Very happy about random techs and infinite research

By on July 29, 2009 10:59:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ynglaur

Join Date 05/2006
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FWIW, I'm really happy with the random techs (that is, some techs appear in some games but not others) and the possibility of infinite research.  I think the slightly randomized research and techs was one of the things MOO3 did right, and helps distinguish strategy from bean-counting.

Infinite research is cool because it frames the cost of research resources in terms of the effects of the research.  In GalCiv2, for example, the long-term cost of research centers are basically capped.  That is, once you've researched everything, they have zero value.  (Technically, you could shift them to production, I know, which makes torching them and replacing them with factories slightly less appealing, but you get the idea).

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July 30, 2009 12:54:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

bare in mind, there are problems with infinite research.  There comes a point where either A: the research addition is not even worth it anymore, or  B:  it becomes  so  broken that there is no point to playing the game any longer.

 

At least  this is in my experiance.  That being said,  I generally like infinate research too

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July 30, 2009 2:53:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

"You successfully researched Razor Edge Swords XXIII!!! As a consequence, all your swords do an extra +0.001% Keen damage."

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July 30, 2009 3:07:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Depends on how the system is set up.  If you can turn all of your researching power into production of something else, then yeah.  If you can't, you've gotta research something anyway.

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July 30, 2009 5:05:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The risk with that kind of tech tree is that it can easily be boring.

If you leave out random techs, then each tech needs to be kind of balanced. Therefore there might be no techs that give you special advantages but instead only slight increases to some standard values each time you research something.

Of course that is not a must. I loved about the MoO2 tech tree, that among the standard increases to certain values there were also several special techs that gave you entirely new options and make a significant difference once you have researched them.

I don't mind that at some point you only get into infinite standard researches but before that there should be some spiced up techs that stand out (maybe with some rule that you at least get one of a certain bunch of techs to keep it fair).

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July 30, 2009 9:24:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This brings back my memories of Daggerfall again and being able to create your own spell based on if you had enough money for one and then enough mana and skill for the other. Only the most intelligent of wizards could ever think to master the higher magic realm of Daggerfall and even they could not reach the infinite end of the powers that could be had. They could find and use intelligence gear to reach higher planes, but, usually something would stifle them eventually be it money or intelligence. Daggerfall has a great spell creation system along with of course the normal core group of spells and power.

Now I know you are talking about the teching up portion of the game, but, even in that where the player has to have the intelligence to tech up this Daggerfall feature could and would work. Once again if there's anything I hate more it's a static tech tree and the same every game choices.

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July 30, 2009 12:38:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Rolemaster had a nice system for progressive skill development that never capped.  First 10 ranks got you +5, next 10 got you +2, next 10 got you +1, everything after that got you +0.5.  Ranks 31+ were always tempting, because you always wanted to improve certain skills, but the cost compared to improving other, possibly useful skills was equally tempting.

In general, I like logarithmic curves (i.e. diminishing returns) for things with "infinite" in them.

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July 30, 2009 4:28:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ynglaur,

In general, I like logarithmic curves (i.e. diminishing returns) for things with "infinite" in them.

Logarithms can be pretty harsh.  Instead of "Benefit = log(level)", sometimes it works better to have "Benefit = root(level)", so that you don't end up in a situation where diminishing returns diminish too fast.  The base of the root is arbitrary. 

There's also the asymptotic approach, such as:

"Benefit = 1 - 1/(K + level)", where K is some constant (like 4).  This makes it easy to plan an ultimate cap on the power of some technology, which makes the game design more predictable, instead of having to plan for the possiblity of slinger recruits with level 99,999 slingshots that can 1-hit-kill dragon-gods.

 

I find too many games give increasing returns for research, instead of decreasing - for example, a tier 1 farm produces 100 food, a tier 2 farm produces 300, and tier 3 produces 900.  That's not really balanced or realistic, but I expect this game to be more subtle.

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July 30, 2009 5:58:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting AIAndy,
The risk with that kind of tech tree is that it can easily be boring.I don't mind that at some point you only get into infinite standard researches but before that there should be some spiced up techs that stand out (maybe with some rule that you at least get one of a certain bunch of techs to keep it fair).

I always assumed this would be the way it would be... I mean, before you can upgrade "Generic Swords Upgrade I" you'd have to research swords to begin with. It's just that once you've actually researched the first stage, you can continue researching that tech for improved results.

Logarithms can be pretty harsh.  Instead of "Benefit = log(level)", sometimes it works better to have "Benefit = root(level)", so that you don't end up in a situation where diminishing returns diminish too fast.  The base of the root is arbitrary.

This is my preferred route, too - at least over logarithms. The diminishing returns of logarithms (and asymptotic approaches) is that you reach a point where there is just no reason to keep going. Even if you have resources flowing out of your ears and more than enough to throw away, you'll never notice that +0.01% boost that you paid 100,000 gold for. It just becomes a waste of space and they may as well have implemented a hard limit.

Personally, above all these methods I prefer a method without diminishing returns. I would prefer if progressive generic bonuses provide constant bonuses but with increased cost. Whether the cost should increase as a root, linearly, or exponentially I would leave up to testing. My reason for this is that I think this method allows for research to always remain a factor in the game - with diminishing returns there comes a point on larger maps that research simply stops being relevant.

Another downside to diminishing returns or costs rising too quickly is that it encourages you, for the sake of efficiency, not to focus too much on any one tech. And the result of that is, after enough time everyone ends with more or less the same research other than faction-specific or randomized techs. Allowing people to continue researching fields that are particularly important to them without too much of a hit to efficiency allows for much more variability in technology research.

I find too many games give increasing returns for research, instead of decreasing - for example, a tier 1 farm produces 100 food, a tier 2 farm produces 300, and tier 3 produces 900.  That's not really balanced or realistic, but I expect this game to be more subtle.

I don't see why it's unrealistic. Look where we were 300 years ago, and look where we are today. Technology has absolutely exploded - we have had increasing returns. Computing is a perfect example, even though that is slowing down. Still, once the next major step into a whole new method of computing is made, it'll likely happen all over again. Not to mention what's realistic isn't so important to me in terms of game design.

And even in the case that such a method often results in 'unbalanced' situations, I think that it could be made to be balanced enough to satisfy anyone but the diehard multiplayer people who are hell-bent on ruining every game they get their dirty little hands on with their obsession with absolute balance

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July 31, 2009 11:58:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good points SaberCherry.

pigeonpigeon: while technology advanced quite rapidly over the past 300 years, look at the last 10,000.  In fact, there have been serious periods of technological decline during several periods in history (albeit mostly localized to single continents) and several long periods of stagnation (generally due to wars, famine, ruling classes, etc.).

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August 1, 2009 3:07:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ynglaur,
Good points SaberCherry.

pigeonpigeon: while technology advanced quite rapidly over the past 300 years, look at the last 10,000.  In fact, there have been serious periods of technological decline during several periods in history (albeit mostly localized to single continents) and several long periods of stagnation (generally due to wars, famine, ruling classes, etc.).

Um, more or less exactly my point. When you start with close to nothing and expand at an exponential rate, at first you're expanding preeeetty slowly. Even slower than linearly! But then you reach a point where the function just explodes and shoots off into the sky. Technology had slowly progressed over tens of thousands of years, and then it reached that critical point and just exploded...

I guess what it really comes down to is the era, the time scale, and the context. In a game like Civ, it makes sense for a farm to produce 100 food, then 300, then 1000, etc... In a medieval game spanning 100 years, not so much. In a fantasy game it depends heavily on the imaginary context. It's been stated that Elemental's technology will all be medieval; but Elemental is a recovering world, not a growing world. In the beginning there are no cities or civilizations - but then they start to form. People come out of hiding in the wild to rebuild civilizations - in fairly short time spans. Presumably some knowledge from the past would have been preserved, either verbally or through writing; and thus vast technological strides would be made - going from nothing to medieval technology within a generation.

Also, not to mention even in the past 10,000 years they had their technological explosions, usually brought about by something specific. Like cultivation, irrigation, domestication, the wheel, metalsmithing, written language... astronomical navigation methods... gunpowder... the printing press. Let's just take irrigation as an example, to continue the farming theme. The difference between going from no irrigation to even the most rudimentary form of it is huge. It allows you to farm where you could never have farmed before, over vast swaths of land. And upgrading from the most rudimentary form of irrigation to something just a little more sophisticated will drastically improve the quality of all that land - making it decent, rather than passable farmland.

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August 2, 2009 12:52:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting pigeonpigeon,


Personally, above all these methods I prefer a method without diminishing returns. I would prefer if progressive generic bonuses provide constant bonuses but with increased cost. Whether the cost should increase as a root, linearly, or exponentially I would leave up to testing. My reason for this is that I think this method allows for research to always remain a factor in the game - with diminishing returns there comes a point on larger maps that research simply stops being relevant.

 

I just wanted to point out that while I agree with you.  This IS a system of diminishing returns.  INcreasing cost is a dimished return on the investment.

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August 2, 2009 12:57:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Diminishing returns in gaming typically means each level of a skill gives you less benefit than the last.  What you are describing KellenDunk, while technically accurate means every leveling system from every game I ever played had diminishing returns. takes 2x as much xp to get from level 3-4 as it did from level 1-2!  So yes, this is a diminishing return for xp gained, but it is not a diminishing return of the level, or in this case skill.

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August 2, 2009 1:20:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

RIght but it's a system of dimishing returns on labor..  When you get less for the same cost it's a case of a dimished return.  I've never heard that there's a different definition of it for games.

THere are two ways to produce dimished returns, you can either increase cost or reduce output.  To argue that somehow only reduced output is a dimisnishing return is silly.

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August 2, 2009 1:59:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's true, KellenDunk, but there is a significant practical difference between them. It's not only psychological. Spending 1000 gold for a 0.1% increase vs. 10000 gold or a 1% increase is hugely different assuming the time required are in the same ballpark.

Like you said, it's still diminishing return on investment, but it's not diminishing return per research tier. Diminishing return per research tier is what bothers me.

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August 2, 2009 3:23:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

To clarify my stance, I did not much care for the Gal Civ 2 ship component research in which Lasers v7 and Lasers v8 might be identical except one would take 33 space, and the other 31 space.  It's annoying to even get notifications about tech advances so trivial that they often do not even change the design or power of a single ship.  Tech increases should always be strong enough to be useful, in the course of a normal game.

However, when you consider the constant amount of sunlight that falls on an acre of land, it is unreasonable to propose exponential agricultural productivity increases, since they ultimately must be asymptotic.  That's true of many other things, too, such as relationships involving the strength of materials, like armor durability.  You simply can't make steel 10% stronger over and over and over until it can scratch diamond and resist a thermonuclear blast, unless you actually create new electrons and protons with stronger charges.  And you can't breed cows that produce more milk (by mass) than the water they consume, no matter what advanced mating practices you implement.

Since we are dealing with pre-industrial civilization, anyway, you can't expect immense increases in productivity that come from harnessing the combustion of fossil fuels to produce nonrandom kinetic energy, or from assembly-line mass production, and so forth.

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August 2, 2009 10:40:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My take on this whole thing is that the magical/unscientific nature of the game will allow us to "justify" pretty much any system we can think of. Take the steel example: in a scientific world, the durability of a metal is fundamentally limited by the internal "stay-together-ness" of its atoms, because all (regular) matter is made of atoms. However, in a magical world, steel can be made of a precise mixture of Earth and Fire, and refining the precision of the mixture is how you make stronger steel. Since there are only practical/economic limits on how refined you can make it, you could have steel that gets 10% stronger each time.

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August 2, 2009 3:35:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting SaberCherry,
However, when you consider the constant amount of sunlight that falls on an acre of land, it is unreasonable to propose exponential agricultural productivity increases, since they ultimately must be asymptotic.  That's true of many other things, too, such as relationships involving the strength of materials, like armor durability.  You simply can't make steel 10% stronger over and over and over until it can scratch diamond and resist a thermonuclear blast, unless you actually create new electrons and protons with stronger charges.  And you can't breed cows that produce more milk (by mass) than the water they consume, no matter what advanced mating practices you implement.

That's a huge oversimplification. If you are well below the maximum capacity of something, exponential growth is easily achievable. A good example is population growth. If you take a species with a much lower population than its environment can support, it will explode - rising exponentially and generally overshooting the carrying capacity of its environment. There will then be a mass death, and the cycle will repeat itself. Often it will slowly even out to a sustainable population. Anyways, the point is that if you are nowhere near the maximum of something, exponential growth is perfectly reasonable. If you've just discovered how to make rudimentary steel, there is plenty of room for huge increases to durability and strength. And the potential strength of steel could very well be far higher than we've managed to achieve so far - it's difficult to place a practical upper limit on things like that because you'd have to take into account things we don't know yet; as there could be undiscovered processes capable of making huge differences.

The strength of steel does not even remotely scratch the limit of the electromagnetic force; you do not need higher-charged particles to make stronger materials than steel, or even stronger steel. What you need are ways of arranging the atoms in a stronger or more durable lattice with as few imperfections as possible.

And you can't breed cows that produce more milk by mass than the water they consume, but you can come up with efficient methods of milking cows on a much larger scale. You need more cows, but you can produce more milk.

Also, yeah there won't be power plants in Elemental but there will be magic.

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August 2, 2009 5:12:36 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Infinite research can be done amazingly, it just needs to be balanced. diminishing returns is one way to deal with it, and should be part of it, but you should never feel like the effort is useless from then on.

For example, research could give randomized bonuses. Researching infastructure may give you +1 to speed while on roads this time OR it could give you a 25% construction speed bonus to bridges. Weapon tech might give you access to a new sword type, or it could give your current swords +1 damage, or it could let archers carry +5 arrows. You get the idea, this way the game is dynamic AND balanced. Worked on a little, the idea could extend to "if you have more swords than any other weapon, weapon research will far more often effect swortds".

No matter how they do it, im just glad they are doing it. its time for a fresh look at research in the TBS genre.

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August 2, 2009 6:18:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

For example, research could give randomized bonuses.
Ugh... RNGs make me nausious..... putting too much decision-making power into the Big Roulette Wheel In The Sky is a surefire way to unbalance the game.....

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August 2, 2009 7:41:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Scoutdog,
For example, research could give randomized bonuses.Ugh... RNGs make me nausious..... putting too much decision-making power into the Big Roulette Wheel In The Sky is a surefire way to unbalance the game.....

Really? RNG are some of my favorite things about games.  FIre Emblem for example.  I know a lot of people hate getting screwed over by it, but if a person doesn't happen to be growing very well then it puts me in a situation where I have to rethink who I want to bring.

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August 2, 2009 7:53:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I know a lot of people hate getting screwed over by it,
And I am one of them. A little randome helps spice things up, but getting knocked off by forces beyond your control just seems deeply..... wrong to me.

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August 2, 2009 8:32:18 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Scoutdog,

putting too much decision-making power into the Big Roulette Wheel In The Sky is a surefire way to unbalance the game.....

I think you might have this wrong, RNG in the case of infinite research here would not unbalance the game over much.  Each player should have a roughly equal chance at getting something nice, something they need, or something totally worthless.  Besides, this model would more accurately represent the way raw scientific research works, researching one thing often has spillover effects into some unrelated practical application.  In EWOM, it would be like spending some gold for a group of scholars to take samples of some rocks in a certain mountain range in your kingdom, they find the rocks to be exceptionally resistant to weathering or something, and so make better stones to pave your roads with.  The majority of the process described here is what normally is abstracted into the scientific spending bin that transforms your cash into things that make you win.

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August 2, 2009 9:18:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think you might have this wrong, RNG in the case of infinite research here would not unbalance the game over much. Each player should have a roughly equal chance at getting something nice, something they need, or something totally worthless.
Even if you did attempt to add a balancing mechainc,

  1. something nice in one situation is generally quite useless in another, and the coding needed to make the game figure out which is which is expensive and generally does not work all that well, and
  2. that still doesn't balance the game: as any statistican will tell you, just because there is a 33% chance of something happening doesn't mean that it will happen 33% of the time. And all it takes is one run of bad luck to essentially ruin your chances of ever getting back on your feet. Finally,
  3. It removes a lot of the skill-based parts of research (knowing what to research and when to research it), since you have little to no control over what you are doing.
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August 3, 2009 12:39:58 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums
  1. something nice in one situation is generally quite useless in another, and the coding needed to make the game figure out which is which is expensive and generally does not work all that well, and
  2. that still doesn't balance the game: as any statistican will tell you, just because there is a 33% chance of something happening doesn't mean that it will happen 33% of the time. And all it takes is one run of bad luck to essentially ruin your chances of ever getting back on your feet. Finally,
  3. It removes a lot of the skill-based parts of research (knowing what to research and when to research it), since you have little to no control over what you are doing.

While you make some interesting points, you look at it the wrong way.

1: If Elemental is what it looks like, there should be very few situation specific techs to be useless. If you don't need income, dont research into infastructure. If your looking for more powerful infantry, simply invest in weapons tech or something similiar. A good random system wont be "you research tech 22: you gain longswords" it will be more like "You research tech 22: Your swords gain +2 vs opponents with shields". What if they aren't using shields? Then use archers. Having a tech never meant that it becomes the fulcrum upon which your empires existance lies.

2: Again, if there are a signifigant number of useless techs dotted around, then we have an issue bigger than thier chance of popping up. One would imagine that the game design would not be so unimaginative as to have too many "wasteful" techs.

3: That would be the point. Alot of people (myself included) hate the tech rush in TBS's. Your in effect desperately trying to sqeeze out a few more research point for that tech you need solely because of a very linear strat. In Civ4 for example, there are a handful of strategies to rush through the game at warp speed, hitting certain techs along the way. In elemental one would hope the game would be more about working with what you have and not about "the rush". The game should feel epic, and part of that should be the mystery.

Random techs are no worse than random lairs and random heroes. They provide an asset that you are givin and must make do with. A skilled player isn't a mathmatician, calculating the turn needed for important tech A, but rather a player who gets "useless" tech B and makes it work in a clever way.

My 2 cents.

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August 3, 2009 12:54:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Personally, I like the idea.

"OK, dungeon keeper, here's 50 gold coins.  Now go into your dungeon and don't come out until you create a bow that shoots twice as far."

...a month later...

"Masssterrr...  I have made a new bow for your wicked killingses pleasure, mwahahaha!  It does not shoot any farther, no, but instead it is more powerful, yes, and so easy to use that we can arm the street urchins and orphans send them out to fight the very same day!  I call it... the cross-bow!"

 

See, that's how invention really works.  You can shout at your scientists all day long that you want more range, but if they keep giving you interesting, unpredictable, but very useful improvements to the thing you asked them to work on, you shouldn't feed them to the moat monster.  It makes the strategy more dynamic.

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