Critics of the new economy: magic should not be proportional with empire size

By on July 16, 2010 5:45:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

larienna

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The point I am going to talk about in this thread has been slightly discussed in other thread. Now that the new economy system has been designed, it seems to have fallen right into the trap that we talked to avoid.

All 4x strategy games have the same bug, From my experience I played MOM, CIv, civ rev and MOO and they all have it.

 

Probably that most of the games you have played could be summarised by the algorithm below.

- First you explore and expand.

- second, you meet your opponnents. Either you are ahead, tied, or behind them in technological advancement

- third, one player start getting ahead of others by chewing a bit of territory.

- and then VLAM!, that player has an invincible empire that punch through other players like butter since their technology level is twice higher than everybody else.

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All the games I have played had the following outcome. This is due to the fact that technological level is proportional to empire size. So if my empire is slightly bigger, it will increase my reasearch making me stronger which allows me to chew more territory to get more research. etc. And then you are unstopable.

It also means that the game is decided after half of the game has been played. Considering that the game will be played as multiplayer, the people will not wait for the winner to kill everybody before ending the game, they will just abandon the game after 66% of the game has been completed. There is a design rule that says " if at some point of the game, you know who is going to win, then the game should stop".

----

The solution is to make sure that technological growth is not proportional to empire size so that the smaller empires still have a chance to compete against the larger empires. So the idea is that you want to keep the player in the game until the end.

There are 2 ways you can do this according to your current design:

Magic vs Non Magic: Make sure that your magic system is not proportional to empire size. Which mean that your player's sovereign must have the same power level even if they had 1 city for the whole game. This could be explained by the fact that magic is centralized around the sovereign, so he does not need a large empire to do research or improve his skill. He can do that by himself. This implies that there must be no building or resources that will be necessary to have magic power.

Research vs Power: Larger empires has more territory to defend so it's normal that they need more power to defend it. So in this case, the maintenance of stuff and magic power is determined by the empire size. So smaller empire will be able to cast less spells. But the technology and spell research will stay the same for everybody. Which mean that a small empire wizard will be able to cast few spells and will have a small army but he will still have access to the latest spells and technologies. So the smaller empires will still be able to compete with the larger empires.

Give it some thoughts, but I think this is very important.

 

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July 16, 2010 9:37:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is a very good point.  In fact Civ IV has mechanisms to counter this form of exponential growth.  The way they did it was by having cities be less efficient / have higher maintenance costs depending on how many total cities exist or how far they are from the capital.  Higher level techs and forms of government made it possible to cost effectively grow your empire, but if you did it too fast at the beginning of the game, you could find yourself in a situation where you had very little money to put towards research because the overhead of managing a large empire with stone age economic systems and forms of government.  I also enjoyed using Revolutions mod on so things like religious unrest, poor city management, and too large of an empire would not just stagnate your empire, it would tear it apart with Revolutions.  I really enjoyed these mechanics to counter-balance an expansion boom style of play.

It would be nice if eventually some kind of mechanics find their way into the game to create a downside to hyper-expansion.

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July 16, 2010 10:04:11 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So, if this is a problem, what can be done about it?  After all, Stardock have been putting in heaps of overtime effort to get 3B out tonight, how are they going to re-jig magic research in the time before release? 

Best regards,
Steven.

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July 17, 2010 12:19:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hopefully, the new resource based city development should deal with this. See Brad's 3B video, hopefully will allay all or most of your fears. 

Paradoxical

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July 17, 2010 12:52:56 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Would making it so that the higher your essence is, the higher your total magical power is (mana, spells, power etc), yet essence is needed to make land fertile so as your borders expand your essence decreases; therefore having a inverse relationship between empire size and magical power.

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July 17, 2010 12:57:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Changing rate of research would not require new assets as much as changing variables- it would be less work to do.  That said, it could be done post-release also.

Magic I think is something that should actually be better in the hands of a smaller empire. 

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July 17, 2010 4:32:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I don't see a smaller empire as having difficulties keeping up magically, or in adventuring.  The problem is that now, mundane research (as opposed to acquiring spells) is directly tied to the amount of territory you control, or namely the type of territory you control (lots of lost libraries=high research).  So that larger empire is automatically going to be more advanced technologically.  Personally, I think that if you are a less advanced nation that is trading with a more advanced one, tech points should be part of the caravan.  The further behind you are in tech, the more tech points you get every time a caravan comes in from that nation (if you are ahead in overall tech levels, this shouldn't benefit you, or perhaps you gain a little bit more money as a result).  This represents tech diffusion in a realistic fashion, and enables a small trading nation to keep up technologically.

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July 17, 2010 10:43:02 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I definitely want to see some kind of interconnection between societies. i.e. I want the world to feel alive.

 

Having ideas travel, directly or as a research bonus, leak over would be great.

 

I share the OPs concern. It would be cool if one resource rich city could be powerful enough to rival an empire of lesser cities.

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July 17, 2010 11:13:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Hopefully, the new resource based city development should deal with this. See Brad's 3B video, hopefully will allay all or most of your fears.

In fact, the new system is the problem. Because to gain more research or more magical power, you need to control more ressources which means having a larger empire. So my suggestion is according to plan A or B on the original post,

Plan A: either there is nothing magical on the land or no magic powerup that can be built in cities (magic vs non-magic)

plan B: there are no ressources or buildings that increase you technological or magical research rating (Research vs power)

Personally, I would vote for plan B considering the way elemental is currently designed right now.

 

Some thoughts about trading. Trading does not necessarily increase your research level, it diversify your research. For example, in master of orion 2, in each technology field, you could take in average 1 tech out of 3. Trading allows you to get the 2 tech you have missed, but it should not allow you to get technology from a level higher than you can actually understand.

 

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July 18, 2010 3:29:13 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting larienna,

In fact, the new system is the problem. Because to gain more research or more magical power, you need to control more ressources which means having a larger empire. So my suggestion is according to plan A or B on the original post,

 

Sadly, you're correct, as the new system, whilst a step up from how the city design has been implemented previously, is just poor, although a bit of this is due to the map gen. Whilst theoretically, it deals with the common trap of huge empires dominating so prevalent in 4x games, a city with all possible increase x resources by x% improvement structures (for one resource) just isn't as useful as a number of cities with just one of those resources, so it pretty much fails there. 

As a result of said quality, I agree that magic should be removed from the city development side of things, and could quite easily even just be removed from the map too. Whilst I do like the fundamental idea of shards, they've pretty much become inconsequential over the course of things, and in all honesty, could be removed quite easily. 

Quoting larienna,

Some thoughts about trading. Trading does not necessarily increase your research level, it diversify your research. For example, in master of orion 2, in each technology field, you could take in average 1 tech out of 3. Trading allows you to get the 2 tech you have missed, but it should not allow you to get technology from a level higher than you can actually understand.


 

With regards to this, suffice it to say that there are a lot of very basic gameplay elements being implemented that could be improved just by taking a look at what's been done before. 

 

All this being said, I'm still very optimistic about this game, albeit a bit less having played through and seen some of the development choices made, but that's to be expected I suppose. I do feel as though the title of this game is totally misleading now, and the whole game focus has shifted so far from magic - in addition to the existing magic system severely lacking and being poorly implemented - that the title War of Magic is just stupid. 

Also I apologise if I sound a bit pessimistic and critical here, but I've just spent the better part of the day playing beta 3B, and its just drained my optimism. That being said, you've still got my purchase Stardock, and good luck!

Best regards, 

Paradoxical.

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July 18, 2010 3:46:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I strongly agree with the OP. Currently, if you early conquer an enemy with, like, 3 towns, you have won the game.

You gain the production of those towns (food, research, gildar), but you dont pay anything.

 

Like I did before, I strongly suggest maintenance cost for towns. The founding cost is just not enough, cause when conquering, there is no founding.

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July 18, 2010 5:46:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I share your concern.  And this topic has been discussed so many times, will this discussion leads the soon to be released game any improvement.    It does not seem this game is revolutionary enough to give a  breakthrough the genre.

From your description, the game still on awards the players that occupy the most landmass.  Being big is the only achievement.  Land give you more production/magic/troop/resource etc.  How boring is that?

Ideally, I would like the game reward play skill.  Gamers are awarded with 'achievement bonus' that is given to a player that is first in something, biggest in something, most concentrated in something etc.    Getting the biggest piece of land give you such 'achievement bonus' but, it is one of the many ways to stay ahead of competition.   If you the one is the best trader amongst the players, you are given extra $ from your trades so that you can but lots of mercenary, that give you equal footing to the largest empire when fighting a war.    The game should design in such a way that there are multiple ways of victory, not just big is good.

 

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July 18, 2010 8:28:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

These are worries, yes.  Bigger empires are not always better.

Best regards,
Steven. 

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July 18, 2010 2:06:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Completely agree that Elemental has fallen into the trap that the original post has mentioned and, yes, it has been mentioned before but it can't hurt to be said once again.  At this point, I'm saddened to say that I'm not expecting anything special from Elemental's out-of-box gameplay.  However, I do expect that Frogboy's emphasis on player modification will likely yield something revolutionary.

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July 18, 2010 4:03:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yup, add me to the list that agrees with the OP.

I think the benefits of expansion should be in creating more mundane units, access to more mundane resources, denying others access to certain areas, and of course the fast travel with blink/teleport (useful for quests).

I think the current way of attaining tech and magic should simply be ONE way to do it....and not even the main one.

I'll list some other ways a player can gain research and magic without needing to expand their territory. These are just a few from the top of my head to get the ball rolling....im sure you can think of more and better ones.

Directly from the Sovereign or a Champion

Allow the gain of research and magic points by simply moving the sovereign or a champion onto the lost library or arcane temple, and then leaving them there. The higher the sovereign or a champion's intelligence the more research points gained each turn. The higher their wisdom, the more arcane points gained from arcane temples.

The flavor behind this is that the sovereign or champion is directly "studying" the library or temple.

Once a player builds/"fortifies" on the library/temple in their territory, it effectively denies other players from researching there, and allows the player controlling it to research without needing a champion on it. Other players can then then destroy this upgrade, and move in a champion to continue (even if its still on the other player's territory!).

Quests

Quests rewards should also include lost scrolls and such that give players a sizeable boost in research/magic. The harder the quest, the better the boost. Frankly I think this should be the main way to gain tech/magic, since it wouldn't directly favor large territories..... however, indirectly, having control of larger areas would facilitate in completing quests and gaining tech/magic that way.

Defeating Mobs

This could also tie into quests, but not necessarily always. Defeating an evil wizard or magical being should give a boost in research and magic. Flavor reasons: you learn their secrets or absorb their power/knowledge after defeating them.

***Forgive the big obnoxious bold brown text, but I see a lot people losing heart over this build. There really is no reason to worry right now. I like the lore and world behind elemental, but the main draw for me has always been the modding capabilities of the game. They have spent A LOT more time in allowing players to mod the game, then the actual game. The fact that they will incorporate mods from the community into the cannon game means the community will make the game better and better...and thats why i'm here really. Brad himself said that the modding community will shame them. Many mods have shamed the original game, and looks like elemental will give crazy modding control to the player. Its only been a few weeks where they started seriously focusing on the gameplay....and each build is heck of a lot better then the last...it'll get there....if not we'll make it get there ; )

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July 18, 2010 5:19:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Huh... you know what'd help solve this problem? Let's be real: big empires are wasteful. Getting the player to research "Expansion" or "Administration" to allow him to efficiently build and/or rule multiple cities.

In addition... to have a bigger and bigger empire, they have to build increasingly expensive and ornate Palaces in their capital city. There is an upkeep associated with Palaces... and the upkeep is paid in Research Points... There should be various bonuses to having palaces, however... income and diplomatic capital, for one, or special Palace Guards.

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July 18, 2010 5:34:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,
Magic vs Non Magic: Make sure that your magic system is not proportional to empire size. Which mean that your player's sovereign must have the same power level even if they had 1 city for the whole game. This could be explained by the fact that magic is centralized around the sovereign, so he does not need a large empire to do research or improve his skill. He can do that by himself. This implies that there must be no building or resources that will be necessary to have magic power.

I fully support this approach. Linear benefits will always encourage city spam. There needs to be some increasing global upkeep or production penalty for the whole kingdom for any and each city beyond the first.

The archmage who only controls one city should be the most powerful spellcaster since he is spending all his time on magic instead of expanding / governing multiple cities. Save for controlling shards which would be easier for a larger kingdom. But there could be ways to contest the shards remotely with magic.

Perhaps that's the key - should you want to expand and found new cities, you would get more production, more troops and more tech research at the cost of falling behind in magic. Making it a trade off between magic potential and mundane technological and military power.

So make spell research more personal for the Sovereign. Have him sit in his tower if he wants to learn new spells.

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July 18, 2010 5:34:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Revolution!  Civil War!  Rebellion!  Big empires tend to break up around the fringes, especially in the medieval time period.  Why not just represent that?

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July 18, 2010 5:53:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

Revolution! Civil War! Rebellion! Big empires tend to break up around the fringes, especially in the medieval time period. Why not just represent that?

Actually. Why not? Because typically its not fun when your carefully created empire breaks apart and you can't do anything aganist it. Especially if you are on your hard earned way to victory.

So making it more difficult to archieve a powerlevel that dominates all other nations is good design, arbitray penalties because you did overcome the competition is not.

Europa Universalis, e.g., had techs getting more expensive the more regions you controlled. The idea was ok, but the had gon a bit to far, in a way, that the smalles nations (1 province) would be tech leaders, and only nations comprising of, if i remember correctly about 200 provinces were equally fast researchers. In between you lost the technology race.

So in that game the average number of research points per region were relevant for your technological progress. In fact something like this could also work in Elemental. 

Consider the fact that when the research is distributed around the empire and not centralized, two things would often be researched at two places simultaneously.

Therefore your tech progression could be something like: The best Research City produces 100% research points, the second largest 50% and all other cities 25% (numbers to be tweaked). So growing beyond two cities would then be somewhat rewarding (technology wise) but the largest part of the technology could also be obtained by faction controlling only two cities. This would also fit the game design of trying to build few specialized cities. The same approach could then be applied to diplomatic influence and arcane research. Therefore: Many cities would result in large armies, but not automatically a large technological advantage.

 

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July 18, 2010 6:18:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Some flaws:

No maintenance for cities, more cities = better in every situation.

No penalty for land ownage, more land = better in almost every situation. (You have more borders to guard.)

And the people are always happy, no revolots for instance.

 

I have thought of 2 solutions for more cities = better:

Solution 1, maintenance cost:

Cities, improvements, buildings, all cost gold and materials to maintain. If you can't research enough in the civic tree to counter this, you will be forced to stop production or start disabling/destroying buildings. This would also force you to have an eye on the civic tree since this is what you are apparently aiming for.

Solution 2, organization:

Ever played HoI 3? It had a value called organization. It was with this you told the state what to spend its time on. For elemental we might do a version of this. Every nation has a set organization score. This is anew screen in overview where you decide what to focus on. Every city you have would decrease this, and it can also be used to improve either income or research. What this does is enable some players to focus more easily. I have no solid model for it, but it might be worth a look at.

 

I have one way of implementing unruly population:

Every tile starts with high loyalty, since: "Hey, usable land!" is always nice to say. It will however deteriorate over time.

Things that would improve it are:

The Sov visits the tile(or is nearby but for a less amount). "Oh look! It is the one who saved us!"

There are armed units nearby.

There is a city with high prestige nearby.

This would make it so that tiightly knit places will almost never revolt, while spread out realms will have unruly parts that the sov will need to visit every once in a while.

 

Just some thoughts.

 

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July 18, 2010 6:41:57 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Perhaps Kingdoms/Empires could have a 'dynamism' rating that increases in proportion to realm size. Huge realms become staid and slothful in charactor- plumbing, buying food rather than hunting it and indulging in the vices of civilization reduce technological research and increase expansion costs. 'Barbarians', being somewhat more hardy, could have small realms but have a high dynamism rating- fast production (but poor army sizes), high reproduction, low costs and fast research of select low techs.

One of the problems with techs in games like Civ4 was that you could easily research all of them and if you missed out, say, Stirrups you could go back after a while and it'd be done in 10 turns or so. Making all techs increase in turn-time as you advance could be linked to dynamism, e.g-

1/ Kingdom of Butthurt has extended to ten cities and a very large territory. It's dynamism has suffered as a result and is now at 20% (lower is worse).

2/ Having just researched sophisticated war-machines, it now wishes to research a fairly basic cavalry upgrade- stirrups. Because it's dynamism is low, the Kingdom can only research it at a +80% penalty (100 minus 20% dynamism), and it's base research cost is the same as the last research you completed (in our case War-machines). This may sound unrealistic, but take into account Stirrups will have to be distributed throughout the sizeable realm, stables will have to purchase them, train riders to utilise them etc. The research takes into account the scale of implementation throughout the realm.

Or something similar. It would at least ensure kingdoms/empires had differing strengths rather than the late-game generic ones of civ4: FfH2.

 

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July 18, 2010 6:50:24 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Cities Cost Maintenance ... it increases at N for each new city (so 5 cities would cost 15 maintenance// 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5)

captured cities should cost double maintanence ... so if you have 2 cities and 3 captured cities it would go like ...

(1 + 2 + 6 + 8 + 10) or 27 maintenance

these captured Cities should also start with 0 Influence and take a LOT of time to expand influence (say 5 turns per 1 tile radius)

Then you could have a "Grand Palace" which costs 50% more than a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 20%, while giving 1 diplomatic capital and costing 1 research point.

Also have an "Imperial Palace" which costs twice as much as a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 50%, while giving 3 diplomatic capital and costing 3 research points.

 

Grand Palace and Imperial Palace can be built by both Kingdoms and Empires, and to build an Imperial Palace you must have built a Grand Palace.

These Palaces are upgrades, and are built upon previous palaces ... so you only ever have one palace.

 

Additionally, there are 2 techs in the Civilization techs which decrease City and Army maintenance by 10%.

Expansionism is the first one, and requires Owning a Grand Palace.

Imperialism is the second one, and requires owning an Imperial Palace.

 

Additionally, there should be a tech called "Quarterhousing" which requires Platoons + Housing. This reduces maintenance of troops by 20% that are stationed in a City.

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July 18, 2010 7:29:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tasunke,
Cities Cost Maintenance ... it increases at N for each new city (so 5 cities would cost 15 maintenance// 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5)

captured cities should cost double maintanence ... so if you have 2 cities and 3 captured cities it would go like ...

(1 + 2 + 6 + 8 + 10) or 27 maintenance

these captured Cities should also start with 0 Influence and take a LOT of time to expand influence (say 5 turns per 1 tile radius)

Then you could have a "Grand Palace" which costs 50% more than a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 20%, while giving 1 diplomatic capital and costing 1 research point.

Also have an "Imperial Palace" which costs twice as much as a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 50%, while giving 3 diplomatic capital and costing 3 research points.

 

Grand Palace and Imperial Palace can be built by both Kingdoms and Empires, and to build an Imperial Palace you must have built a Grand Palace.

These Palaces are upgrades, and are built upon previous palaces ... so you only ever have one palace.

 

Additionally, there are 2 techs in the Civilization techs which decrease City and Army maintenance by 10%.

Expansionism is the first one, and requires Owning a Grand Palace.

Imperialism is the second one, and requires owning an Imperial Palace.

 

Additionally, there should be a tech called "Quarterhousing" which requires Platoons + Housing. This reduces maintenance of troops by 20% that are stationed in a City.
is capable of being made in a mod)?

I like these ideas.  Is there any way to incorporate City Maintenance (and higher Captured City Maintenance and reduced growth of influence of Captured Cities) into Elemental before release, or will have to be left to mods?  And would the above changes be possible in mods?

Best regards,
Steven.

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July 18, 2010 10:59:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tasunke,
Cities Cost Maintenance ... it increases at N for each new city (so 5 cities would cost 15 maintenance// 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5)

captured cities should cost double maintanence ... so if you have 2 cities and 3 captured cities it would go like ...

(1 + 2 + 6 + 8 + 10) or 27 maintenance

these captured Cities should also start with 0 Influence and take a LOT of time to expand influence (say 5 turns per 1 tile radius)

Then you could have a "Grand Palace" which costs 50% more than a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 20%, while giving 1 diplomatic capital and costing 1 research point.

Also have an "Imperial Palace" which costs twice as much as a basic Palace and reduces Maintenance by 50%, while giving 3 diplomatic capital and costing 3 research points.

 

Grand Palace and Imperial Palace can be built by both Kingdoms and Empires, and to build an Imperial Palace you must have built a Grand Palace.

These Palaces are upgrades, and are built upon previous palaces ... so you only ever have one palace.

 

Additionally, there are 2 techs in the Civilization techs which decrease City and Army maintenance by 10%.

Expansionism is the first one, and requires Owning a Grand Palace.

Imperialism is the second one, and requires owning an Imperial Palace.

 

Additionally, there should be a tech called "Quarterhousing" which requires Platoons + Housing. This reduces maintenance of troops by 20% that are stationed in a City.

As an alternative to purely higher maintainence, you could have production in these cities cut by a large percentage, or even given every so few turns. This would allow for an interesting dynamic: as a large kingdom you could choose A) a relatively efficient centralized empire with a strong bureaucracy that has slower research or B ) a huge confederacy of pretty much self-governing cities, these cities aren't as productive but maintain high research.

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July 18, 2010 11:48:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Larienna, thank you for putting together a clear and concise analysis.

I don't buy your scenario, namely because I have not experienced my 4x games that way.  Rather, I have had to be clever to orchestrate a come-from-behind win against AIs, especially in CIV IV, where the outcome was most certainly in doubt the entire time.  I know that that kind of experience is not necessarily common, but to say that your three stage scenario is the only way, or even the most typical way, these games play out is not true in my experience.

I do think that you have identified a real problem, not of 4x games, but more generically a problem inherent to free-for-all games where players cannot cooperate effectively.  In my experiences with multiplayer free-for-alls in CIV IV, the player who gets ahead first most assuredly does not finish with the win .

Frogboy's a good guy and a strong AI coder, but I don't delude myself into thinking that AIs will be able to appropriately identify, collaborate against, and then backstab each other while dealing with a human player, so we're faced with solving the problem through game mechanics.

Our goal, should be to keep players in contention as long as possible.  I have an aversion to the technology and research hobbling that people are advocating here.  EU3 really did go too far in that regard, and I think we can come up with a better system, closer to the second option that Larienna identified.

I think that the imperial efficiency system I developed with prompting from Tansunke in this thread might give a good idea of the kinds of ideas we can use to deal with this problem, without taking a bat to the kneecaps of large empires.  The end result of such a system, would be that small empires, with a moderate investment in resources and buildings could achieve production multipliers of 200 - 300%, whilst large empires would be spending large amounts of resources just to be in the 105% range (a well run large empire).

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July 19, 2010 12:00:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

And indeed, Sareln, your ideas are interesting.

I only wish there was time to test them all (my 3 rough ideas, Larienna's 2 ideas, and your 1 idea)

 

My first idea was basically to first assume that Cities WILL cost maintenance (and to state that they should), and then to have various ways that large empires can lessen their maintenance fees at a loss of research.

2nd Idea was to have "free cities" and "extra cities" and the more extra cities you had the less your overall science and magical studies were.

3rd idea was to have Scientific and Magical studies bleed off exponentially from a "primary city." The effect here was that the Computer determines which city has the highest raw output of Arcane or Mundane knowledge, and sets it as the primary city ... and all other cities get an exponential loss.

(the third idea was meant as a "great equalizer")

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