A Solution to Mindless City Spam at the Start of the Game

By on August 17, 2012 10:04:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

j_wl_b

Join Date 07/2010
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The goal of ending early game mindless city spam but retaining the ability to build vast empires is what this post and my suggestions herein wish to accomplish.

Some people may disagree with me but I see the initial mindless city spam phase of the game as a bad thing. Here is my reasoning.

First off it detracts from the exploration phase of the game. You should be sending your hero(s) and explores out and exploring the land, clearing monster lairs, uncovering loot and generally doing the whole role playing thing. You should have the opportunity to fully explore the surrounding land so that you can make better strategic decisions as to where to place future cities. As is you simply have little to no lee way. Taking even a little bit of time to explore before doing the pioneer spam could ruin you since your neighbor may take the prime locations while you are trying to see what the surroundings look like. There is no give either spam or lose land.

Second off it should be a valid choice to either focus on building up a city or two before expanding farther or expanding first and then developing. However you are basically forced to expand first every time. Why? Because the AI spams pioneers and gobbles up all available territory quickly and you are forced to do the same if you want to survive. More cities means more production, more research, more build cues, and so on. Spamming cities is far more beneficial then detrimental. Not to mention the fact that there is a limited number of city build locations and he who takes the best locations first has a huge advantage over everyone else. As is you are basically forced to build pioneers and spam cities and outposts as fast as you can because if you don't you will quickly fall behind and it will become increasingly difficult to catch up.

What do I suggest?

First make pioneers cost a lot more production and a lot more gold to hurry. If it were to take say 25 turns for a city that was just establish on a two material tile, 20 turns on a three material tile, 10 turns on a four material tile, and 5 turns on a five material tile it would then become a strategic choice. Please note I am only suggesting that pioneers have their cost increased not anything else and that as you increase your cities production the turn cost would naturally go down. This would make you choose to either build a pioneer first or to instead build a building or two, a unit or two and then a pioneer. The benefit of building a pioneer first is that you can get a second city faster. the benefit to the second choice is that you will have a more developed city that can produce pioneers faster not to mention the fact that you will have more explorers to play with. This could make establishing your capital on a four or five material tile quite beneficial if you want to more quickly produce pioneers at the start of the game. This will punish mindless spamming at the start of the game unless you have lots of money to spend or your starting city is located on a four or five material tile.

Second add one more long term penalty in addition to decreasing prestige per city with each new city established. The number of cities you have will increase your unrest in all cities by 10% times the number of cities you own. This will make unrest reducing improvements and governor hero's of great importance to large empires and will add another drawback to mindlessly spamming cities as fast as you can. You can still build a large empire but building it too quickly will hurt all your cities and your empire as a whole. It may also force you to make some interesting strategic choices. For instance there may be a very good location to settle between you and another player. Do you make a pioneer as fast as you can, build a city and accept the extra unrest penalty for your entire empire? Or do you try to develop your existing cities a little more before establishing a city there and accepting the unrest penalty and hope the other player does not establish a city there first? Or do you take the militaristic approach and continue to develop your existing cities while building some military units at the same time with the intention of taking the city the other player establishes there when you are ready?

If my two suggestions were to be implemented it would make mindless city spamming at the start of a game a very bad idea. But it would not prevent anyone from building an empire. It would make the beginning of the game far more forgiving and would allow for more exploration and development of existing cities before the expansion phase of the game. You could expand your empire at a fairly fast rate at the expense of all your cities having higher unrest and lower prestige thus lower production but you will also have more territory and more build cues, or you could expand slower and have lower unrest and higher prestige per city but less territory and fewer build cues. As your cities gain more prestige and unrest reducing improvements, enchantments, and governor heros a large empire will have great benefits and few drawbacks. The goal of ending early game mindless city spam but retaining the ability to build a vast empire will have been realized.

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August 17, 2012 10:27:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am just not getting city spam in my games. There are maybe 20-30 cities on my maps total. Between me and the 7 other factions, that is 2-4 cities per player. I am getting many more outposts, but those are not a factor when I think about spam competition. I build maybe 5 settlers in the first 100 turns. They are well spread out and only queued once I have cleared an area for expansion. I don't get hardly any spots on the map that can be settled. Most of the time the land is barren or Wildlands. So outposts are the only thing. 

 

If you haven't realized this, the biggest problem with the AI outpost spam is that they don't defend them. They put them up, build on the resources and then forget about them. I can usually declare war and take 5 or so prime outposts before the AI even responds. So to me, it is really hurting the AI. This kind of prioritizing can be fixed somewhat with building priority AI tweaks. There also needs to be some amount of protection for outposts from within, as well as some AI guarding tendencies. 

 

Could you describe how many and when the city spam starts so I have some frame of reference? I would love a good pic of one of your maps. 

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August 17, 2012 11:17:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah... I'm not really a fan of your method which punishes both outpost placement and larger empires, with no thought to how the conquest-stage would work with the universal increasing unrest. To me it seems you're hitting the problem with a sledgehammer and hoping it works out, basically.

 

I'm just going to repost an idea I put down in an earlier thread:

I think a solution to the pioneer spam would be pioneers not placing down a city immediately, but rather an improvement that would then need to be built up using their home city's build queue while also consuming growth. These pre-settlements would also cause nearby monsters to attack before they were complete, so throwing up cities in frontier territory is dangerous unless you're committed to their defense.

This method thus makes expansion more gradual and the only early-on crazy land grab would be with Outposts for those trying to lay a wider claim.

 

Allows players to expand without the tooth and nail fighting for city spots? Check.

Lets players focus on different early game strategies with pros or cons to each? Check.

Allows larger empires? Check.

Emphasizes more caution when placing a new settlement? Check

 

Moving the increase production costs away from the pioneer unit itself allows players to send them out for other purposes and doesn't make the loss of a single pioneer devastating by comparison. By separating the city construction from the pioneer cost, it also allows future tampering (such as increased city time costs per city) without knocking everything else out of place in the process. Allow only one pre-settlement per city, or even one pre-settlement at a time, eliminate pre-settlements in another player's ZoC, and I think the problem is solved with minimal need to mess with other aspects of the game.

 

The only issue somebody brought up was the AI being unable to defend the pre-settlements but... if the AI can't check monster strength within 3 or so tiles and send armies to a single location until completed, well, let's just say that that AI is one with a bit too many issues for proper release. I'd say knocking monsters off their lairs would be exploitable but, as things stand, placing a ZoC under them makes them get off their butts and wander around already. At least if they're attacking instead of doing... whatever they normally do... it's immediately dangerous to place a city next to them.

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August 17, 2012 11:31:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

seanw3

First I don't have as much of a problem with the AI taking all the land anymore simply because I build cities as fast as I can when I can. I have learned to do so because if I do take the time to further develop my first two cities before expanding any further the IA takes lots of land and when I am ready to expand further I only have the militaristic option of taking cities if I can.

Second currently the best option is to establish your cities and then develop them since there isn't enough of a short term penalty to having lots of cities and lots of benefits to have them. Thus gobbling up territory, gaining more production cues, having lots more research, more gildar and so on is the best way to go. Developing my cities and then expanding usually means that the AI went the other way and now has an advantage in terms of research, production cues, gildar, resources, and so on.

Third I do have to agree that there is far less city spam in E:FE then say Civilization but then again there are far fewer places to build cities. And when I speak of city spam I am not just talking about the number of cities but also about how quickly you must establish them or lose out. The expansion phase of the game takes place from the start and there is little lee way. You don't have the opportunity to explore the surroundings and then  choose the best direction to expand in. Instead you must expand quickly because you don't know how close other civilizations have started near you and by the time your explorers find the fertile land in question those other civs have already spammed pioneers and taken it. So you must start out by building pioneers and taking land quickly you can not develop and then expand you must expand and then develop.

Fourth if you do only have three or four cities on average then the unrest penalty shouldn't be unreasonable after all it only harshly effects larger empires and with improvements to reduce unrest and governor heros the effect is greatly lessened. It also adds another interesting element when it  comes to conquest. For every city you conquer unrest will be added to your empire thus you will have to way the benefits against the consequences of doing so.

The goal of my suggestions is to give a little bit more time before expansion is necessary thus making the start of a game a little more forgiving. You and other players can get more exploration done so that you can make better choices when you do expand. Also you are now allowed the option of developing a couple of cities before expanding where as now expanding and then development seems to be the best way to go. You would still have the option of expanding and then developing or you could develop and then expand both options would be viable with there own benefits and drawbacks.

 

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August 18, 2012 12:03:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Madcatter,
Yeah... I'm not really a fan of your method which punishes both outpost placement and larger empires, with no thought to how the conquest-stage would work with the universal increasing unrest. To me it seems you're hitting the problem with a sledgehammer and hoping it works out, basically.

 

I'm just going to repost an idea I put down in an earlier thread:




I think a solution to the pioneer spam would be pioneers not placing down a city immediately, but rather an improvement that would then need to be built up using their home city's build queue while also consuming growth. These pre-settlements would also cause nearby monsters to attack before they were complete, so throwing up cities in frontier territory is dangerous unless you're committed to their defense.

This method thus makes expansion more gradual and the only early-on crazy land grab would be with Outposts for those trying to lay a wider claim.

 


Allows players to expand without the tooth and nail fighting for city spots? Check.

Lets players focus on different early game strategies with pros or cons to each? Check.

Allows larger empires? Check.

Emphasizes more caution when placing a new settlement? Check

 

Moving the increase production costs away from the pioneer unit itself allows players to send them out for other purposes and doesn't make the loss of a single pioneer devastating by comparison. By separating the city construction from the pioneer cost, it also allows future tampering (such as increased city time costs per city) without knocking everything else out of place in the process. Allow only one pre-settlement per city, or even one pre-settlement at a time, eliminate pre-settlements in another player's ZoC, and I think the problem is solved with minimal need to mess with other aspects of the game.

 

The only issue somebody brought up was the AI being unable to defend the pre-settlements but... if the AI can't check monster strength within 3 or so tiles and send armies to a single location until completed, well, let's just say that that AI is one with a bit too many issues for proper release. I'd say knocking monsters off their lairs would be exploitable but, as things stand, placing a ZoC under them makes them get off their butts and wander around already. At least if they're attacking instead of doing... whatever they normally do... it's immediately dangerous to place a city next to them.


I will agree that your option is also a valid solution to the spamming problem. If the devs use your idea I won't be to upset. That being said I would still like to point out one flaw with your solution and defend mine.

With your solution expansion will still go pretty quick for player in areas where monster strengths are low and very slow expansions for other players where monster levels are high. I know this is how is should be but if you only have one way to expand from the start of the game and a high level monster happens to be sitting on the spot you will only have one city for a long time while others are expanding.

As to the unrest penalty caused by my solution I honestly see it as a good thing.

First off there are improvements and governor heros to offset the effect. So as your cities build said improvements it lowers the effect while still adding a meaningful penalty to having lots of cities.

Second in the game currently if you successfully conquer anther empire and add their cities to your empire you might as will end the game because there is little to no doubt of your victory. With the added research points, gildar, production cues, resources, and so forth there really isn't anyway for the other players to win short of spamming world twisting spells, if they have the mana. With the unrest penalty added to your empire for every city you conquer it in some measure gives other players a chance to bight off a few of your cities and outposts before you become undefeatable. If nothing else it will cause players to way the pros and cons to conquering in mass in a short amount of time. If you feel the unrest penalty is to high then add a researchable tech that reduces the unrest penalty from 10% for each city to 5% for each city you own.

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August 18, 2012 5:54:35 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Madcatter,


 

I'm just going to repost an idea I put down in an earlier thread:




I think a solution to the pioneer spam would be pioneers not placing down a city immediately, but rather an improvement that would then need to be built up using their home city's build queue while also consuming growth. These pre-settlements would also cause nearby monsters to attack before they were complete, so throwing up cities in frontier territory is dangerous unless you're committed to their defense.

This method thus makes expansion more gradual and the only early-on crazy land grab would be with Outposts for those trying to lay a wider claim.

 

Allows players to expand without the tooth and nail fighting for city spots? Check.

Lets players focus on different early game strategies with pros or cons to each? Check.

Allows larger empires? Check.

Emphasizes more caution when placing a new settlement? Check

 

Moving the increase production costs away from the pioneer unit itself allows players to send them out for other purposes and doesn't make the loss of a single pioneer devastating by comparison. By separating the city construction from the pioneer cost, it also allows future tampering (such as increased city time costs per city) without knocking everything else out of place in the process. Allow only one pre-settlement per city, or even one pre-settlement at a time, eliminate pre-settlements in another player's ZoC, and I think the problem is solved with minimal need to mess with other aspects of the game.

 


 

Excellent idea! Like it, and karma from me.

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August 18, 2012 7:01:42 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I kinda like the idea of pioneers only building outposts, then you upgrade to a city.

 

I think what is needed is a slight slowdown: maybe there should be some sort of minimum amount of yield needed to build a city, that would go down as you researched techs.

 

Would make rushing to marginal building sites not happen in the early game.

 

Another possibility is tweaking the high-end improvements to be more valuable, so super-cities can trump mass builds more easily.

 

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August 18, 2012 9:32:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

 

I see the initial mindless city spam phase of the game as a bad thing.

no one can disagree with you, city spam IS a bad thing

 

 

 


First make pioneers cost a lot more production and a lot more gold to hurry.

 

i totally agree, the only more irritating thing than city spam, is pioneer spam

you destroy/conquest 2 3 enemy cities and they keep spamming and spamming pioneers to rebuild

so annoying and boring to chase pioneer forever

 

 


Second add one more long term penalty in addition to decreasing prestige per city with each new city established. The number of cities you have will increase your unrest in all cities by 10% times the number of cities you own.

yes i like something like this

its months we ask some counter to city spam, we need more!

btw its not like old civ or mom where you could have 15 20 cities, ok but still its too many and too fast

 

building an empire IS definitely cool, but should be more smooth

you should have to progress step by step allowing cities to sustain and then build more of them

 

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August 18, 2012 5:38:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Outposts need roads to them somehow, otherwise the present system is fine. There are few spots on a map that allow for city placement.

Edit. Okay lol, one of the few techs I've never managed to research, thanks, it just became more useful.

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August 18, 2012 6:19:01 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Economics will build roads to Outposts. I just added that in for you specifically. You're welcome.

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August 18, 2012 8:34:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Here are some suggestions I think would solve the core problem well (reposted from http://forums.elementalgame.com/429600/get;3208885):

I think the biggest problem with the AI's expanding strategy is that it highlights how little aggro the AI gets from building right next to monsters and lairs.

So what I suggest is:

1. For starters, for any city or outpost location that the AI puts down, make sure that it has made sure there is an area clear of monsters and lairs (except weak monsters) equal to the starting ZoC plus two more circles around the city or outpost.  This will lessen the human's agastness (yea, I made that word up  ) at the AI being able to settle normally right next to umberdroths and obsidian golems.

2.  Consider having monsters that are medium or tougher threat (or any monsters protecting lairs) starting off stationary, but always targeting cities or outposts that disturbed them.  In other words, no matter who the owner is, if a monster or lair is disturbed, there should always be monsters heading for (and attacking!) the city or outpost closest THAT DISTURBED THEM (probably defined by being next to them by any units or when a town's/outpost's ZoC goes over a monster or lair).  Honestly, that should be feasible with Frogboy's AI coding capabilities.  Even if it means that the monsters don't move until they are disturbed so the monster AI can determine which player disturbed them.  Hey, you could even make the monsters hold a grudge - each monster or lair once disturbed only goes for the player that disturbed them until any such time the player is wiped out, when they would go back to stationary status.  Plus, if the medium or higher threat monsters don't move until they are disturbed, it makes the game MUCH easier to balance than currently, when players have already agreed that there is just too much variability in viability   of even good starts, based on how aggressive (or not) the monsters turn out to be.

3. Make Master Scouts protect against units only as Stardock said they were strongly considering, so anything owned by a player that isn't a unit DOESN'T get protected from attack (so cities can be attacked deliberately, and outposts and resources can be attacked randomly).  Cities or outposts are not very stealthy, you know, from the fact that they can't move. 

Plus there are a lot of good suggestions in this thread.  The 3 turn minimum is a tough one.  If Stardock want to keep this, they need to make sure that for starters, the negative gildar cost is fixed, and any rush buy cost is based on 1. production left to do, and 2. if a unit or building WOULD get completed in less than 3 turns then a flat fee of 50 gildar per turn remaining is added to the cost of rush buying any production that would normally complete in 1 or 2 turns.  I think that is a simple fix that would work.

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