Excessive smiting.
- Towns that go too long without seeing much enemy presence.

Those are just napkin-sketch ideas, so please don't get all in a tizzy about any specific one you might not like.  I'm not thrilled with all of those either, but they're somewhat illustrative.

As Chaos goes up, presumably some new Bad Things start to befall you, thus making the game suddenly harder.  This sounds like rubber-band AI, but there again it's really not because Chaos is easily avoidable... and also survivable.  Specifically:

- You can easily play a brinkmanship sort of game where you go for high Chaos and an unorthodox strategy, and then it's exciting to survive the Chaos effects in an atypical way.  It's like some of the people who play AI War with super-high AIP.  Fun!  Glad to see variety in strategies.
- If you don't want the Bad Things to happen, it's not that hard to keep Chaos down.  You mostly just play the game like most people already do, and it doesn't really even come into effect.
- It starts to become more of a thing late in the game as the doldrums would hit if you've hit your score gate; although, the risk of tedium there might go up if you're trying to avoid chaos and thus just going through lots of busywork to avoid it.  That would just drag out the doldrums even more, in less of a fun way, so that's one hole poked in this idea right there.

Secondary Objectives
The "Edicts" idea was suggested by players, partly implemented, and then cut because both score and Woes handled the situation in a more graceful and less-complicated manner in the main.  I think that was the right call, especially given the former design of edicts.  However... some sort of secondary goals I think would be a good thing, potentially.  It makes it a lot harder to balance the chaos, and when combined with Woes and the score gating could make for very tense moments.

Previously you could select your edicts from the game start menu, and that was not great.  I'd rather do something more unpredictable, like a fourth difficulty setting (sigh, but unavoidable perhaps) for Edicts.  Basically that works just like the Woes one.

Then at the start of each round, a new Edict is rolled randomly.  You have to achieve your existing goals, as well as the current edict.  If you don't manage the edict or the score gate by the end of the round, you lose.  This would need to have an Off option like the score gating -- some people simply aren't going to like this, and that's fine -- but once it was refined enough for general use would probably default to Easy or similar.

What the heck would good edicts be?  That's hard to say off the top of my head.  I think that a lot of our prior ones that we had designed were bad.  Things like certain kill counts, building a university, or whatever.  Those are all things that might happen in the course of normal gameplay, and thus which you might just happen to cause unintentionally. 

The worst thing is if you reach age 3 and immediately you both are assigned and complete a new edict.  Here's your edict -- and you've already won it!  To some extent that means that the edicts would need to be something that only counts activities while the edict is active: so if the goal is "kill 200 human units," then it doesn't matter how many already died before the edict came down -- it means 200 more.  But even that can be kind of boring, because if you have a huge engine of war around, then just killing 200 human units is trivial.  Or if you are already struggling, then killing 200 human units might be impossible.  Blargh!  You can see why we scrapped edicts.

I'm not sure how to reconcile those sorts of issues yet -- the risk of making the game unpleasantly complex or too impossible to win is very real with this sort of thing.  But the idea really does smell like it has some promise, to me.

Added Complexity Of The Good Kind
One of the things I like about reading Boatmurdered is how many things are going on at once in Dwarf Fortress.  You're trying to mine metals, keep dwarves happy, ward off sieges, keep nobles happy, keep your trading partners happy, deal with animals messing with you, deal with monsters leaping out of the abyss, and many other things. 

It's more of a sandboxy game in a lot of senses, though, because you're trying to build up a fortress in the style of your liking.  There are a lot of moving parts, and you're trying to make something that is creatively unique and yours.  There's not that much granularity in Skyward Collapse for you to do that.  Games like Pharaoh or Age of Empires or whatnot are more the level of granularity of Skyward Collapse.

Part of that comes from the huge focus on the military.  Having civilians wandering around on the map was decidedly boring during the alpha, so we cut the chapmen and the traders.  However, one thing that I think would be really interesting for the game is having more civilians buildings that don't contribute to the military efforts at all.  Making those necessary in some fashion (such as dealing with the demands of the traders and the nobles and so forth in DF) strikes me as a potentially very fun thing.

The key thing is that with more complexity of that sort, if it's done in a fun fashion, it becomes increasingly hard to balance the chaos.  Past a certain point it becomes impossible, I would think.  Whether or not the game is still any fun (or even understandable) at that theoretical point is a matter for debate, of course.  But I think that there is a lot of latitude between here and there, and again this is something that could be optional or only for harder difficulties (or indeed a fourth difficulty option).

Rather than edicts, perhaps there is simply a "civilian difficulty level" or similar, and depending on how you set that is how demanding your civilian populace is.  Exactly what that entails is still something that would have to be designed out, but this strikes me as perhaps the most promising first avenue of all for both how to handle some of the cheese cases and how to reduce or eliminate the end-game doldrums (although the ragnarok thing for the end of the game is perhaps the best thing of all for the doldrums, honestly; but this and that are not mutually-exclusive).

The Verdict
Overall the impressions of players seems to be that the game is really fun and interesting as it is.  I rocked the boat too much recently while trying to solve some problems for edge cases where there were players who were less into the game in general.  I want to avoid doing that again.

THAT said, I also do want to support an ongoing, interesting, advanced level of play.  If you've "got it figured out" after a few weeks of play... well, you've gotten your money's worth anyhow, but I'm still not thrilled about that.  I'd rather that it was still a lot of fun and equally challenging (assuming you properly graduate yourself to higher difficulties) even after months or years of play.  We have AI War players with 600+ hours of playtime on the game on their Steam profile, and with the combination of free updates and expansions here, I'd like to see this game have a similar level of longevity.  That desire is part of why I had such an overreaction to the cheese tactics that came up, because I feel like that sort of thing really undermines the longevity of the game.

But ultimately, whatever is done needs to have more thought and discussion around it before something is done.  So... what do you think about all this?  What ideas do you have?  Josh and I will still be thinking about it and talking about it ourselves of course, but many heads are better than two.

Cheers!
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Online Mick

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I'm just glad that this is all stuff you are thinking about!

I really like the idea of "end game", and I think I'd like that to be tied somewhat into your edict idea.

Basically, I'd love to have some type of long-term goal that you are building toward, and the score gating, woes, bandits and general survival are all just things you have to deal with along the way toward that end game goal to keep you honest. Basically, that goal should be something that you always have to work toward, and all the other stuff is things that distract you from it and waste resources.

I don't know if it has to be something different every game, maybe it could be Civ like where you have multiple things you COULD do, and if you accomplished any of them you are good to go.

Maybe you could have a different goal per faction as well, so they both have to do different things that sorta conflict with each other.

Perhaps the Norse could have a goal of "Prepare for Ragnarok" which states that on the final turn of the game they must have 100 units out and alive (number scaled to difficulty). And the Greek side has a goal of "Build a Civilization" in which they must have 20 standing town centers (once again, number scaled to something sane).

If you had a Greek and Norse faction both in the game, those goals would be difficult to reach if you spent any portion of it end turning. You might 'reach them early", but you'd then have to face the task of "keeping them met" for the final turns.

Hell, with that kind of end game, you really don't really need score gating at all.

Offline x4000

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Cool -- something like that might work, yeah.  Though the question remains if that would really solve the tedium of trying to get through the turns while maintaining something.

For instance, with AI War it's not "maintain the status quo for X amount of time," it's "gear up for something you actively have to do."  With that sort of mechanic, you are always wondering if you are really prepared enough for that final showdown.  So if you want to just hit End Turn a number of times, then fine... but you're rolling the dice there.  Then at the end you see if you are prepared enough, and deal with it as you can.  So the doldrums are dealt with by this paranoia factor, to some extent.

And with AI War, the option to try your hand at winning early exists at any time once you pass a certain point in the endgame.  I think something similar here could also work: some super mega bad thing starts happening at the start of the Age of Gods.  It doesn't really impact your game as it stands, but if you get to the end of the game without dealing with that thing, you'll lose.  And if you poke that thing too early, it WILL start impacting your current game.  So there's this kind of duality of "deal with it early and potentially actually win early" or "wait until I'm really sure I won't make a hash of things if I try to deal with it when I'm not ready."

If the game ends earlier rather than later in the third age, I don't actually think that is devastating to the game at all -- in fact, I think it changes things up in a positive way.  But it has to be some sort of active challenge, not some sort of arbitrary goal relating to existing mechanics, I think.  The analogue to taking on the AI Home Planets is a good one, I think.
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Online chemical_art

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Wasn't able to read it all on first pass, so will have to re  read it later.

Sorry if you provided a solution already, but I think the chain-of-thought that is most enticing is a "reactive" force that arises in response to edge cases, and in general in game.

I don't like, for example, edicts that give a binary win/lose proposition. Score gating does that pretty well, but runs into the problems of "If I fail but was very close, I am very frustrated." Or "gg, I win, now what?"


However, if edicts had many shades of grey, where completing them does nothing, but failing them causes increasing chaos somehow, that would be more fun. That way you could both set the bar higher and maybe have more freedom. For example, you could have an edict that is to prevent X from happening, and each time that happens, mounting chaos ensues that will be unleashed near the end of a round.

This is just within the realm of edicts, and edicts don't have to be used.

I think using your "napkin situations" causing these reactive forces would be best.


[My enthusism is back!  :)]


Will brainstorm more.
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Offline Misery

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Ok, a couple of things here....


1.  I really, really like that "reactive balance" idea or whatever it's called.   It sounds alot like some sort of mini-woes happening as a result of the player getting complacent or turtling too much or having way too many diamonds or whatever.    So long as these things are threatening enough, this sounds like it might help with quite alot of the current issues.   Honestly, this is one of those ideas that makes me think "Why wasnt this in there from the very start?", as it really just sounds like it'd fit just that darn well.   Best new concept since the woes.   DO IT.    :D

2.  The secondary objective edict idea isnt a bad one.... but I think the main problem with it is keeping the goals interesting..... while not having them feel really arbitrary.    Just having the next age come up and suddenly "Build 100 archery units!" is not very interesting and likely will feel like it was just stuck in there for the heck of it.   I seem to recall that's what one of the main issues with edicts were.   Not creative and dynamic enough, is what I remember them being.    That being said, I love the idea of another additional type of goal.   It'd be great for players who tend to hit the score gates a little early, as they'd still have something else to go after.   And I dont think there's too much worry about it being overly complicated if like the score gates it's an optional setting.

3.  The bit about the civilian stuffs isnt a bad idea either (even though I dont entirely understand what it entails).  I think you have to be careful with that one though.   The game currently does have quite a lot of focus on the military, yes, but there are problems with altering that.     How to explain this.... ok, think of the original Super Mario Bros, right?   In terms of gameplay, it's a pretty simple game.  Mario can run, he can jump.   Sometimes he can throw fireballs.   But for the most part the game is designed around the simplicity of the running and jumping.   And this is one of the reasons why it's so good and such a classic.    If you were to add in scenes of heavy combat or give him guns or whatever, well, sure that might add something to the game..... but the simplicity was built into the very design, and if that simplicity breaks, chances are much of the things that make the game great wouldnt entirely work right.    And it just wouldnt be the same.

This is particularly the case now that the game has just released an dyou've got players coming in and learning it.   To a new player, it's a game about chaos, but it's also a game about constant war.   If suddenly it was about war AND then abruptly there was this side bit that wasnt war, some of that kinda breaks down, and it might not be the same game as it was.

AKA, I think the idea itself is sound, but that alot of caution is required here.


and 4.  you're right, keeping things interesting throiugh the endgame really is important.... alot of strategy titles get that wrong.   If you were able to manage it, it'd add alot to the game, I think.



So there, some initial thoughts.   I'll post more later in the day when I"ve thought more on it, but that's enough from me for now.

Offline madcow

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An idea that sort of popped into my head for endgame, and also the too many mythical creatures.

What if at the end of the game (score is reached, current turn-limit, or whatever is decided), all the mythical creatures joined the yellow faction :D

If you want a "reason", the age of Gods is over, and the time of myths is passing, so they make one last attempt at claiming their place. This would add another balancing dimension of, make sure you deal with everything you place or at the end things are going to get dangerous. The idea is its one last final round of craziness to deal with.

Offline Bluddy

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Sounds like the edicts are like the idea I just posted of missions. Except I think it would be much more interesting if edicts deliberately made you disrupt the balance, as in 'destroy 2 Greek cities' or 'wipe out one civilization (after which you'd get a new free city'.

Something I mentioned to Castruccio offline is that it would be cool if you're building up/uniting  these 2 civilizations in order to eventually fight another, stronger civilization. But they don't join forces until the last stage when the 3rd civilization is connected to their map. This is of course completely theoretical at this point, but it might at least be good fodder for an expansion.

Offline Pepisolo

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I really, really like that "reactive balance" idea or whatever it's called.   It sounds alot like some sort of mini-woes happening as a result of the player getting complacent or turtling too much or having way too many diamonds or whatever.    So long as these things are threatening enough, this sounds like it might help with quite alot of the current issues.   Honestly, this is one of those ideas that makes me think "Why wasnt this in there from the very start?", as it really just sounds like it'd fit just that darn well.   Best new concept since the woes.   DO IT.    :D

I pretty much agree with this. This reactive balance idea not only sounds like it would solve a lot of the cheese problems, but it's also exciting my brain with the possibilities. This would tie in with the Master theme amazingly well.

Of course if you as the Creator are going to sit around or use cheesy tactics the Master is going to get pretty angry and start imposing his influence. Maybe this could be tiered. Either the Master is Content with your current play or Angry or Delighted or Bored or whatever. Seems like it might be better to have something like this rather than a numbered Chaos meter.

Using your rough napkin-sketch ideas

- Way more mythologicals out on the board than humans. -- Master isn't going to like this and see this as an abuse of power.
- Not enough human units being destroyed in a certain number of turns. -- Master is getting pretty bored.
- Not enough red or blue buildings being destroyed in a certain number of turns. -- Again, boredom.
- Too high of resource stockpiles. -- Master thinks you are being lazy.
- Unused action points going above 9 and thus being wasted. -- Again, laziness will not go unpunished.
- Excessive smiting -- abuse of power.

This way, sure you can wall stuff off for a bit or employ certain cheesy tactics, but doing so would also put you at great risk of incurring the Master's Wrath. Sounds great! I also like the idea that you are overseeing your people, yet the Master is also overseeing you.... so who is overseeing the Master? Maybe we'll find out in a future expansion.

Offline FallingStar

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I think bandits could play a big role in some of the reactive balance.  It makes more sense to me inherently - lands with a lot of stockpiles (riches) draw more bandits.  A land without much destruction or a lot of idleness?  Easy pickings, and more bandits would want to be in that area. So, more of a bandit activity level than chaos, but similar in nature to AI progress.  As an added bonus, bandits tend to be more point neutral or even drains, so the player trying to min/max their game would want to keep them low, and conversely cause more destruction themselves.  You could even have bandit keeps siphon resources over x amount if near a town, and be more prone to popping up near isolated towns.  I just think more can be done with them to help a lot in that area without becoming too complex or adding in a lot of new concepts.

As for endgame stagnation one issue I didn't see mentioned is sheer distance as an inherent defense as the map gains size.  In the beginning everything is pretty compact and intense, but so long as each faction has more than one town, they tend to be seperated by at least 4-5 turns of travel towards the endgame. .and another town can probably be built on the far end of the map pretty easily to keep you from losing the game so long as each faction is careful to keep a stockpile and a stone mason.  Finding an answer to this might be a bit complex, though something like ruins holding old roads allowing instant travel could help.  That could at least help to stave off the feeling of not much happening.

Instead of edicts or whatnot, I'd like to see the gods do more towards the endgame.  It seems neat when they drop in, but unless you're using their powers (more often to buff score than to really do a lot it seems) they just stand there.  If the endgame revolved more around perhaps needing to wipe out the other factions god since they're rampaging around doing all sorts of nasty things when they aren't using their god tokens, it could be interesting.  Especially if losing your god meant some big loss in faith/ penalty for the faction that lost theirs, so that it would become very hard for them not to be snowballed.

Although I could see that if it was the whole endgame focus that people might claim you're trying to promote atheism and killing gods. Ah well.  In any case, I just think that since the gods are there towards the endgame, having them being much more chaotic, interesting forces of rampage and destruction when not being placated and getting to cast their tokens could spice things up a lot.  Rather than just sitting there until needed, polluting tiles into obsidian with their godliness fumes.

Offline yllamana

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In the few games I've played, there seems to be a turning point around level 35 (maybe a bit less) where I no longer feel constrained by resources in any particular sense and only feel constrained by AP, which are something I can't change. That's probably when the game starts getting a bit less interesting.

Actually, I might say that too much of my AP goes into managing resources that are used for building military units, like sheep and pigs and wheat and stuff like that. It's very menial, because it's mostly just about getting the rate of change of these resources pretty close to zero, and the game doesn't provide much useful help with that. Placing a woodcutter or a quarry is sort of interesting because I'm making a deliberate tradeoff in space and location to increase my capability, but placing a pig farm because it looks like blue's barracks are using more pigs than blue is generating (or rebuilding that pig farm, later) is busywork and not fun, and unfortunately that's probably where the bulk of AP expenditure (and the bulk of peering at buildings trying to figure out what, if any, barracks are idle) throughout the game lies.

I wonder if the game would be more fun if I didn't manage that stuff - if the villagers built pig farms (or vegetable farms - they seem to be really into those) to meet requirements, and my consideration was whether they'd have the space available to do it. To reiterate, in principle building them is okay, but in practice regulating the correct amount of production is turning into a chore.

The AP considerations also mean I can't escalate the conflict past a certain point. All else aside, I can only rebuild three things per turn. The factions have the resources to escalate it, but I don't have the AP. That's boring. I think this is a key problem: the game caps out at a certain point, which is reached relatively early on.

Another issue with "capping out" is military units. While I (having played Combat Mission in my youth) am a huge fan of replay systems, I am not sure it's an appropriate way to sum up the battle. A different interface could be more appropriate. In my head I have coloured arrows showing the troop movements with another for attacks? Eh. Either way, I feel punished to a degree for having more little guys on the map, and that sucks.

On the flip side of the coin, I don't think there's quite enough depth, at least to start with. I can only speculate, because the leveling system means I am stuck with a very limited array of buildings. Most of these have the same concept (produces resource a; refines a into finished good A). It also takes an inordinately long time to get more, it seems, because the tutorial game did not grant me a level even in victory. I suspect if people are bored they aren't going to want to play 6 more complete games to see if it gets better.

Personally, I love the idea of having civilian buildings, but I love the idea of more free will in general. The marketing copy seems to make a big deal about the free will, but other than "stupid unit, why are you attacking the wrong thing" I rarely feel it! :) I would love the villagers to be able to do more on their own.

Aside: pieces of land come up and join the continent, but I don't know why. Is this a fixed (or variable within fixed constraints) number of land tiles per turn? It could be more interesting if that accelerated with the surface area of the continent, but maybe it does already.

Anyway, thoughts from fresh eyes! I managed to miss the development of Skyward Collapse. I remember reading something about it when it was announced, and only found out when I was scrolling through the featured steam games and saw the big splash picture and thought "huh, something about that concept looks familiar. This wasn't made by Arcen, was it??" and immediately clicked it and scrolled down to see who the developer was. :) Thanks for making it; it's great fun.

Offline Levi

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1. Mythological creatures are much stronger than human ones.  Thus without an incentive to build human units, the tendency to just use the former arises.
a. However, the whole point of the mythologicals is that they are stronger than humans.  Nerfing them would make the game less fun and less balanced for the regular gameplay style.  Plopping down a minotaur to alter the tide of battle means nothing if the minotaur is not extra strong.  And that's rather core to the game, eh?

Two possible ways I can think of to handle this is:

1)  Make it so there is a cooldown on summoning creatures.  Once every 10 turns might make a person be careful to use a creature at the right time.

2)  Have mythological creatures have an increasing cost to summon.  Sure you could use them to take out bandit keeps early on, but if you overuse them you might find yourself in trouble during the age of gods...

Napkin Sketch Of Reactive Balance For Skyward Collapse
...

This sounds cool, but my only worry is that its probably confusing if the difficulty of the game suddenly spikes and you aren't sure why.  If you do this, it might be a good idea to keep a visible Chaos Meter or something and maybe show what is currently causing high chaos. 

Also, I think one of the absolute best things about this game is the Woe system.  It really spices things up, so maybe a higher chaos level would also lead to more woes? 


Offline Aydz

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suggestions
« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2013, 06:39:51 PM »
Hi, just registered to mention a few things, but got caught up in reading these interesting posts.

Building on what I got from yllamana, I feel limited by the amount of land/property available as well. 1 Thanatos' Gathering (correct name? One with all the cerberii) and a yggdrassil will fill nearly all land available with units (including current military).  As a suggestion, perhaps the rate of new tiles could increase with the amount of town centres built. As for action points, it'd be nice if as yllamana has said if we didn't have to micro manage resources. I feel like I'm their Mother rather than their Creator. The idea that they build their own military units is nice, but expanding that to their resources might be worth a try for a more 'free will' kind of game. That said, I know sometimes I like to control what town builds what; an idea would be to have the player place the base resources within the town's area of influence and have the town take it from there.
~
On Reactive Balance

A minimal change to gameplay would be to make the score gate react to the way the game is being played. This should be made quick and easy to implement, and would force the players to continue doing things until the end as the score gate reactively gets larger. There are a few ideas, such as number of mythological units (either in ratio with human military or otherwise), or the amount of land-lost vs land-that-should-be-there.
Although I think it's been mentioned score gating isn't really something people like, personally I like it for a couple of reasons.
        -It gives me a way to compare my strategy with other people's strategies just be looking at a number. I mean the top scoring player on steam has over 4mil.
        -It doesn't allow me to perfect every town the way I want. It's not so much about taming chaos, but I feel like the game should be about balancing chaos and order.

Pro:
Low change to game style.
Con:
Hard to balance.

~
On Mythological Units

If it's just the mythological cheese you want to stop, then making "Heroes" appear as bandits (was it Theseus that killed the minotaur?) in response to a large population of certain units and, with a large bonus against their mythological counterparts would work and tie in with the game lore. Or perhaps a human military unit that kills it becomes a "Hero" gaining a name and a bonus. This wouldn't work if all they built was mythological units though, human bandits can't keep up. Another way to have a cap (mentioned above) on the amount of mythological units, is to limit it via buildings (a labyrinth for a minotaur) or via the score/score gate. I'm all for proper space management but just chucking down more towns for more military so I can put some army killing monsters on the map feels like it's the opposite. Besides, if the bandits have you on the back foot and you're trying to pump out your army, but it's getting crush the next turn and you can't place a unit to counter that is not a great way to lose the game.

~
Honestly I think the 'Hero' idea is a doozy. You could use it to probably fix up all (and therefore generate twice as many) of your problems. Endgame stagnation? No problem, the Heroes are coming to hit your town. Too many mountains? This Hero has the ability to fly (Perseus had a pegasus didn't he?) Smite chokepoints? Well, you get the drift.

Oh and I almost forgot, I came onto this forum to ask, it says placing town centres must be at least 8 from their own faction, not closer than 5 from the other faction and not more than 8 from the other faction, but is that meant to be 18? Because you can place town centres up to 17 tiles away.

[EDIT] After looking at the new patch thread, it might be best to work out a way to fix the bandit problem on harder difficulties. Thematically in a world like this bounty hunters and mercenaries would fit. A cheap go to would be town militia, but there are problem that it in itself is a defensive reaction to your town being destroyed.

The most obvious point is that mythological units are the best counter to bandits, specifically elves that pin them down with their barrage or a minotaur to wreck the keep.  Now the best part of mythological units however are that they're placeable. As players we're able to direct them towards the bandit keeps before things get out of hand. If you had an action to, say place a bounty on a bandit keep, and the human army you currently have could start heading towards it (problems, I know, but they're workable) just like the command to attack gods. This would allow us to efficiently deal with threats, and other than costing an action point or three, the human unit that kills the keep win their faction the bounty.

Anyway, an idea to work with.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 07:08:10 PM by Aydz »

Offline Teal_Blue

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very quick here, reactive balance, as interesting as it sounds, and it does sound good, and as many problems as it may solve... in my opinion it just makes every game the same. We have a condition that doesn't change, yes it is dynamic and different in the sense of chaos that is coming from different pieces or woes, but it is the same in that each game builds to this climax that is the same, game after game after game.

Right now that is not the case, each game is different and the ending and the situations are all different.

If there were a choose-able condition, similar to edicts, but not edicts, call it 'restrictions' instead, where the player chooses to play a game, say without mythologicals... and was able to pull off a win doing it.  Or only using level one units... and was able to pull it off... or not placing any mountains or lakes... and was still able to win... then each game would be different and each condition to win would stress a different approach by the player. And in many instances the player would try... and lose. On easy settings, on hard, on cruelly hard, on impossible... But each case there would be the possibility to win. With the variability of woes and other random events, ie the behaviour of the units, each game would be unique and should be able to prevent duplication of a exploit due to those variables. Or if not exactly right now, the units might be tweaked to allow for more random behaviour in those units to induce that variation.

That is my two cents, I like having variety, and i like having to do different things to win.

-Teal


« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 08:34:35 PM by Teal_Blue »
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Offline Wordsmith

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Something you might consider is changing the way the game is won. It's already been mentioned, I believe, but something along the lines of Civilization's multiple victory paths might be appropriate here. Get the entire world Enlightened for a diplomatic victory, perhaps, or kill X Bandits for a military one.

As it is, the endgame stagnation problem is always going to be there. It's just a consequence of the way the game is built. You aren't building up to an explosive finish. You're trying to maintain the status quo for a certain amount of time. The reactive force idea (which I wholly support, by the way, particularly if it's the Master causing Chaos or something along those lines) is a way to mitigate that issue, but not to solve it.

Having to maintain both sides of this struggle is interesting, but there's no climax to the game in its current form. The difficulty increases as you move through the Ages, yes, but there's still no endgame. It just gets to a certain point and then stops. This will always have a stagnation problem, even if there is a reactive force which prods you into being more active.

To put it another way, the goal is too abstract. Getting a certain score is all well and good, but you can farm points without having to do anything impressive. The goal of the game itself actively encourages players to just get the game into a situation where their score increases itself, where both sides are locked in a stalemate (albeit a violent one). In games like Civilization, this doesn't happen because the civilization you've been building still has to manage some great accomplishment in order to win, whether that be conquering the world or sending a space ship to Alpha Centauri. In A.I. War, it doesn't happen because you still have to take out the A.I. homeworlds, no matter how impregnable your defenses. You have to do something to win.

One option for this, and one that would still be in keeping with the rest of the game, would be to have a sort of final test for the world you've created. Maybe the Master doesn't much care for the world you're creating and ultimately intends to destroy it (hence the Chaos, if that's ever implemented; he's testing your defenses). The way to save your world might be to have each side create a special Mythological Token, then protect it for a certain length of time - but creating even one of the two Tokens causes the world to enter the Age of Strife, and floods the map with hostile Gods, Mythological Creatures, and Bandits who are all hell-bent on capturing and destroying the Tokens.

This would keep the early and middle games largely unchanged, as the player is just trying to get both civilizations built up to the point where they can create and protect their Token. It would make the end game much more explosive and impressive, however, as both sides will have to defend themselves against hugely powerful enemies. It would also let the player dictate the timing of the endgame, like in A.I. War, as the Age of Strife could be entered at any time, so long as the player is willing to risk defeat at the hands of the horde that comes with it.

EDIT: Oh, and the idea of Mythological Creatures and Tokens being paid for by the deaths of human military units would work very well here. The player has to encourage both sides to grow and war with one another in order to harvest enough souls to fuel their end-game war machine.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 08:30:45 PM by Wordsmith »
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Offline Misery

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very quick here, reactive balance, as interesting as it sounds, and it does sound good, and as many problems as it may solve... in my opinion it just makes every game the same. We have a condition that doesn't change, yes it is dynamic and different in the sense of chaos that is coming from different pieces or woes, but it is the same in that each game builds to this climax that is the same, game after game after game.

Right now that is not the case, each game is different and the ending and the situations are all different.

If there were a choose-able condition, similar to edicts, but not edicts, call it 'restrictions' instead, where the player chooses to play a game, say without mythologicals... and was able to pull off a win doing it.  Or only using level one units... and was able to pull it off... or not placing any mountains or lakes... and was still able to win... then each game would be different and each condition to win would stress a different approach by the player. And in many instances the player would try... and lose. On easy settings, on hard, on cruelly hard, on impossible... But each case there would be the possibility to win. With the variability of woes and other random events, ie the behaviour of the units, each game would be unique and should be able to prevent duplication of a exploit due to those variables. Or if not exactly right now, the units might be tweaked to allow for more random behaviour in those units to induce that variation.

That is my two cents, I like having variety, and i like having to do different things to win.

-Teal


Well, I think with the reactive balance, that might be the case during the slower parts of the game, but it sounds like the system is not just about reacting to what the player does, but reacting to what the player does during the chaos that is thrown at them.

During a non-chaotic situation, then yeah, this mechanic will only do so much, and it'll depend heavily on how the player is preparing to deal with upcoming threats.   But as stuff happens, the woes and bandits and whatever, the player has to adapt their strategy to overcome it.... and in doing so, likely they WONT be able to simply totally avoid the reactive threats.   It's a major point of the game that the woes and stuff force the player to choose among the larger tokens/units/strategies, and as a rule, the player just cannot be totally balanced about how they place those things and buildings and whatnot.... not if they want to win.

So one way or another, the player is going to have to deal with this stuff, and it can be different depending on just what, and when, the player does.  Honestly, I think this system will actually increase variety MORE, not less.    Right now, as many woes as there are, for some of them, you can simply apply the same basic tactic each time (depending somewhat on which other woes have already hit).   But this will be lessened if the reactive thing works the way I'm reading it.   If the previous woe, for example, caused the player to have to place a bunch of minotaurs or something to combat a plague of giants, well, suddenly that part of the reactive thing is going off, and whatever threat it produces now ALSO has to be dealt with during the period between that woe and the next, and this can change up how exactly the player prepares for and deals with THAT woe, and so on.  And it changes depending on HOW the player deals with it.  Maybe they used something other than minotaurs to handle it;  the reactive thing goes off differently, again influencing upcoming threats and tactics.    And this keeps happening, over the course of the game.


Honestly, it sounds to me like exactly the thing that would make the game even better.   Because right now there CAN be dull moments between woes, which can increase or decrease depending on WHICH woes have happened, and how effective the player's strategies were against them.   Having the possibility of extra stuff between them that isnt JUST basic bandits is interesting.   

And of course, it has the effect of stopping strategies that involve spamming the same things over and over, which is the sort of thing that you generally really want to avoid in any strategy title.