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Thread: Fixing late-game homogeneity?

  1. #1

    Fixing late-game homogeneity?

    All the new games I've played (except my Silence Will Fall zerg rush) end the same - SorcLord has all the spells, casts all the spells, wins with all the spells. SorcLord has all the cities, all the races, all the units.

    Now, you've made a fun game, so that's not stopping me from playing again (started another new game with 1.2.5), and it's not stopping me from recommending the game, but maybe scaling back a few things could create enough difference to encourage replay. Some suggestions, if I may:

    1) Spell circles.
    Turn 114.jpg
    The attached image is from a Colossal/7 plane/Common features game. Turn 114, maxed in all spell circles. In MOM, there was functionally no way to get all the spell books unless you cheated outrageously. Perhaps limiting spell circles to +2 or +3 per circle could give incentive to play different builds. There are a lot of good and useful spells in the first 4 levels of each circle, and with your hybrid system, all you would need is 2 per circle to get those tier IV spells. Indeed, if you go with +3 per circle, a rainbow mage still gets all spells in the game except the tier IX spells. Some sort of limit like this would encourage different play styles; right now, all sorclords are going to be able to cast all the spells, so there's no such thing as a "water mage" or a "fire mage". You're just a mage, and you have all the spells, and rather quickly, too.

    2) Races. You do have unrest modifiers, but (and do correct me if I'm wrong) it looks like the modifier only applies one way. That is, if I play High Men, High Men unrest is inherently +0%, no matter how many races I have. Sure, those Dark Elves are touchy, but the High Men cities don't suffer unrest if I branch out and pick up other races. If the unrest were meshed (and it couldn't be linearly scaled with the current values, I don't think, or you'd end up with 100% unrest in every city with just four races), you'd be encouraged to limit your racial variety, which might again give a more specific feel to your playthrough.

    3) Armies. Armies are very cheap to maintain, right now. If you drop cities with an eye to maximizing resources, it's very easy to have two or three units per city, plus a dozen roaming armies of 10-15 units each, without ever devoting a single city to trade goods or farming. Only with world features set to scarce is the income low enough that city economy becomes a concern - and then there's really not much to do in the world but zerg the enemy sorclords and wrap up the game. This could probably be fixed by increasing unit upkeep, decreasing world feature rewards, or changing the Nature's Bounty spell to a per-city enchant instead of a global one (that spell alone, for seven mana a turn, finances an empire. It should be Tier IX, not V).

    4) Cities. City spam is still the One True Path to victory. There is never an incremental cost to making another city (and losing 1k population is not a cost; in fact, making new cities is the most efficient way to manage unrest and thus minimize waste and inefficiency. Also, population growth rates are fairly high with Granary and Farmer's Market built), and so the end game plan is always the same: colonize all the places. For all its (many) flaws, Stardock's game Elemental: War of Magic implemented several good ideas about fighting city spam (some of which were reverted in the Fallen Enchantress upgrade). Right now, all the races, all the world options, all the sorclord choices - they all end the same. City spam, cast all the spells, use all the armies, win win win.

    Anyway, this is all balancing stuff, and not a very high priority. It's easy enough to self-impose restrictions, and to tinker with spells in the XML. I'd still like the units (especially those, yes) to be more easily customized, and I would desperately love it if you guys would make the AI process visible (yes, I could probably decompile or reverse engineer your files, but that's not legal in this country and I won't do it) so we could fix what you clearly don't want to, but you've got quite a good game here. So thanks for all the post-release support.

  2. #2
    Mage’s Assistant
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    Cities/planets/colonies will ALWAYS be the path to victory in any 4X game. If you acquire them through settling or conquest is up to you, but whoever has most cities will ALWAYS be in better position in terms of a numbers perspective.

    Each city generates food, gold, power and research and it acts as a production factory to output your units. Knowing this, why would anyone be surprised that they are the 'key to victory'?

    As soon as the AI understands this, or it's hardcoded in him wtvr, it'll be much better experience. Curtailing my play style to help the AI?... no thanks.
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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by MedievalNerd View Post
    Cities/planets/colonies will ALWAYS be the path to victory in any 4X game. If you acquire them through settling or conquest is up to you, but whoever has most cities will ALWAYS be in better position in terms of a numbers perspective.
    Sure, they're the path to victory; that's obviously one of the X's in 4X. But aren't there ways to make city placement more important than just "what has the most resource boosting tiles in range?" Stardock's Elemental used a system where for every city after your capital, your entire empire got additional unrest; additionally, you couldn't just plant a city anywhere you wanted, though there were still many more places to put cities than are first apparent. In that situation, you of course still want to have the most production, the most gold and mana and units, but if you put a city everywhere you can, you decrease your total output.

    Endless Legend gives large zones of control/influence per city, so again you have a desire to get control over areas, but actual city spam is reduced. Eador: Genesis makes each hex you control vulnerable, and emphasizes the army over the infrastructure, so keeping a grip on the entire map is, depending on your attitude toward management, either a trade-off, or outright unwise.

    Of course, WoM is cribbing from the MoM playbook, so there's no way to just copypasta such ideas. I wouldn't want that, surely, since I am quite fond of the bones of this game. But I do feel like it would be possible to make founding a new city a tradeoff. The screenshots you post show a dedication to efficient land use that I can't possibly match, but you must see that there's never a reason not to start another city in empty space. There are tradeoffs to several things in the game; I'm just suggesting that making city spam have a cost would encourage different playstyles, and replayability. That's all.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by OneFiercePuppy View Post
    Sure, they're the path to victory; that's obviously one of the X's in 4X. But aren't there ways to make city placement more important than just "what has the most resource boosting tiles in range?" Stardock's Elemental used a system where for every city after your capital, your entire empire got additional unrest; additionally, you couldn't just plant a city anywhere you wanted, though there were still many more places to put cities than are first apparent. In that situation, you of course still want to have the most production, the most gold and mana and units, but if you put a city everywhere you can, you decrease your total output.

    Endless Legend gives large zones of control/influence per city, so again you have a desire to get control over areas, but actual city spam is reduced. Eador: Genesis makes each hex you control vulnerable, and emphasizes the army over the infrastructure, so keeping a grip on the entire map is, depending on your attitude toward management, either a trade-off, or outright unwise.
    With the mechanics as they are, you still need to focus on optimal placement versus plopping cities anywhere to just fill up the land. The more your city has a good prospect, especially population size, the faster it'll grow.

    The grid layout I do is for 2 reasons.

    First, it's an old MOM/CIV 2 habit. In those games, if you don't huddle your cities as close together as possible, the AI ended up colonizing in between them. Something you definitely do not want.

    Second, although one might think it's best to askew a grid and just focus on prime land. But you need to take into account the amount of turns it takes you to reach that location, versus settling for the best city layout based on the nearest location. You literally want the most number of cities as soon as possible to make sure you harvest the exponential returns.

    That being said, in a game that offers such large maps compounded by the amount of planes. It would be logical that there is some kind of rubber band system that would pace expansion. Yet, i'm extremely hesitant to ask for this at this current place in time, since the AI still has a lot of basic lessons to learn before we work in mechanics to add dynamics to expansion. Once the AI can prop up settlers and colonize like it's gold rush all over, then we can consider such mechanics.

    Quote Originally Posted by OneFiercePuppy View Post
    Of course, WoM is cribbing from the MoM playbook, so there's no way to just copypasta such ideas. I wouldn't want that, surely, since I am quite fond of the bones of this game. But I do feel like it would be possible to make founding a new city a tradeoff. The screenshots you post show a dedication to efficient land use that I can't possibly match, but you must see that there's never a reason not to start another city in empty space. There are tradeoffs to several things in the game; I'm just suggesting that making city spam have a cost would encourage different playstyles, and replayability. That's all.

    I'm rather happy they are sticking to the MOM playbook, since it's not the first game that claimed it would, and we can all see how well those turned out. Elemental being the worst of them all. Ended up with something closer to HOMM than MOM, and considering the early mission statement by Brad himself, it's rather funny how it all ended up.

    I sound like a horribly broken record to keep bringing up the AI, but it's what the game needs most and in spades. We have all these interesting races and myriad of spells, yet the AI doesn't seem to understand how to best use them and get an edge in basic expansion strategies.

    I've talked with a fellow WOM player and I actually think that Archmage difficulty might be broken, as some of the experiences he's described to me on 1.2.5 seem to be in stark contrasts to mine. (For me the AI still falls asleep expansion wise)

    If we were playing on minuscule maps, with a single plane, then I'd be more focused on the AI's army selection and looking towards more detailed/flavored expansion mechanics. As it stands it can't even live up to the size of it's environment. So the rest is trivial in comparison.

    But i'm back to ranting about the same things I've been ranting on for a while now. I feel like a huge aaaa hole.)
    Last edited by MedievalNerd; 09-02-2015 at 07:27 AM.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by MedievalNerd View Post
    I've talked with a fellow WOM player and I actually think that Archmage difficulty might be broken, as some of the experiences he's described to me on 1.2.5 seem to be in stark contrasts to mine. (For me the AI still falls asleep expansion wise)
    Hm. What do you mean by that? I've been playing on Archmage, myself. If some of my problems are just because I've chosen poorly with respect to difficulty level, I'll be a bit chagrined.

    Still, at least this time around, with the game I started for 1.2.5, three of the AI SorcLords are at least doing something. I'm about 70 turns in and two of the AI lords had quite a few nice cities, multiple roaming armies with levelled units (having finally, it seems, figured out that it's good to have troops survive combats), and though still not a good use of tactical spells, a better use than before (picking on the weak, focusing fire on ranged and support troops, etc). So it does seem like it is getting better, by bits.

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