Endgame Predictability (Or: The "Mop-Up" Phase): How To Avoid?

... or is this simply a necessary evil of the genre?

By on March 21, 2014 3:17:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Eunomiac

Join Date 09/2008
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Whenever I play a 4X game, whether it be GalCiv or Civ 5 or Fallen Enchantress, there inevitably comes a point where I feel that the game is over, long before I've actually achieved victory:  I sit firmly atop the scoreboard, controlling far more of the map than any of my competitors, all of whom lag behind me in tech---and are fighting amongst themselves, further cementing my run-away.  The result is a long slog, a mop-up, which is a terribly anti-climactic way for a game to conclude.

Needless to say, I hate this part of the game.  The end-game offers so many interesting mechanics and possibilities... possibilities that are made boring because they've been relegated to mop-up duty.  I want that Fortress I've agonizingly leveled up and the Crystal I've banked to create some truly elite units to matter, but they never seem to.

I don't think this is a function of difficulty, either (though please disabuse me of that notion if I'm wrong).  Difficulty might make surviving into the mid-game more challenging, but I rarely find myself enjoying a game that remains interesting after that.  By the mid-to-late game, my playthroughs tend to fall into one of two categories: either I've already lost, or I'm a hundred points ahead of my nearest competitor.  The Let's Plays I've watched on YouTube suggest the same is true of most people's experiences (indeed, GalCiv2---rightly lauded as one of the best 4X games ever made---seems to suffer from this issue quite frequently).

So my question is:  How often do your games devolve into a long mop-up phase, instead of remaining competitive all the way to the end?  How do you keep that endgame interesting enough so that, say, teching up to Dragons matters?

I'm rather new to Fallen Enchantress, so I'm very hopeful that I'm simply wrong---that what I perceive to be a runaway victory really isn't, and I'm closer to loss than I realize.  Maybe I'm underestimating the AI's chances of staging a miracle comeback from a crippling deficit, which turned out to be the truth with at least one 4X game I've played (i.e. Civ IV, after BtS added mechanics to the late game designed to combat this very issue).

At a broader level, I'm interested in how the concept of end-game predictability informs the design of 4X games.  Are come-back mechanics built into the game?  Is the AI programmed to band together against the top-dog (as humans players would)?  This last question doesn't seem to be the case with Fallen Enchantress, at least---my current game has me at double the score of the second-place AI, and yet I continue to enjoy warm relations with the AI while they continue to war with each other.

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March 21, 2014 3:47:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I don't think there is anything you can do about it.   Come-back mechanics would have to artificial.   All the warring states would have to unite against you and quit their petty squabbles, that's why it's nice in Civ series how they have the united nations and that provides an in game platform to have resolutions and get teams working together.

 

Normally i'd walk away and start a new game.   And never get to enjoy dragons tech.

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March 21, 2014 3:54:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Every 4x game I've ever played "breaks" at a certain point, after which you are either guaranteed to win or lose. Usually this point happens long before the game is actually over. I would guess that this is because the open-ended design of 4x games lead to an ever-increasing number of states for the player to be at, and at a certain point it is no longer possible to design a game that encompasses them all. Even if the content exists (more techs, more units, bigger maps), there's no game anymore for them to exist in. It's pretty apparent in 4x games, but even tabletop games and card games have this problem.

One solution is to "reset" the player's state at certain points while they are playing through the content. I think that's a good definition of what a roguelike is.

Another solution is to adapt the gameplay to the player. That's what a dungeon master does in a D&D game: Whatever place the player gets to, you adapt the game mechanics to create a game around them. But this is a difficult thing to do.

Another alternative, and one that I'd like to see experimented with a bit more, is for these long-form games to run out their content using tiered game mechanics. When the player hits a certain point in the game, you "zoom out" and reduce the impact of possible variation in player states up to that point. The trick here is to zoom out enough to make your gameplay workable, while still leaving enough variation that the player isn't playing a new game. But I think it's a method that has a lot of potential for 4x games.

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March 21, 2014 4:20:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

in my experience, the only games that manage to avoid the endgame boredom/mop up phase are games with very artificial special rules. for example, in Kael' s Fall from Heaven mod for civ 4, there was i game mode where you would have to play a civ to top score, then you'd lose control of that civ and be put in charge of the weakest civ, play them up to top score again and then switch to the now lowest ranking civ once more. that's kind of fun and refreshing for a 4x gamer frustrated by the same old mop up endgame, but of course that's not the perfect solution - it's a very specific game mode.

there are other examples of mega events etc. that completely shake the playing field - like a dreadnought invasion in gal civ half your cities flipping to AI control in one of the Call to Poer civ clones, but all of that stuff feels artificial and is - of course - very "unfair" to the player.

my general solution nowadays is to just quit games when i know that i have won and they stop being interesting. sometimes i'll still play them out anyway just to get the chance of using some silly overpowered stuff.

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March 21, 2014 4:42:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Azunai_,



there are other examples of mega events etc. that completely shake the playing field - like a dreadnought invasion in gal civ half your cities flipping to AI control in one of the Call to Poer civ clones, but all of that stuff feels artificial and is - of course - very "unfair" to the player.

 

if you mean the rebel event in galciv 2 where a large number of planets flip and turn rogue, thats not unfair to the player at all. it'll hurt if you are on top, but if you are even with the other civs, or even struggling, its a gift. it gives an opportunity for some speedy planet grabs beyond those you lost, and can tip the overall balance in your favour. it even reduces the chance of war escalation since they will take some of the attention of the other civs.

 

of course, if you are the biggest and baddest in the game, its a slap to the face. but its not unfair, since it can be  both beneficial or detrimental

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March 22, 2014 5:05:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Realm Divide. Shogun 2 does this.

 

If you become too powerful, all other factions will be united by force against you and attempt to cut you down to size.

Apparently it works because I have seen several threads of human players being toppled by force.

 

And so I decided to go check the realm divide out. Last time I fought in one was when I was playing as imperials as it's vanguard against shogunate's vanguards in the Fall of the samurai expansion.

 

It's really an all or nothing battle for your life.

 

I made good use of my generals and agents.

 

Generals with excellent armies to match off against armies that greatly outnumber me while agents ran around sabotaging armies and other agents ran around killing enemy generals. With their generals disposed of the armies they was leading become way easier to squash.

 

I think it felt somewhat satisfactory way to end an map.

No need to kill the imperials because they're allied to you as their vanguard. Beat up the shogunate vanguard+most of it's allies and victory is yours well and controlling correct provinces.

 

If you fall in realm divide you done poorily.

If you succeed in realm divide, you done good or reacted well enough.

 

My navy was uh inadequate but I managed to come back from that surprise and field heavy armadas. Manly because I underestimated the AI's willingness to construct large armadas.

 

Well this is an Option on how to deal with an crushing lead.

Because it will force the Ai to end their wars with each other and focus on only you and you!

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March 22, 2014 5:26:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting davrovana,

If only someone had crafted a mod meant to partially address this issue...

This is the road Warlock 2 and Eador 2 went down as well - make it a long quest that more or less substitutes mop up.

Personally I'd like to see something more dynamic, quests are too predictable for me. They are lots of fun once, but the second time it feels like I'm not having fun anymore. It will be interesting to see what AoW3 has to offer.

What I'd like to see in a fantasy 4x game is either

1) significantly improved diplomacy. Like, ten times better. The idea I have is that the diplomacy screen would be replaced by a board with pieces representing factions, tables representing alliances and other minor details like passive factions and wildlands also present. As the shift in power occurs, the pieces move away from the player and his/her table. The player gets another objective that isn't just to kill everything - now there's a solid, clear way to try for diplomacy. What's interesting about this "board" would be all the options it would enable - you could lure factions of enemy alliances away from their table, or lure wildlands/monsters towards them with bribes. And then there would be spies, able to infiltrate and dupe other factions or work counter-intelligence to keep your alliance together.

2) a totally unleashed magical part of the game. Think level 10 spells, endgame spells Dom3-4 does so well. I'm talking spells that kills the entire population in the game. Spells that turn everything into night. Spells that makes the forests come alive and eat cities. Spells that open portals to hell, spewing forth demons. Spells that rip the world apart. Early-game is exploration and settlement building. Middle-game is diplomacy, faction vs faction war and settlement consolidation. Late-game is chaos, each player trying to survive long enough for his spells to work, or making desperate last pushes towards enemy strongholds to stop their magics. In the late-game there aren't any more singular events that put a few mobs on the map. It's a perpetual escalating anarchy, and you are losing control.
   There's also a spell metagame. As the more powerful spells are unleashed, the world begins to go out of balance. If everyone's casting death spells, well, there's a whole lot more death magic around. The world tilts towards Death, and that shapes the chaos in the end-game (demons, undead, evil stuff). Death magic becomes even more powerful - but Life magic becomes more important, because what you really want to have by your side as you face down the Devil is a host of Angels. As more and more magic is used, the balance becomes increasingly unstable and constantly shifts depending on what spells have been successful in the last few years.

 

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March 22, 2014 7:10:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

Quoting SorcererFailure,


Quoting Azunai_, reply 3


there are other examples of mega events etc. that completely shake the playing field - like a dreadnought invasion in gal civ half your cities flipping to AI control in one of the Call to Poer civ clones, but all of that stuff feels artificial and is - of course - very "unfair" to the player.



 

if you mean the rebel event in galciv 2 where a large number of planets flip and turn rogue, thats not unfair to the player at all. it'll hurt if you are on top, but if you are even with the other civs, or even struggling, its a gift. it gives an opportunity for some speedy planet grabs beyond those you lost, and can tip the overall balance in your favour. it even reduces the chance of war escalation since they will take some of the attention of the other civs.

 

of course, if you are the biggest and baddest in the game, its a slap to the face. but its not unfair, since it can be  both beneficial or detrimental

ah i think i messed up that sentence - i actually wanted to name 2 examples of heavy impact mega events - the dreadlord invasion in gal civ 2 and the random chance of AI taking over half your cities in the old civ-clone game "Call to Power". the rebel event in galciv2 is basically the same, though.

i'm not going to argue that different people have different opinions on what is fair and what is unfair, but i'm willing to bet that there are quite a few players that find it very unfair if the game they were guaranteed to win suddenly decides to take away half of their stuff and essentially forces them to fight against their own creation. not saying this can't be fun - but it's too artificial for a general solution of the problem.

alternate victory conditions such as a difficult master quest or faction based victory conditions like "historic victory" where each faction has a specific set of conditions to win (like in the boardgame risk and also in some civ 4 mods IIRC) are also interesting concepts.

 

overall, FE/LH isn't that bad on the "boring endgame" front- the game already has that somewhat difficult master quest and some events such as the blood season that shake things up quite a bit. of course those solutions are only partially effective. the root of the "problem" is that 4x games are essentially about accumulating power and creating a snowball effect.

with this in mind, another alternative is "catch up" mechanics that allow the factions that fall behind to catch up more easily. civ 5 for example added trade routes with the last expansion that "leak" technology to the less advanced civs and they also implemented an espionage system that helps the weaker civs to stay in the game for a bit longer. the goal of such mechanics is to delay the point where one side is clearly winning. so in a way, it addresses the late game problem by delaying the late game.

 

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March 22, 2014 9:55:17 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Heavenfall,


Quoting davrovana, reply 4
If only someone had crafted a mod meant to partially address this issue...

This is the road Warlock 2 and Eador 2 went down as well - make it a long quest that more or less substitutes mop up.

Personally I'd like to see something more dynamic, quests are too predictable for me.
 

I agree. A quest basically relegates the other factions to the 'test' you have to pass to get to the endgame. But I think it's a fun option to have. The shipped master quest is the same idea, to be fair.

I think your #2 idea with magic is promising. Have you thought about how a lighter version of it could be done in this game? I already have some ideas...

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March 22, 2014 10:52:31 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ya there are several mechanics you can use to remove end game predictability. You just have to make it so controlling more of the map comes with additional challenges as well as resources. I think LH is actually pretty bad at this.

-Unrest scaling with the number of cities you control is the one in the game right now. It's a little too easy to deal with because of prisons and other improvements but it's there.

-As others have said good diplomacy where the AIs realize that they need to work together against factions that are dominating. Hopefully the changes to alliances in 2.0 helps here.

-Making it harder to steamroll other players so although you an take some of their cities taking them all is much more difficult. That way you would have to concentrate on taking one city at a time instead of just steamrolling an entire faction in one go, and thus you would have short border wars that would leave you with more borders to defend. Some sort of logistics or supply system can be used here. So you need to build infrastructure to support your conquests.

-Monsters can be used as well and hopefully they do in 2.0. When they add ZoC this might allow powerful monsters to survive until late game, and continue to unleash wandering groups unmolested. Unlike now where your influence causes them to move off their tiles. Without super late game monsters randomly wandering around monsters could be made more aggressive to cities. Thus you will end up with powerful monster lairs peppering the map spawning dangerous wanderers that threaten your cities and resources. Then the more territory you control the more of these you have to deal with.

-Events can be designed to effect powerful players more without being rigged or unfair. They could raise unrest in every city or paralyze random cities. The fact that one player may control more cities and is thus more susceptible isn't unfair. 

-Multiple victory conditions help as well but LH doesn't do this well at all. With alliances and Spell of Making getting a makeover in 2.0 this may change.

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March 22, 2014 11:57:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting davrovana,


Quoting Heavenfall, reply 7

Quoting davrovana, reply 4
If only someone had crafted a mod meant to partially address this issue...

This is the road Warlock 2 and Eador 2 went down as well - make it a long quest that more or less substitutes mop up.

Personally I'd like to see something more dynamic, quests are too predictable for me.
 

I agree. A quest basically relegates the other factions to the 'test' you have to pass to get to the endgame. But I think it's a fun option to have. The shipped master quest is the same idea, to be fair.

I think your #2 idea with magic is promising. Have you thought about how a lighter version of it could be done in this game? I already have some ideas...

The AI wouldn't use it properly in FE:LH if it was just modded in.

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March 22, 2014 12:29:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I find that I enjoy attaching a role-playing-ness to the experience of my 4x games.

There exists an often used fallacy in games. Often I find that the developer has some neat idea: a new mechanic or unique feature that they want to show off....you see it used once or twice...and then that's it....no more for the rest of the game.

An example of failure comes from the top rated game KOTOR that I love and am currently playing. When you depart Taris you have a space battle....taking up arms in the gunnery you get to shoot down enemy fighters. I've played the game before so I know this will happen once more when escaping the Leviathan, but this dog fighting only happens twice throughout the entire game. Yes, I know shooting down spacecraft isn't the main point of that particular game....but the developers included it to 'give something different' and they didn't flesh it out. They didn't have newer stronger ships later on. They didn't give you access to stronger and better weapons either. You can't even switch to a different gunnery on the ship you are on. Imo, this is the only downside to the game. The developers gave you the idea that the player is able to explore and develop space simulation....and then they rip it away from you and it leaves something to be further desired.....usually making me pull out Tie Fighter for a couple of days.

 

Looking towards Legendary Heroes now, what are the new mechanics or unique features are used and how do they develop to keep the players attention into the late game?

I would argue that one screen cut-scenes are one of those features used. There are many at the beginning of the game. A few you can dig up the middle if you've missed some stuff. And then that's it. No late game cut-scenes. This lure simply isn't used anymore to keep the player attentive to end gameplay. What if you got one when your sovereign reached level 20? Or when you destroyed your first kingdom/empire? Or when all of one side of the conflict was wiped out? Or when you defeat a Storm Dragon for the first time (something like .... 'words of your deeds have travelled far and kingdoms 'round give respect')? Imo, so many opportunities missed. Imo, this is WAY better than achievements....you actually get something more than just a sticker for your efforts.

Another is the summoning of heroes. I think MOM did an excellent job in this field as they actually had two categories: Heroes and Champions. Granted, LH is way more dynamic with their heroes, there is still something lacking with endgame heroes. In fact, if you receive enough Fame you get low level heroes again. Booo! Changelog 1.6 does a little bit to address high level heroes....but that's more for game balance. Imo, there needs to be more Fame thresholds; perhaps once you reach a certain level you start receiving Champions? There also should be a late game building that gives the player more control over hero hiring. Use Fame points to purchase heroes from a 'store'. This way the player now has yet another choice to make: Either save your Fame points to get a Champion OR spend your Fame points to obtain more heroes.

Another, one that I think is a big one, is Wildlands. Once you reach end gameplay, they just are not challenging you anymore. I've spoken on this several times already so I'll just say look at #3 here: http://forums.elementalgame.com/452034/page/1/#3443809. The intent of the idea is that as the game progresses, Wildlands become larger and more difficult to deal with increasing the challenge for the player's end gameplay. I've seen that SD intends to give monster lairs a ZoC in LH 2.0 and I'm hoping they do the same with Wilandland lairs.

Others?

What are some aspects or features that you feel are incomplete and leave the endgame hanging?

 

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March 22, 2014 1:42:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

most probably know this already, but if your rating is much higher than your opponents, you can drastically shorten, or nullify the mopup by demanding surrender from your enemies

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March 22, 2014 2:19:50 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think looking to the real world can be instructive.  We've had the equivalent of "predictable end-game" situations in our own history (e.g. Ancient Rome), and yet they never really played out as predictably as they do in 4X games.  I think that 4X games could work in mechanics that are informed by answers to questions like, "what caused Rome's downfall?" and "how was the Viet Cong so successful in resisting superior American firepower?"

  • Empire Instability --- Large empires shouldn't merely become harder or more expensive to run, they should become inherently unstable.  Running an empire should be like trying to keep a ball balanced at the top of a hill:  At first, when the ball is small, it's not terribly difficult.  But as that ball grows, keeping it from teetering to one side or the other becomes a real struggle.  Yes, I know most 4X games approach this sort of thing (with per-city Unrest, increasing costs, etc.), but they approach it in a fundamentally different way:  these mechanics make it harder for large empires to keep the ball inflated---which is less exciting, and less threatening, than making it harder to keep the ball from teetering into a state of collapse (from which recovery should be possible---that's a big part of what would keep this phase interesting).
    • Importantly, even weak competitors would become relevant to this sort of struggle:  They may not be able to deflate the ball at the top of the hill (which is where current late-game mechanics concentrate the difficulty of running large empires), but they might be able to give it enough of a nudge to help it teeter over the edge.
    • Problems that start small, but snowball into feedback loops that threaten long-term collapse would be the way to go about this:  They present early enough that they can be dealt with before they escalate, but weaker opponents can influence and create these factors, keeping them relevant into the late game.
    • To emphasize one thing:  This boils down to what makes running a large empire difficult; a shift from the current status quo (keeping the ball inflated), to something with real teeth (keeping the ball from teetering off the hill). 
  • Attrition Warfare --- In the real world, "small empires" have shown remarkable success keeping even overwhelming military supremacy at bay---something that isn't reflected in 4X games.  Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan... the goal isn't to beat the larger force on their own terms, but rather to leverage the expense of maintaining such overwhelming military superiority into something that can't be sustained.  I think AI's could pull this off by literally "switching modes" when they're overwhelmingly outmatched---alliances of desperation; the willingness to retreat and sacrifice cities; hit-and-run tactics; striking the enemies' flank (exploiting the fact that large empires have a LOT of territory to defend)---in short, a shift from trying to "squash the ball" to "help the ball fall off the hill".  More robust espionage, diplomacy (even propaganda) and sabotage mechanics would go a long way to making this happen.
    • I think giving the AI the ability to identify "pressure points" in a large empire would be fantastic.  The AI, once in this "mode", might refer to a list of questions it could "ask" itself about an overwhelming opponent, with actions it would take in accordance with those answers.  Is one city responsible for 90% of the empire's gold, or one "Super Fortress" responsible for its military might?  Target that city with everything you've got.  Are certain diplomatic arrangements propping them up?  Make disrupting those arrangements a priority.  Is a particular empire well-positioned to strike at their flank?  Work with them to make that happen.  Obviously, a great deal more questions could be added with respect to the destabilizing mechanics I mentioned earlier, with the first and most important being, "what's the most likely way that empire might teeter off the hill, and how can I help this happen?"

Quoting Heavenfall,
The idea I have is that the diplomacy screen would be replaced by a board with pieces representing factions, tables representing alliances and other minor details like passive factions and wildlands also present. As the shift in power occurs, the pieces move away from the player and his/her table.

This would be a great mechanic.  Transforming diplomacy into an intuitive minigame that, by its very nature, introduces new options, strategies and depth would be fantastic.  Right now, diplomacy in every 4X game basically reduces to a collection of sliders.

 

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March 22, 2014 2:35:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Eunomiac,

 
Empire Instability --- Large empires shouldn't merely become harder or more expensive to run,
 

Or a %chance late game event where a section of your empire breaks off and becomes a new faction...

 

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March 22, 2014 2:57:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting GFireflyE,
Or a %chance late game event where a section of your empire breaks off and becomes a new faction... 

I agree, and this is a good example for me to demonstrate what I mean by effects that start small, but snowball.

One way to implement this would be to simply introduce a chance that a large chunk of your empire might spontaneously defect, and make this chance grow with empire size.  I don't necessarily think this is a good idea---suddenly having half your empire become an enemy would be terribly unfun.

Instead, this threat could begin small---"dissent" develops in a border city, and travels down roads to infect neighboring cities.  "Dissent" works like religious pressure in Civ 5---each city exerts pressure on its neighboring cities proportional to its own level of dissent.  As more cities become "infected", the pressure mounts in a very organic and intuitive fashion:  When only one city---that "patient zero" border city---has dissent, its neighbors are infected very slowly (since they're only feeling the pressure of that first city).  But, as those cities become infected, they begin to exert pressure of their own---not only on cities that haven't been infected yet, but back to the initial cities as well, accelerating the rising dissent there.  Our border city might have started developing dissent slowly, but suddenly it has three neighboring cities exerting pressure back on it, and dissent begins to escalate.

The result is a snowballing feedback loop:  If nipped in the bud early, it's not too hard to stop*.  But, if left to fester, this spreading dissent quickly grows to threaten a large part of your empire with revolt and secession.  I think this is better than a random occurrence because, if a large part of your empire secedes, you're left knowing the why's and the how's, and you know you could have done something about it.  On top of that, a mechanic like this opens the door to weaker competitors influencing the outcome (which wouldn't be the case with a random occurrence):  If other empires had means to create/influence dissent in their opponent's cities, even the weakest civ would have a tool to use to destabilize the largest empire in the game.

* of course, part of the challenge for large empires would be the number of "little challenges" like this they face---a lot of balls to keep in the air, adding a lot of tension to the late game without removing the player's sense of control by injecting too much randomness.

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March 22, 2014 4:43:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting GFireflyE,
Or a %chance late game event where a section of your empire breaks off and becomes a new faction...

That's a little artificial. I think something more organic that ties in with the rest of the game mechanics would be much better. For instance in LH you could use the existing unrest mechanic, and have it so cities with high unrest would revolt. You would also want to add in some more ways to increase your opponents unrest through espionage or events that increase unrest. 

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March 22, 2014 4:54:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DsRaider,

 For instance in LH you could use the existing unrest mechanic, and have it so cities with high unrest would revolt.

I like the idea. But is this actually moddable using tags?

Maybe a random event could trigger based on global unrest, but how would city-by-city unrest trigger an allegiance switch?

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March 22, 2014 8:30:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Attrition warfare won't work Eunomiac, I will just raze the cities to the ground. And thus there is no butthurt rebels in caves trying to fight back.

 

Only reason guerrilla warfare works today is because countries don't' want the bad rap that comes with genocide.

 

There's no deterrence whatsoever in video games other than making some goody goody two shoes frown at you.

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March 22, 2014 8:53:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ericridge,
Attrition warfare won't work Eunomiac, I will just raze the cities to the ground. And thus there is no butthurt rebels in caves trying to fight back.

Only reason guerrilla warfare works today is because countries don't' want the bad rap that comes with genocide.

There's no deterrence whatsoever in video games other than making some goody goody two shoes frown at you.

Not true at all. Razing a city means you have to rebuild it, which is much less work in games then in real life. With negative population growth most developed countries couldn't do anything with the any territory they took if they just razed everything to the ground. Skilled workers and cities are the true important resource not land or mines.

Quoting davrovana,
I like the idea. But is this actually moddable using tags?

Well no but nothing in this thread is.

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March 22, 2014 9:05:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I want to suggest a different answer to this all too common problem.

The game should end, and tell you "you win" when you establish a sufficient buffer in front of your nearest rival. 

Figuring out when that is will really not be that hard, and it should be calculated and shown in the game. 

 

 

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March 23, 2014 8:15:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Ericridge,
Attrition warfare won't work Eunomiac, I will just raze the cities to the ground. And thus there is no butthurt rebels in caves trying to fight back.

Only reason guerrilla warfare works today is because countries don't' want the bad rap that comes with genocide.

You assume genocide is easy.  But even in our savage past, when countries didn't have to worry about the political ramifications of murdering a civilization, the success rate wasn't high.  (I mean, do you expect the population to just sit quietly in their doomed city, waiting patiently for you to bring about their demise without attempting to scatter, hide and regroup?)  Short of surprise annihilation by orbital nuclear bombardment, any "victory" that depends upon completely eradicating the enemy is guaranteed to fail.  (And the more brutally merciless your attempt, the more motivated the survivors will be to take their vengeance.)

Quoting Galactic_Hunter,
I want to suggest a different answer to this all too common problem.

The game should end, and tell you "you win" when you establish a sufficient buffer in front of your nearest rival. 

Figuring out when that is will really not be that hard, and it should be calculated and shown in the game.

The problem with that is it would eliminate the end-game, and all of the really fun content and mechanics that players want to explore there (e.g. Fallen Enchantress has dragons and super-armor; GalCiv2 has complex ship designs with Huge hulls and peak Miniaturization; Civ has XCOM squads and Giant Death Robots).  Rather than cutting things off prematurely, I think the endgame is worth saving.  And I think the key to doing so lies in adapting elements of the real-world vulnerability of large empires to the 4X genre.  Bigger shouldn't always be better---instead, it should be a balancing act that gets more and more precarious as your empire expands, with bigger empires having a more difficult time of keeping things balanced (and presenting more pressure points/opportunities for their enemies to tip things).

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March 23, 2014 8:24:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well Eunomiac, Somehow I doubt a band of 50 survivors will do very much other than poison the food supply in vengeance to kill alot of people. Assuming they all managed to unite for a single cause.

 

Even if they was successful in reaching the positions of power of their hated foes, then what? Start a rebellion with a army that is loyal towards the victorious empire even when the leader hates the said victorious empire? He'll get deposed of.

 

Nah far more likely scenario is them relocating to far reaches of the empire where they can live in security for long period of time. Although this will lead to their own isolation and irrelevancy. I read an article few years ago where a group of berbers? living in secluded mountain range shouted out that the romans is coming even when the "romans" is really americans.

 

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0501/feature4/

I think that was the article I read.

 

If it was truly hard to eradicate groups of people, then there would be Trojans and Thracians still around even now. And ancient greeks. And then we'll know what happened to the last king of Constantinople on the day it fell instead of him vanishing into nowhere. I wish I can know what happened to that dude, it bugs me ever since I read about it back in high school. 

 

Nope, today Trojans still live only in form of viruses named by horses that penetrated their city and condoms..

Sometimes I feel bad for the trojans.

And Gaunches, they once lived on Canary Islands and genetically they was from the Berbers.

They won one battle against Spain and lost the next two and basically ceased to exist.

But despite this, Spain still pwnt them and Gaunches still can't get revenge because they're all gone.

 

My point still stands that it's far easier to commit genocide long time ago than today.

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March 24, 2014 1:14:02 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Eunomiac,
Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan

I will point out that all of these have involved a degree of external support for the insurgents, as well as insurgent access to relatively safe areas due to the occupying power's lack of interest in expanding the war (for example, in the case of Vietnam, while the US did conduct bombing raids into North Vietnam and used special forces and bombers to harass Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces outside of North and South Vietnam, North Vietnam was never seriously invaded, despite providing backing for Viet Cong operations up to and including the deployment of regular army units in operations inside of South Vietnam).

The issue for the US in Vietnam and for the USSR in Afghanistan wasn't their inability to deal with the insurgency; many histories of the Vietnam War have gone so far as to claim that the Viet Cong was essentially defeated, and then crippled by the Tet Offensive, and that the insurgency in South Vietnam after that point was largely due to North Vietnam's commitment of significant military forces to replace the Viet Cong. The success of the insurgency in USSR-occupied Afghanistan was largely made possible by US-supplied weapons, training, and money, and sympathetic neighboring nations allowing the insurgents a safe haven for training and safe supply routes in areas that the USSR wasn't willing to go into due to concerns about drawing other nations into open warfare. In the case of Vietnam, I will further point out that South Vietnam's existence as a nation was ended by a conventional military offensive conducted by North Vietnam, not by a successful insurgency which overthrew the government. The insurgency may have weakened the government sufficiently to allow the conventional offensive to succeed as well as it did, and the insurgency's continued high-profile attacks crippled the US government's attempts to maintain support for staying in Vietnam, but in the end it essentially failed as the tool for toppling the country. The insurgency certainly succeeded as a tool for removing the US from Vietnam, but by the end it was a broken tool discarded for a more conventional tool for forcibly unifying the country.

Iraq and US-occupied Afghanistan were essentially wars against an insurgency supported by an external criminal network which had previously been trained in asymmetric warfare against a similar opponent. When added to general instability in the region, which allows the insurgents access to safe havens due to corrupt or powerless regional governments, and a lack of a significant effort to permanently deny these safe havens to the insurgents because the US didn't want to significantly increase its commitments or pick a fight with additional nations in the region.

This is not to say that your argument is incorrect; rather, I'm saying that your argument is incomplete. An insurgency with little or no outside support is likely to die off, or at least become insignificant, and a power that lacks an incentive to not expand the war (or lacks enough sense to not expand the war, as with Germany, Italy, and Japan in WWII) is going to be much more effective at crushing an insurrection than one which has such an incentive. Fortunately or not, games typically lack a decent way to provide indirect support to a faction to allow for these types of insurgencies, and I've never seen any decent incentive in any strategy game for not expanding the war while in the mop-up phase unless you can remove a faction by other means (e.g. granting a faction an alliance treaty so that you don't have to conquer that faction during mop-up).

I will also point out that there is a danger in any artificial end-state to the game. It's a sandbox; if I want to conquer the entire world, then I want to theoretically be able to do so. I don't want enemies to just roll over when I control, say, 75% of the map just because the developers decided that 75% of the map was the reasonable point to set the conquest victory at; on the other hand, I also don't want to have to conquer 100% of the map every single game in order to win, and in a game that takes as much time as GCII and Elemental can there's really no way to know where I'll draw the line in advance. I think that Distant Worlds did a decent job of setting up an end-state for the game that could avoid prolonged mop-ups - you could set up a variety of victory conditions that all contributed to your score in the game, and there was a player-defined threshold for what percentage of the victory conditions had to be fulfilled in order to qualify for victory, as well as a setting that disabled the check for victory until X amount of time had been spent playing, and it also supports a fully-sandbox mode where there are no official victory conditions.

Personally, I tend to like the stage of the game when there are many nations of similar power levels, and so I tend to try to play in a way that preserves the balance of power, perhaps allowing a couple great powers to form but generally trying to prevent anyone from being wiped out, rather than in a way that correlates more strongly with 'winning', and for similar reasons I typically disable as many victory conditions as I can because I don't want to have to go wipe out Resoln because they're about to cast the Spell of Making or something like that. Clearly this isn't something with a traditional victory option available, and when I play a game out like that it typically ends when I decide I want it to, which only rarely involve me deciding to pursue one of the traditional victories, but the earlier the traditional victories kick in, the more likely they are to interfere with my sandbox because, well, sometimes it's fun to play the biggest bully on the playground, and sometimes it's fun to let one of the opponents become the biggest bully and then see what I can do about restoring a balance of power, or even completely reversing it.

Over all, I feel that victory conditions are useful for giving players a goal, but harmful in that there's some impression that any game that doesn't end with the victory condition being met is somehow a defeat. I also feel that there's no good way around this, because while Person A may feel like that slog through the last 10 independent cities/planets/whatever left on the map is terrible today, they might feel otherwise tomorrow, and Person B may enjoy that stage of the game as much as any other period in the game. Worse, in my opinion, is that if the victory condition is 'one nation controls X% of the map', it limits my options to play an extremely asymmetric game. If the game ends when I and one other nation are all that's left and one of us has that X% of the map, it means that I can't play on and see if I couldn't turn the tables around, or see just how long I can continue to fight off this one overpowering enemy, which is sometimes fun to do.

I tend to think that the original Rome: Total War did a better job of end-game balance than most games that I've played; while bringing your nation to the position of sole superpower did give you overwhelming military force, it also gave you significant military commitments in that your cities generally required relatively significant military commitments in order to maintain public order, which meant that even though your empire and your military were enormous in comparison to any of your opponents, or all of them combined depending on the state of the game, you didn't necessarily have that much of an economic or military advantage over any of them (in theory, anyways. I can't say that the end-game economy in R:TW was sufficiently balanced to prevent you from massing up a sufficiently large field army to steamroll any opponent even if you only used auto-resolve and kept your cities garrisoned by high-end units like Praetorian Guards, and got worse if you went for peasant garrisons instead).

As far as the empire-size penalty goes - I cannot say that I am overly fond of penalizing success that way. Within limits, it makes a degree of sense, but on the other hand the United States is larger than all of Europe put together and yet has had a more stable government than France over the past 200 years. If it's done in a way that makes the player commit an increasingly large portion of their economy to e.g. garrison forces to keep the people happy, then it's not terrible. If it's done in a way that doesn't really effect the player's ability to field a large military force and send it to wherever the player wants that force to be, then it's failed in its purpose, and I tend to feel that this is what happened in E:FE and E:FE:LH, especially since there's no revolt risk and the only garrison that actually reduces unrest is the one that is made up of some number of champions. Yes, unrest in E:FE and E:FE:LH does prevent me from gaining quite as much of a technological lead on my opponents, and if I let it get too out of hand it means that I'll have some fairly underdeveloped cities, but it utterly fails in encouraging me to devote increasing military forces to protecting my empire's interior, because there's no actual benefit to doing so - city garrisons will not reduce unrest levels within the city unless it's a champion, so unless it's a champion there's no point in stationing units on the interior, so my military expenses grow more or less as a function of the amount of frontier to defend, and E:FE and E:FE:LH maps typically have very few particularly open areas, which tends to mean that the amount of frontier to defend typically doesn't change that much as your empire grows. At least R:TW had the occasional bandit army spawn in safe areas and Warlock had the (unfortunately a bit too common) monsters-spawn-from-empty-space mechanic to encourage keeping at least a few units in secure parts of the map to help keep the military expenses growing at a similar rate to the empire's income.

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March 24, 2014 10:31:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I completely agree that this is a problem with 4x games. Once the player takes a strong lead they have won because only willfully bad playing will reverse the lead. This eliminates the threat of failure, and thus the drama/fun. So what we need to think of are ways to either remove/reduce the player's lead or add additional avenues of failure while not punishing the player for success.


My thoughts on reducing player lead:

  • AI players create a coalition against lead player. Research & economic pacts would have to be available to the "coalition" but not the leader, and have a significant enough impact that they would help other nations "Catch up". This is not that far from "realm divide" in the total war series, which has a chief complaint of devaluing diplomacy. So maybe coupled with more diplomatic (or espionage) actions the player could "combat" this affect. This is vulnerable to the player blitzing through other empires, because of the momentum of a "stack of doom".  This could also extend the game in scenarios where the player is behind and would otherwise be guaranteed to lose
  • Empire management difficulties or resources. The current unrest to cities is not an interesting mechanic to me. I would be more interested in a serious threat of rebellion. An "Automated" revolt of cities would feel punishing for success, but if there is something the player can/should do to reduce this threat then when it happens the player can take ownership of it happening and play through it. So I imagine something like being able to produce goods to make people happy, maybe have the sovereign visit cities to throw festivals, or have a hero have to visit quest locations to squash rebels. The balancing act I see here is that we want it to be hard enough, and expensive enough that the player might not complete it or doing so drains his other efforts without being annoying that every turn your sovereign has to kill rebels and throw a festival.

 

Different avenues of Failure - I don't think any one should be guaranteed to happen, but rather one of several possible apocalyptic event could spawn adding a powerful new threat. Bonus to any of these that challenge/impact scale with the amount of empire to defend.

  • Something I think would be really cool is that if a random event occurred that dumped high level undead armies everywhere and they attempted to take cities as the entrance of the Undead faction. So rather than spawning right away, they come into play later and have a decent chance of taking out several factions and becoming an overpowered faction that threatens the player's cities in relationship to how big his empire is. Some warning might make this less "unfair" and add the drama of fortifying as much as you can.
  • A plague infects the world, drastically reducing population, and you have to go on a quest to cure it before it greatly weakens your empire or even incapacitates the sovereign.
  • Monster surge - new waves of all monsters/ or a particularly wave of monsters like dragons start spawning and rampaging. In my mind, this event spawns numerous & powerful monsters to the point that most outposts & out of city improvements are destroyed, and the player has to "hole up in their cities building strength to clear out areas. Maybe sections of a map could have a new lair that needs to cleared, after x of y lairs are cleared it ends since this could have it's own mop up boredom.

 

Mechanics that might make a big lead harder to get

  • Cities - particularly developed cities should be near impregnable till late game. Being able to completely wipe out factions and take all their cities is part of the snowball. Delaying this seems like a good thing to me, and would help the player "Hang out" in a game he's kinda losing till he gets a chance to recover. However, I predict this could also stagnate games till late, so I'm not sure how this would have to be balanced.  
  • Growth... not growing. Larger empires grow faster now, which leads to the snowball. Rather I'd like to see a more linear growth to an empire with some limited ability of the player to impact it.
  • Technologies scale better for larger empires - Oh you got the new +20 gold improvement, build it 20 places, and get a bigger value than a smaller empire. I'm kinda excited about the new elemental game they mentioned wouldn't have a tech tree, but rather based on how you build a city. I'd rather see the player having to build through a tech tree of buildings per city or have new resources that need to be built up before you can support your super armored sword of doom wielding elephant riders.
  • Iron & crystal & mounts favor the player, who is more likely to nurse the units they spent their resources on. If an iron mine & blacksmith supported a faction of a fully armored unit rather than giving + x iron. So it would be acting as a limit rather than a resource, and then it might level the playing field a bit with the computers tendency to lose units.

 

unfortunately, I don't know how much could be modded in, or done without drastically changing the game. What do you think?

 

 

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