[Suggestion] Underlying Technology System Tweaks

Analysis of the Current System and Suggestions for Changes

By on June 8, 2010 2:28:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sareln

Join Date 05/2007
+19

This was originally going to be a series of forum posts, but when I started writing, the thing took on a life of its own.  It has made a wonderful procrastination tool, though I guess it should see the light of day before Beta2 starts.  With that said, this is not a comprehensive analysis, and is mostly focused on the underlying system and the philosophy behind the technology system.

There are definitely ideas that I have not addressed, technology replication over categories, technology which exists in multiple tech categories, and ideas on just how many inventions should be attached to each category definitely come to mind.  Maybe they'll get their own threads.

I used the MSOffice suite to do most of my diagrams, if you want a base to do your own diagramming ask!

This is long.  18 pages and 4,700 words, though there are pretty pictures.  I tried to keep it easy to follow and accessible, but for some of our non-native English speakers it may be a touch heavy.  Apologies in advance.

Link to PDF

Edit: I am proofreading this next version, but here's a prelim.  Made stronger connection between problems and goals, fleshed out more examples in Appendix A, defined Pulses and Cores, added what I learned from the XML.  I will continue my naming convention of picking random numbers over 1.0 now.

Some people were having trouble getting the link to work, but it seems to be working for me.

Link to PDF v1.75

Here is the final proofread version.  I think I'm done with this now, and am looking forward to giving Beta2 a similar treatment!  Let's keep brainstorming/thinking about how we want the tech system to look.

Link to PDF vFinal

 


 

Executive Summary

This analysis argues that the current technology system used in Elemental fails to achieve or adequately support certain gameplay goals. These goals derived from developer interviews, press releases, and forum posts, are: to enable a variety of starting strategies, create space for players to generalize or specialize their factions, and to nurture a pervasive sense of exploration and discovery. These goals are hindered by certain traits of the current system, namely: the heavy use of unexposed inter-technology prerequisites, the fast growth of available technologies, and the current implementation of random technology access.  I offer a tweaked technology system which makes several changes: a dramatic reduction in the number of inter-technology prerequisites, the introduction of cross-category prerequisites, a method for clearly indicating prerequisites when they exist, a more gradual introduction of available technologies, a pseudo-soft tier system for tech categories, and a promise to never deny the player something he has seen.  Additional solutions were considered in Appendix A, and an interesting discussion of MoO2's technology system is presented in the linked 3 Moves Ahead episode in Appendix B.

Addendum: For some strange reason my laptop did not have the CoreTech and CoreTechTree XML files on it, and I didn't think to realize that they might be on my desktop (since I have beta 1Z installed on two computers). Therefore, this analysis was performed without exact knowledge of the Tech situation. Having looked briefly over the tech XML files, I am still convinced that most of this analysis is still useful.

Link to PDF 

Link to PDF v1.75

 Link to PDF vFinal

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larrypeters
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June 8, 2010 3:16:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

First, holy sh!t, 18 pages!

I can't respond to everything, so I'll just sum up my general thoughts. For the most part, I like the current system, although I agree with you that the prerequisites are less than clear. But rather than changing anything about how the system works, I think that could be solved just by puttiing a button that says "Show Tree" that shows the full tech tree, with the exception of the techs that are hidden/secret.

Another suggestion that has come up a lot is "grey techs." After a certain period of time, or enough breakthroughs in a given field or something similar, some of the more common techs that you see a lot would change from being green to being grey (or some other color), which would indicate that when you finish your next breakthrough, you automatically obtain the grey techs, in addition to whatever tech you choose to unlock.

I think that in combination, these would be a fairly simple, straightforward (both for the player and the developers to implement) way to deal with the issues you mentioned (to be honest, I'm still a little confused about your solution, I'll have to go back and reread it again).

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June 8, 2010 4:02:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

What parts are you finding confusing? I've spent way too much time with it to see the rough spots now... start listing and I'll do my best to see if I can clear things up.

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June 8, 2010 4:24:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

In your suggested system, you mention "pulses" but as far as I can tell, you never define what a pulse is (although maybe you did and I was reading too fast and missed it). And then right after that there is your chart, with Levels 0-9 in red at the top, 0-9 in blue on the bottom, with a bunch of techs and arrows. Those two things were the biggest, but other than that it was very clear.

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June 8, 2010 6:03:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hmm, yeah, I'll probably need to expand that section.  I've also gotten a request to expand Appendix A with examples.  To tide over while I write:

Pulses are a way of thinking about techs, by subdividing them into groups.  A pulse spans several levels, and the way the system is currently concieved, a player researches (eventually) all techs in the pulse. We can toy around with making it so that not all of a pulse's techs are researched (paths the player chooses to not follow).

I should also expand on the stuff I've learned from the XML files, which is kinda big.  To summarize, each category has "lines" which are almost linear dependencies it seems like.  I'll have to look much more carefully at that.

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June 8, 2010 6:10:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Pulses are a way of thinking about techs, by subdividing them into groups. A pulse spans several levels, and the way the system is currently concieved, a player researches (eventually) all techs in the pulse. We can toy around with making it so that not all of a pulse's techs are researched (paths the player chooses to not follow).

Ah, that explains it, thanks.

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June 8, 2010 6:21:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

"I should also expand on the stuff I've learned from the XML files, which is kinda big. "

A solid read but I would ask if you could direct us to the .XML file you speak of so we may better assess the situation as it exists currently. It is assumed all Beta installs contain said .XML file?

I will expand my response tomorrow as I left my printed version of the .PDF at the office.

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June 8, 2010 7:01:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The .XML is not quite as straightforward as being on every computer, see my issues finding it in this thread.

That being said, here are the copies of the XML that are on my computer - just making sure we're all looking at the same-ish thing.

Technology XML Files for Beta 1Z 

CoreTechs.xml

CoreTechTree.xml

Stardock, Brad, etc. if there is an issue with me rehosting these two .XMLs, let me know and I'll take them down as soon as I receive word to do so.

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June 9, 2010 12:33:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm against having any prereqs at all.   So what if you don't discover how to make a catapult, but you figure out how to make a trebuchet.   Or skipp wood walls, and figure out that stone make excellent walls.

If there are going to HAVE to be prereqs, then Iagree with you sareln, that they should be as few and far between as possible.  Your idea on cross category prereqs is also good.

Perhaps, looking at each category as a tree itself would help design which techs should have prereqs.  I would suggest to make only ONE prereq per branch, being that you have to research the lowliest low of a branch to be able to get anything higher up.   For example, the warefare category has a couple of branches being:  walls, training.  I would suggest that the only prereq in the walls branch would be that the 2nd lvl wall needs  the 1st level wall (which i believe is wooden palisade).  If you ersearch wooden palisade, then you can miss any other type of wall and still fluke getting a much better wall later on.

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June 9, 2010 12:46:49 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ah, so say we have 5 wall techs: Wall-0, Wall-1, Wall-2, Wall-3, Wall-4.  Then Wall-0 is required for Wall-*, but that's the only prereq?

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June 9, 2010 2:09:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is the Warfare Tech Category from the XML files, arrows for prerequisites and blue triangles for infinite techs.  I've rewritten parts of the report, namely to tie the problems I elaborate on more to the goals, to give examples of various alternate systems in Appendix A, and to make the usual plethora of grammar fixes associated with large docs.  I'll sleep on it and proofread tomorrow.

Hopefully that'll give something for everyone to chew on Wednesday night, right before we jump into a hopefully awesome Beta2!

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June 9, 2010 4:59:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah, you got my idea down pat for prereqs.  Then it is down to the "rarity" stat and random luck whether you get to research the upgraded versions.  In my opinion, making for each game making you play more uniquely as youdraw on the strengths granted you, and try and hide all the weaknesses from being lucky/unlucky in the tech tree.

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June 9, 2010 6:51:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm wondering if you could use prerequisites to simply lower the rarity of a technology by one level... anything with multiple prerequisites would start higher than red (clear/black) and wouldn't occur unless you had at least some knowledge applicable to the problem... stone walls could have 'palisade, stone working/quarry as prerequisites and start as red, move to green after gaining both).

Also, you've mentioned MoO and Civ... SotS (Sword of the stars) is very interesting for a pseudorandom tech tree with only probabilities and branches set and the interesting ideas of using % bias in tech availability to give character to each race with a shared tech tree. Very few key techs, Morrigi have drones as a key starting tech because it fits a theme, others have 60-90% chances of techs appearing that fit the race, while some races have <40% for many techs (zuul). Unlocking a prerequisite can give another roll to reveal techs so unlocking a fusion age tech can unlock a fusion cannon which can lead to antimatter cannons directly, or be unlocked by other antimatter techs. It means that with limited resources you can keep to ballistics and hope for heavy firepower, if you don't get it you need to go the long way around. While another who teched to the next tier will be faster (fission engines are slow, fusion and antimatter are faster) and will catch up in firepower, during your teching you will only be able to field ships with balistic weapons from the failed rush encouraging appropriate counters. (the correct shields, deflectors, armour, ships sizes, drones). But the general idea is visualising techs, having % probabilities for techs, multiple prerequisites, few key techs and clear forms of comparison. (SotS visualises weapon damage, range, accuracy and firing rate... but I think you could do with having comparisons that are global, so daggers may be ~0 when balanced against magic weapons and within category visualisations for improvements on linked techs... smaller, slightly faster, but requires crystal etc.

Either way, losing a key tech would fit the description of  a random act and these need to be distributed correctly. One way would be to have variable balance levels... so any tech marked as key that is lost would be balanced by all players having equal numbers of missing key techs. Or, karma and luck. The point at which you discover a key tech is missing (the roll is made, branch revealed...) you gain a positive karma boost that is spent on random events, increasing positive events and reducing negative. -the last thing you need if you can't make bows, steel or houses is to have a rampaging dragon the next turn. -you could I suppose balance lost key techs with increased low use techs, to encourage other playing styles. No arrows? try slings, boomerangs etc.

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June 9, 2010 1:08:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When we talk about possible cross-tree pre-req's I get this picture of the first GalCiv. I have a large colored, taped together, printout of that Tech Tree, because there was no other way to keep it straight.

The amount of jumping around from Tree to Tree to accomplish a specific Tech advancement was a bit much now that I think back...

The current Tech set up is not "bad" per say and I think it is growing one me, mainly because after the first 2-3 picks in 2-3 Trees, everything else that becomes available, via the more and more Random nature, promotes a more diverse Kingdom/Empire build up.

Pre-reqs are needed. It makes sense to have some but can agree that to many handcuffs players as to how they want to traverse the Tech Trees as individual entities.

What more concerns me right now is how the "Infinite: Techs will be handled. It seems to just be a add +% bonus to the Tech itself and not this leads to this then this then this etc. etc.

A good example would be the Farming Tech. It seems that now it is just Refined Farming (+% bonus) over and over. Boring...

How about use base Farming (by Hand), then Farming (Tilling with Animal), then Farming (Fertilizers), then Farming (Irrigation) etc etc, then after 10 or so picks it becomes (+% bonus) to Infinity. Hell after 10 Farming picks I will assume I have all the Farming upgrades I will ever need, as actual available Farming sources would become the more pressing need.

That would allow the random element to be used and not terribly affect how, or when, the Bonuses show up in the Tree. It would not matter what actual random order I got (Tilling with Animal), or Fertilizer added), (Irrigation) in, as long as the Bonuses were equal, but I would get to choose.

I think we should try and assemble a List of Techs that would/could be added to the Trees and specifically the Infinite Techs for each.

I am also looking forward to Beta 2 as it may clear up some of the current unknown in this regard as well.

twitch twitch

 


 

 

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June 9, 2010 1:32:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good work Sareln, I especially appreciate you providing the xml files to back up your document.  I have one question though, can you trade technology in Elemental?

Later,
LAR 

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June 9, 2010 1:40:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The current Diplomacy window indicates that we can/could, but Beta 2 will not have the Diplo engine in, as we assume they are making changes, based on some heavy discussion that went on, but it does seems reasonable that will retain the ability to use Techs as a trading tool in the final....

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June 9, 2010 1:41:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Haven't looked into it too hard since the AI in Beta 1Z is a sack of rocks, so why trade?  I imagine it is currently very similar to the GalCiv2 system - you can trade any technology you have for any one of theirs, including ones they don't have prerequisites for.

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June 9, 2010 2:30:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well if it's like GalCiv2, and as easy to "game the system", then I say prereqs should be kept in the game, but can be ignored.  I forget which game it is, heck it may actually be GalCiv2, but every once in a while you'd research something that would give you the next two levels of a technology.  I'd treat prereqs kinda like that, with each level having a significantly smaller chance of being discovered if the prereqs haven't been discovered yet.  In the above graphic, if I have Sieges I'd have maybe a 50% change of discovering Catapults but only a 1% chance of discovering Trebucets.  It's highly unlikely you'd discover Trebucets but it's still possible.

I like the idea of cross-tree prerequisites.

As far as how far you can see in the tech tree, lets be honest here.  Anyone who wants to know the entire tech tree is going to be able to do so.  Be it reading the xml or looking at a web page from someone who's already parsed the xml.  Unless the game is actually randomly removing technologies from each session, you might as well just display the complete tech tree in game.

Later,
LAR

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June 9, 2010 2:42:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Also, you've mentioned MoO and Civ... SotS (Sword of the stars)

I've seen briefly the SotS system, but haven't had a real opportunity to explore in-depth.  It sits on my impulse account looking lonely.  I gifted my housemate a copy so we'll probably get in a couple games this summer.  Hopefully it will provide some insight about pseudo-random tech trees.

I guess the main thing I want to focus on is to see if we can move away from tree based systems like CIV and be more category based, like MoO.  Trees are straightforward, and it sounds like SotS has put forward a "random" tree which works fairly well, so we should take this opportunity to explore the random-category style.

From your post, these are the things that you say work for SotS

  1. Few Key Techs
  2. Known Tech Tree, but chance for stuff to be missing
  3. Many branches
  4. Ability to Clearly Compare Advantages/Disadvantages of Techs

 

 

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June 9, 2010 2:44:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As far as how far you can see in the tech tree, lets be honest here. Anyone who wants to know the entire tech tree is going to be able to do so. Be it reading the xml or looking at a web page from someone who's already parsed the xml. Unless the game is actually randomly removing technologies from each session, you might as well just display the complete tech tree in game.

Later,
LAR

There's an XML tag called "occurrence" which is doing exactly that.  Each technology has a rarity and an occurrence.  Rarity informs what color it is once you've researched its prerequisites.  Occurrence determines whether or not it's in the game.

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June 9, 2010 3:10:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Sareln,
There's an XML tag called "occurrence" which is doing exactly that.  Each technology has a rarity and an occurrence.  Rarity informs what color it is once you've researched its prerequisites.  Occurrence determines whether or not it's in the game.

That's sweet.  Btw, did you mean "AppearanceChange"?  I don't see an occurrence tag.  

Man I really want to mess around with this xml file now.  Something that might be useful is to add the ability to have either or prereqs.  I only see 1 prereq tag in each tech so I'm assuming that you can either only have one or if there are multiple they're both prerequisites.

It's also nice to see that the Fallen may have a different tech tree.

Later,
LAR 

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June 9, 2010 3:15:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting larrypeters,

Quoting Sareln, reply 19There's an XML tag called "occurrence" which is doing exactly that.  Each technology has a rarity and an occurrence.  Rarity informs what color it is once you've researched its prerequisites.  Occurrence determines whether or not it's in the game.
That's sweet.  Btw, did you mean "AppearanceChange"?  I don't see an occurrence tag.  

Man I really want to mess around with this xml file now.  Something that might be useful is to add the ability to have either or prereqs.  I only see 1 prereq tag in each tech so I'm assuming that you can either only have one or if there are multiple they're both prerequisites.

It's also nice to see that the Fallen may have a different tech tree.

Later,
LAR 

Yes.

Yeah, Brad has mentioned wanting to expand on the tech tree ideas he worked with in Twilight of the Arnor, where the races started getting unique techs in their trees.

Can't find the proof for the italicized statement, so maybe, maybe not, only Brad can say.

I think the prereq tag would be handled as an AND operation yes.

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June 12, 2010 1:57:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Took an opportunity to play some (couple of hours... maybe more ) Beta2 today.  The tech system seems to be more or less what it was in Beta1Z.  However there is at least one important change which should be applauded, namely:

  1. You can breakthrough more than 6 technologies! Maybe this has always been the case and there just weren't enough techs to make it happen, but that has neatly removed the problem of stealing green techs away from the player

This definitely makes wandering through the tech trees more accessible.

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