Alpha Centauri 2

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri & Alien Crossfire => Modding => Topic started by: bvanevery on March 15, 2019, 09:26:06 PM

Title: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 15, 2019, 09:26:06 PM
Recently I've tested Thinker mod in conjunction with my own SMACX AI Growth mod.  I cannot help but form the opinion that this .exe patch is centrally built upon abusing Thermal Boreholes.  They give a lot of benefit, 6 minerals and 6 energy worked from the same square, without taking much construction time for those benefits.  One might argue that it's the single most profitable thing to pursue in the game.

In addition, the AI pays no meaningful eco-damage penalty on these Boreholes at all.  It is known that the eco-damage formula has various factors in it, in which apparently the AI is given a "3" at some point, and a human player in contrast is given a "5" at the Thinker and Transcend levels of difficulty.  This is the difference between the slightest slap on the wrist and serious empire-destroying eco-damage.  Induktio doesn't currently know where those formulas reside in the binary or how to change them, and isn't currently planning to look into it. 

Hence, I think the overwhelmingly abusive exploit of Boreholes, has to be addressed by other means.  Such as changing their construction cost, to something more reflecting their worth.  Here, I will endeavor to decide what they're really worth, compared to other things one could construct.

Condenser abuse is a contributing factor.  They are not used as an area moisturizer, placing one every so often the way a human player might do.  Rather, Thinker mod puts one on many many squares.  They're used almost the way a Soil Enricher is meant to be used, just to improve 1 square.  This is evidenced by the many Condensers surrounded by Forests one will see on a late game map.  Condensers need a cost that's more in line with an area moisturizer, instead of only being 1.5 times as expensive as a Soil Enricher.  And perhaps Soil Enrichers should be available sooner, Condensers later, since Condensers are strictly more powerful.

I think these are worth committing to a mod, like my SMACX AI Growth mod, because humans abuse these things too.  Thinker mod's AI is just a lot more rigorous and tireless with the abuse.

The cost of raising and lowering land should also be changed while I'm at it.  They're pretty cheap as is, and I myself am guilty of abusing it by making giant causeways to invade enemies with.  If I had to worry more about land masses already touching each other, I'd probably have to be more careful about what I do.  I've also put orbital insertion capability earlier in the game, although it's not early by any means, so that's a different invasion option than building giant causeways.

Code: [Select]
#TERRAIN
Farm,             None,    Kelp Farm,        None,     4,  Cultivate $STR0, f, F
Soil Enricher,    PlaEcon, Soil Enricher,    Disable,  8,  Construct $STR0, f, F
Mine,             None,    Mining Platform,  None,     8,  Construct $STR0, M, M
Solar Collector,  None,    Tidal Harness,    None,     4,  Construct $STR0, S, S
Forest,           None,    ...,              Disable,  4,  Plant $STR0,     F, Shift+F
Road,             None,    Road,             Disable,  1,  Build $STR0,     R, R
Mag Tube,         Magnets, Mag Tube,         Disable,  3,  Build $STR0,     R, R
Bunker,           Disable,  Bunker,           Disable,  5,  Construct $STR0, K, K
Airbase,          DocAir,  Airbase,          Disable,  10, Construct $STR0, ., .
Sensor Array,     None,    Sensor Array,     None,  4,  Construct $STR0, O, O
Fungus,           None,    Sea Fungus,       None,     6,  Remove $STR0,    F, F
Fungus,           CentEmp,  Sea Fungus,       CentEmp,   6,  Plant $STR0,     F, Ctrl+F
Condenser,        EcoEng,  Condenser,        Disable,  12, Construct $STR0, N, N
Echelon Mirror,   EnvEcon,  Echelon Mirror,   Disable,  12, Construct $STR0, E, Shift+E
Thermal Borehole, IndAuto,  Thermal Borehole, Disable,  24, Construct $STR0, B, Shift+B
Aquifer,          EcoEng,  Aquifer,          Disable,  18, Drill to $STR0,  Q, Q
Raise Land,       EcoEng2, Raise Sea Floor,  EnvEcon,  12, Terraform UP,    ], ]]
Lower Land,       EcoEng2, Lower Sea Floor,  EnvEcon,  12, Terraform DOWN,  [, [[
Level Terrain,    None,    Level Terrain,    Disable,  8,  Terraform LEVEL, _, _
Monolith,         Disable, Monolith,         Disable,  8,  Place Monolith,  ?, ?, (this is here for map editor)

My mod hasn't changed the costs any.  All I've done is disable Bunkers, because they're simply a liability for the AI.  Human players invade using all the nice Bunkers the AI wasted time making.  I need to drive somewhere in real life now, so I'll leave others to contemplate these costs until I get to where I need to be.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 02:50:25 AM
A disadvantage to making Condensers come later, is that many forests will have sprouted by then.  I find myself very unwilling to tear up forests and put a Condenser in on that land instead.  I see it as the land having "developed some value", and I don't like shuffling one kind of value for another.  Even if it proves economically rational in the course of the game, it's a lot of extra mouseclicks, for someone like myself who terraforms every square by hand.

Now let's think about what various facilities are worth, disregarding resource specials:

- A mine increases Rocky terrain from 1 mineral to 4 minerals.  It costs 8 turns for the mine, and 3 turns for the Road that raises it to full mineral capacity.  So, 11 turns to gain 3 minerals.  It requires 1 worker or 1 supply crawler to extract the minerals.

- A farm increases moist terrain from 1 food to 2 food.  It costs 4 turns.  So, 4 turns to gain 1 food.  It pretty much requires 1 worker.  Rarely will anyone put a supply crawler on a mere farm when other things could be crawled.

- A soil enricher increases a farm by +1 food.  It costs 8 turns.  That same square still uses 1 worker.  This shows that increasing the resources in a square by more than some base tier like farms, is considered valuable, and has increasing cost.  With cities spread apart so that they mostly don't overlap, you can often get to size 14 cities with farms alone and not need soil enrichers.  Soil enrichers are a noticeably expensive way to increase food.

- A solar collector typically only gives +1 energy.  In theory you could get more from altitude bonuses.  In practice, who bothers to raise terrain where their cities are?  It tends to dry out the terrain.  You might gain energy, but you'll surely lose food.  It is IMO a big waste of time and I don't do it.  Basically it gives +1 energy and costs 4 turns.

- Tidal harnesses may give you better energy at sea, particularly with Thermocline Transducers.  However they're still at sea and you have to defend that stuff differently.  That's not so easy for most factions to do.  The Pirates are the overpowered exception.  My point is that increasing energy on land ala a Borehole is a different strategic proposition.  I'm inclined to ignore the question of Tidal harnesses as being a bit apples and oranges.  Notably, Thermocline Transducers and Subsea Trunklines cost stuff to produce and are a tradeoff, because each can only work 1 kind of a square at a time.  Again we see the principle that getting lots of benefits from 1 square, is rather valuable.

- Drill to Aquifer is an obscure option that most people can't remember to do in a game.  I've played games where I've drilled every single bit of my rocky terrain, in parallel, to get the most rivers.  It never made me rich, and I think I'd only worry about it if I saw an AI getting rich that way.

- Right now I don't really care what an Echelon Mirror does or what it costs.  No mod like Thinker is abusing them, and it's boring figuring out where to place them.  I don't really believe in high altitude energy parks.  I think if players want to spend that many mouseclicks to get ahead, perhaps we should just let them, same as grinding in a MMORPG.  Now if an AI starts to abuse it in an automated manner, I might change my tune.  But first I'd have to see the AI making really good use of money, and so far, I haven't seen that.

So if I started with 1 mineral, and then increase it to 4, that has to cost at least 8 turns.  Going to 6 is another increase of some kind.  You could reason about the steps differently, thinking of them as 1 to 3, then 3 to 6.  You're still talking about 2 increases somehow.  The example of the soil enricher is that another increase should cost double.  If +1 minerals rocky terrain is worth 0 turns, a +3 minerals mine alone is worth 8 turns,  and a +4 minerals mine with a road is worth 11 turns, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that adding another +2 minerals should cost another 16 turns.  That's 27 turns total, for just minerals.  We haven't talked about energy yet.

If I start with 1 energy, and increase it to 2, that has to cost 4 turns.  Let's say I want to be really generous and allow further tiers to increase by +2.  We're talking two more tiers of increase.  At a minimum that should cost 8 more turns, then 16 more turns.  That's 28 turns total, for just energy.  And we haven't talked about getting these both out of the same square yet.

Think of it this way.  A borehole is like building your own personal resource special, that does double duty.  Why are they so cheap in the game?  It's not justified.  From a progression standpoint, it's a sheer giveaway.

I don't think saying a Borehole should cost 3X more than it currently does, is unreasonable.  It's got 2 tiers of progressions on minerals, at least 2 tiers of progression on energy, and you get it all in the same square consuming only 1 worker.  Personally engineered research specials should not be giveaways.

Now let's say you don't believe that the 2nd progression should be a doubling.  Let's say you think it should be a linear increase.  Like the road for a mine costs 3, a 1st tier mine costs 8, and a 2nd tier mine costs 12.  We can call that 23 turns for sake of argument. 

Let's say you don't believe a 2nd progression should increase in expense at all, and that the soil enricher got it tediously wrong.  LIke the road for a mine costs 3, a 1st tier mine costs 8, and a 2nd tier mine costs 8 again.  We can call that 19 turns for sake of argument.

We can hand wave roughly the same concepts for energy.  19, or 23, or 28.  Whatever you think the progression should really be like.

We are still talking about something that should cost 38 turns, if it were on two squares.  And it's on one square, consuming 1 worker.

I think 2X cost is the minimum we should consider for Boreholes.  3X might be a maximum.  Somewhere between 48 and 72 turns, gotta pick a number.  I'm going to pick 60, because it's a somewhat nicely divisible number, and I do think those progressions should be increasing somewhat in difficulty the way a soil enricher does.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 03:08:36 AM
So how much is a Condenser really worth?  I think it's not so hard to argue about.  It's surely worth 2 Soil Enrichers.  That would be 16, so clearly, a Condenser is already underpriced at 12.  Heck, it's worth 3 Soil Enrichers, I don't think that's even debatable.  I'd go so far as to say 4 Soil Enrichers.  It often does improve 4 squares at once.  Heck it can improve 8 squares at once if you're really careful, but in the real world of fitting things into terrain and construction constraints, you run into Rocky squares, cities, forests you want to keep, etc.  I'd say 4 is a "not much to debate about it" number.

If a Condenser were in the same tier of game progression as a Soil Enricher, that would easily yield 4*8=32 turns worth of work.  But it has not been positioned in the same tier, it has been positioned as a substantially earlier tier.  Should it be?  Is it core to the basic style of the game, and the Soil Enrichers are the afterthought?

Is it worth half as much as a 60 turn Borehole?  No, surely not.  For one thing, it only provides nutrients, although admittedly over multiple squares.

For now, I'm going to pick 24 for a Condenser and call it good.  So there you have it.  The Condenser is the new Borehole.  The Borehole is the new Custom Built Resource Special.  And you ain't gettin' 'em cheap!

Let's see how Thinker mod likes them apples.  Hey it may still go nuts, but it may not happen so fast.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 03:37:37 AM
Other terrain changes while I'm at it:

- Raise/Lower Terrain: increased cost from 12 to 30.  This should force more strategy and consideration about bridging continents and raising ocean floors.

- Airbase: reduced cost from 10 to 8.  10 is a strange number when trying to allocate Formers, and there's no particular reason an Airbase should be more difficult than other things a player might build.  Surely not any harder than a Mine or Soil Enricher.

- Echelon Mirror: raised cost from 12 to 18.  It's an obscure game feature, but surely worth as much as as an Aquifer or 2 Soil Enrichers.

- Level Terrain: reduced cost from 8 to 4.  Usually used when an Energy or Nutrient resource special appears on Rocky terrain.  It's a drag waiting for that to get done, and there's not a lot of realism in it taking so long.  Farmers have been blowing up rocks and stumps in their fields for a long time.  It permanently destroys Rocky terrain, lowering available minerals, so it does have a consequence other than its turn cost.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: Vidsek on March 16, 2019, 04:54:01 AM
    I've made these Improvement cost changes to the copy of your AIG mod alphax.exe I'm using.
Fortunately for my testing of a Yitzi/AIG merged mod, I don't have to deal with ongoing changes to Yitzi's work, until someone continues that work.

  Currently I'm running some quick and dirty game tests to see if I run into any bugs of my making, or ones inherent in the merge interactions.  Next will be game tests to observe how the AI factions behave and evaluate the balance among them and with a (mediocre) human player.

  I'll provide my observations and conclusions, of course, when I'm confident in them.

  To my embarrassment, I'm impaired in producing nice after action reports by never having learned how to make screenshots and insert them into my posts......
  Could someone point me to where I can learn this?

  Comments on your cost changes: Overall I heartily approve.  Some of these changes I had long ago made in my own rudimentary mod for my own use.  Specifically: Higher cost for Raise/Lower Terrain, Level Terrain cheaper, Airbase at cost 8, Borehole more costly.  My reasoning was identical to yours.

  One additional change I made to Boreholes in my old, personal mod, was to shift the balance of what they provide to more energy and less materials (0,5,7) for reasons taken from Earthly RL experience. (Lava products can be useful, but are of limited variety and application, however there is a truely enormous amount of heat energy for advanced tech to extract).
 For gameplay considerations, I thought this would slightly reduce the excessive value of boreholes since I believed the AI made more effective use of minerals than energy.

  Oh, yes..I also thought adjusting what a Monolith provided was a good idea, again also from RL considerations.  My change was from 2,2,2 to 2,1,3 since the super-advanced tech involved would probably be able to provide plenty of energy, but only small amounts of (probably high value) materials due to it's lack of mobility.  The production of so much food by it still seems odd to me.  Is it synthesizing sugar, or other food additives?  Collecting and processing airborne spores and pseudo-insects (oh, yum....)?  Making the surrounding square a garden?
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 05:22:51 AM
Thanks for looking at it!  My main goal will be to find out if 60 is a reasonable cost or not.  I doubt it's too low.  I'd expect it to be too high if anything.  It's hard for me personally to test, because I never, ever make Boreholes in the real world.  I did some "Borehole packing" games 2 or 3 years ago, and that was enough for me.  My basic metric, is how Thinker mod changes because of this.

I didn't realize you could change the minerals and energy independently.  I'll have to think about that.  Makes me think about (0,4,8) really taking your idea to its logical conclusion.  No better than a regular mine on Rocky terrain, but if you want energy....

Monoliths, I think game mechanically are about getting "a good square" when you start the game.  Hence why you start with 2-2-2, it's a balance of things you need.  I don't think having 1 food is very helpful at the beginning of the game, as it means you won't be able to work the Monolith so easily.  I'd reconsider that if it was giving 1-2-4, as that would be like a Forest with an energy special on it, although I think those are only 1-2-3.  1-1-5 might be interesting.

One quirk of Monoliths, is that in the later game they're actually a production liability.  Forests in a Hybrid Forest produce better than 2-2-2, I think they do 3-3-3.  So if you've got all these Monoliths sitting around on spaces that have become Forest, like say the Ruins, well it's not good!  Now if they were 1-1-5, the Ruins would be quite a different place.  Lotsa energy, but impossible to harness it immediately, due to lack of food.

A Monolith could simply tell Planet to knock it off.  Or it could be like moisturizing cream.  That could explain more food.  Minerals, well, that seems to be more about early gameplay.  Needs you some minerals to dos you some stuff. 

How to post pictures.  In the full editor, look at the 2nd row of buttons.  5th one is the image inserting button.  Press it, and you get a screen with a whole lot of extraneous crap in it.  The only line you're interested in, is the one that says "File to Upload".  By default it says "[Browse] No file selected."  So click on Browse and go select something! 

That's the basics.  A further refinement if you get into it, is to create your own Album and select that.  It's been so long ago that I've forgotten the creation part, but it might be as simple as clicking on that part.  BUncle would appreciate if you're creating masses of images, like I do, that you have your own Album just to keep it separate from all the other stuff out there.  But don't worry about that until you're actually spewing out images like a pro.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: Vidsek on March 16, 2019, 06:02:00 AM
  And thank *you* for replying!

  If by "full editor" you mean in the Reply window here, my second row fifth button is tooltip labeled "Aeva Media" and does open the window you described.  I'll look into the Album creation part.

  For the borehole, Monolith, etc. adjusting look in alphax under RESOURCE INFORMATION up near the top.  There are a number of interesting parameters you can modify, including what a base square, recycling tank, bonus square, forest, etc. provides.  I've messed with most of those in the past to see if I could come up with improvements over the default values.
 One experiment I would like to try is to set the resources of unimproved ocean to 0,0,0 - nothing, inc. no food at all 'till you make a kelp farm.  Of course you would still have food from the base square to start with.  I wonder what a Pirate empire would turn out like under those conditions? ;)

  Like you, I never make boreholes, largely because I forget to, and also have found it difficult to locate squares that meet the flat and level requirements (I love maps with lots of elevations, flatlands being boring to me).  The eco-damage is also a consideration.

  Yitzi's patch does give you more options to set the parameters of ecodamage, but I think only globally, for player and AI alike.

  Oh, an off-topic question that has been bugging me for a while: is there any way to harvest forest w/o building something like a farm on it?

  And as a general bit of obscure info, I discovered that the minerals from harvesting forest go to the home base of the former doing it, not to the closest base as would seem logical.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 12:07:20 PM
One experiment I would like to try is to set the resources of unimproved ocean to 0,0,0 - nothing, inc. no food at all 'till you make a kelp farm.  Of course you would still have food from the base square to start with.  I wonder what a Pirate empire would turn out like under those conditions? ;)

In the stock binary, they would be stillborn.  As it is, Safe Haven is almost always placed in deep ocean with no shallow ocean resources.  The AI chooses that as its starting place even when "Look First" is on in the rules.  It's extremely stupid for them to start there as opposed to looking for somewhere even marginally better, but that's what the stock AI does. 

Quote
Oh, an off-topic question that has been bugging me for a while: is there any way to harvest forest w/o building something like a farm on it?

I'm sure there was in some 4X TBS game I played, but don't know about SMAC.  I guess the things to try are F, SHIFT-F, and CTRL-F.  Maybe SHIFT-F would be interpreted as "plant forest on a forest" and becomes "remove forest" ?

Quote
And as a general bit of obscure info, I discovered that the minerals from harvesting forest go to the home base of the former doing it, not to the closest base as would seem logical.

Didn't know that.  Might be a useful trick against Thinker mod AI.  Like if you're in a Truce with someone, I wouldn't feel bad about sending a Former into enemy territory to harvest all their Forests!  I'd consider it an exploit / cheat if you had a Treaty.  I have the same feelings about planting fungus on them.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 01:01:11 PM
Makes me think about (0,4,8) really taking your idea to its logical conclusion.  No better than a regular mine on Rocky terrain, but if you want energy....

Another possibility is to make it (0,4,6).  Then it's a Mine that also gives you a lot of energy.  And makes your terrain get more rainy, and gives a human player eco-damage.  The downside is that visually it will "feel nerfed" compared to the regular Borehole.  (0,4,8) doesn't have that problem because it's a lot of energy.

Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: Induktio on March 16, 2019, 02:18:46 PM
Just from an AI perspective, I wouldn't recommend setting borehole cost to 60 or anywhere near that high. Most of the time the AI will not double/triple up the formers when constructing boreholes, so they may end up spending lots of time not doing much and then getting eaten by a mind worm or something. It would be better to just disable boreholes from the game if you want to go that way. But the main issue might be the exponential growth of the AI factions which would still continue anyway, but at a slightly lower speed. For example population booming is a very broken mechanic.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 16, 2019, 07:39:37 PM
Most of the time the AI will not double/triple up the formers when constructing boreholes, so they may end up spending lots of time not doing much and then getting eaten by a mind worm or something.

I've seen your AI use at least 3 Formers routinely.  Can't remember if more.  If those have to be Super Formers to get the job done, that doesn't bother me.  I don't mind if your AIs never get the job done.  I know that if you want it to get done, you can change the code to make it happen.  I don't mind if you don't have the industrial capacity to do it until fairly late in the game.  That's how major projects are for me as a human player.  If the AI is going to suffer no eco-damage penalty at all from these zillions of boreholes it makes, then something else has to be done about them.

One faction, usually the Pirates, gets the Weather Paradigm and doesn't pay 60 on a Borehole or 24 on a Condenser anyways.  The Pirates are the traditional economic monster of my mod.  All that bountiful food, minerals, and energy in the ocean.  They don't need to fight anyone.  It was stupid the way the original game had it, just making them into sea borne Spartans.  All they would do is spam you and annoy you every.  single.  turn.  In my mod they pursue Wealth and they're scary good at it.  They're the only faction that doesn't get any social engineering buffs at all.  That +1 minerals in the ocean is almost but not quite a game breaker.

So yeah, if anyone's gonna get there, the Pirates will.  We'll see.  And I'm not married to 60 as the cost, but it is what I'm going to test now.  I say 48 is the minimum it has to go up to.  Boreholes are that good, clearly.

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It would be better to just disable boreholes from the game if you want to go that way.

I'm not anti Borehole, I'm anti cheap giveaway best facility in the game Borehole.  It's worth remembering that in the stock game, the AI hardly ever builds Boreholes.  Traditionally it has been a human exploit.

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But the main issue might be the exponential growth of the AI factions which would still continue anyway, but at a slightly lower speed.

I'm willing to see just how well your AI does without the cheap Borehole and Condenser crutches to rely upon.  That's one of the main things I'm testing in my current game.  I'm very surprised to see 3 factions doing as expected, and 3 that are completely pathetic.  They didn't spread.  They may have run themselves out of minerals.

Quote
For example population booming is a very broken mechanic.

I don't think so.  It is blocked by the need to build Habitation Domes.  In my mod that's still late game.  I have Lal pop booming from almost the beginning of the game.  He's a balanced faction in my mod with the stock binary.  He's only a monster with your AI.  Maybe if I cut the Borehole legs out from under him he returns to something sane.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 17, 2019, 05:40:43 AM
I've decided 30 is a bad multiple for costs.  The reason is that the Weather Paradigm will cut this in half for someone.  That would make it 15, and I don't want to deal with multiples of 5 when hand terraforming.  So, raise / lower terrain shall cost 36 turns.

I have also learned that a Thinker mod AI faction will build 60 turn Boreholes just fine, if it has the Weather Paradigm.  Because those become 30 turn Boreholes, not terribly different from the stock game.  Someone is going to get the Weather Paradigm and be the Borehole King.  For the reason of multiples, and because I didn't anticipate just how easy it is for an AI faction to complete the Weather Paradigm in my mod before I can do a darned thing about it, I'm raising the Borehole cost to 72 turns.  For someone, that's only going to be 36.

It remains to be seen if other AI factions will build 72 turn Boreholes.  The Free Drones seem to be chugging along just fine without interference, and are the likely faction to do it in my current test game.

The AI factions have been perfectly willing to build 24 turn Condensers.  They didn't even blink.  To them it was business as usual.  Now maybe it slowed them down though.  I'm doing pretty ok this game, pitting my supply pod and Artifact abuse against their Condenser and Mine abuse.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: Induktio on March 17, 2019, 04:20:48 PM
Two things:

Weather Paradigm doesn't double terraforming speed. It actually increases terraforming production rate by 50% which means the time required for completion is reduced by one third only.

Population booming as a strategy doesn't depend on habitation domes in any significant way. It can already become a game breaker with hab complexes if one faction does it and the others don't. Properly spaced cities with hab complexes can already max out their worked tiles after booming so habitation domes play very little role in there. Together with crawler abuse they are probably the top 2 most broken game mechanics. It can be seen in various speed runs too.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 17, 2019, 06:30:20 PM
Two things:

Weather Paradigm doesn't double terraforming speed. It actually increases terraforming production rate by 50% which means the time required for completion is reduced by one third only.

Ok, thank you for making me feel more sane on that.  My empirical experience was that a Solar Collector would cost 6 turns without it, 4 turns with it.  I read the docs late last night trying to check on that, and saw "50%".  So, I've proven that your AI will build a 60 * 2/3 = 40 turn Borehole no problem.

I've pretty much concluded that I've gotta raise the cost of the Weather Paradigm.  Terraforming in 2/3rds the time, and skipping to tech capabilities that otherwise take a long time to get in my mod, is pretty valuable stuff.  Currently it costs 300 like all my other early SPs.  I think it's gotta go to at least 400, comparable to the Empath Guild.  SPs can often be balanced by pushing them later in the tech tree, but half the value of the Weather Paradigm is getting access to various capabilities earlier.  I've already got it at B3 Ecological Engineering, and I've already pushed some terraforming capabilities later than the stock game.  It pretty much has to stay at B3 Ecological Engineering to make any sense.  So raising the cost is the only way to deal with it.  I'm not going to take it out of the game.

I also think Condensers need to come much later.  Your AI proves that they're easily abused.  You're basically using them the way a Soil Enricher is meant to be used, not caring that they affect a larger area.  So, I'm going to try moving Condensers to B5 Advanced Ecological Engineering.  That's gonna really put the brakes on what your AI can pull before the late midgame.  I'm also raising their cost to 36 turns, as the AI clearly didn't care when I made them 24 turns.

Now simultaneously, I've always thought Soil Enrichers are stupidly expensive for what they offer.  8 turns for a measly +1 food???  That's just painful, I've always hated it.  I'm dropping it to 6.  I don't even like 6, I've always hated having to wait 6 turns for a Solar Collector.  But from a game balance and progression standpoint, 6 is conservative and the precedent is waiting around for Solar Collectors.

In my mod, you don't get Soil Enrichers until B5 Planetary Economics.  That's the same tech tier as B5 Advanced Ecological Engineering.  And B5 Industrial Automation is also at the same tier.  That provides Boreholes and supply crawlers.  All your tools for environmental abuse will be on tier 5, but they come from different techs.  It takes a long time to get to tier 5 in my mod, it's late midgame for sure.  It takes even longer to get all of these techs, due to blind research.  And if you aren't Build focused, it's going to take way longer to get these techs, because there are piles of Conquer techs in tier 5.  In the real world, some factions may not ever get the tools to do the abuse.

So, if your AI somehow makes exponential economic runaways "inevitable", at least I will have delayed them until late midgame.  Maybe humans will just learn to kill the monster babies in their cribs, and they'll actually have time to do it.  Also Locusts are a tier 5 Explore tech in my mod, so someone could just send them in and chew your precious Boreholes and Condensers to bits.  I haven't done that in my current test game because I'm still "friends" with the most abusing faction.

What's left for you to abuse earlier?  Mines.   You'll have to choose places that have food, instead of just creating it anywhere you want.  Drill to Aquifer, the most obscure and forgotten terraforming option of the game.  Tree Farms, although I hardly call that "abuse".  Echelon mirrors, although I did move those to Environmental Economics.

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Population booming as a strategy doesn't depend on habitation domes in any significant way. It can already become a game breaker with without (?) hab complexes if one faction does it and the others don't.

But all the AI factions on Transcend are hopped up on super food anyways.  They already start with 7 bars for food instead of a human player's 10.  It's not difficult to get GROWTH bonuses in my mod, nor in the stock game.  Heck they don't even need a GROWTH bonus from social engineering, a Children's Creche alone will turn that 7 into 5.  I think you can't have it be less than 5?  Not sure, I would need to verify.  They don't need pop booming to chuck out big cities.  Growth over time will do it.  All they need is sufficiently good land and enough Formers to work it.  The Free Drones tend to get these big cities without any pop booming, because they tend to crank out enough units to do the work to make the good conditions.

So yes, from where I sit, Habitation Domes are the actual throttle.  It's when the air is filling up with Sky Hydroponics Labs and cities are getting crazy big, that pop boom is really scary.  I did put the Cloning Vats close to the end of my tech tree for this reason.

That said, anyone can pop boom by choosing Socialist and Eudaimonic.  Some factions won't, because their ideology opposes it - at least when playing with a binary that hasn't broken this.  But they could still make one of those choices and then do the more traditional, Civ style Golden Age thing, to pick up that extra +2 GROWTH they need to trigger the pop boom.  So the AI Morganites could do it, for instance, by minting more money than God.

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Properly spaced cities with hab complexes can already max out their worked tiles after booming so habitation domes play very little role in there.

Worked tiles aren't the end of the story.  I call that "terrestrial food".  Any city can become arbitrarily large due to Sky Hydroponics Labs.  Which is why I have them much later than the standard game.  They're a game killer, as are Orbital Power Transmitters.  Any city can make an arbitrarily large pile of money with enough of those.

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Together with crawler abuse they are probably the top 2 most broken game mechanics. It can be seen in various speed runs too.

And theoretically someone could crawl arbitrarily large amounts of food to a base.  I've tried it before, and I think the most practical way is to eat all the kelp in the oceans.  However fungus can become pretty edible later in the game as well.

In the real world I think human players prefer to crawl energy to their capitol, feeding a whole pile of "+100% research" buffs.  That strategy is super powerful and can be super broken.  In the past it has led me to super ugly arguments in the Command Nexus forum, to the point of me completely losing interest in playing against people who are gaming things that way.

Now if an AI comes along that starts doing all of that, then I might have to take some measures against supply crawler abuse, above and beyond what I've already done.  I could, for instance, make an individual supply crawler more expensive.  That doesn't change Secret Project effort consolidation in any way, in fact I use larger denomination supply crawlers in late game all the time.  But it would make it more punitive to have lots and lots of supply crawlers working in the field, and more risky / a loss to have them subject to enemy attack.

I hope I am not driven at some point to taking them out of the game.  I think they're interesting to a point.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: dino on March 17, 2019, 09:57:43 PM
GROWTH/INDUSTRY bonus for the AI on transcend is tricky, my working theory ( may not be 100% correct ) for now is: bonus * difficulty cost_factor/10 rounded down.
For example vanilla cost_factor for transcend, that can be changed with thinker is 7...
+-1 sems to actually do nothig: 1*7/10 rounded down=0, +3 gives two rows bonus: 3*7/10 rounded down = 2
Then there is limit of 5 rows for cost_factor - faction bonus, but bonus from policies is substracted again from that, for example:
Thinker cost_factor 6, +4GROWTH faction bonus: should be 6 - 2 = 4 rows, but is limited to 5, but then you go demo/planned for +4GROWTH: 4*5/10=2, so finally you get 5 - 2 = 3 rows.

I currently use cost_factor 8 and ++GROWTH/INDUSTRY bonuses for AI factions, which gives vanilla transcend rows, but with ++GROWTH AI can popboom with creeche and only one: democracy, or planned.
So most AIs boom at simillar stage player can.

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With increasing terraforming cost you make these features super boring ( takes forever ) and useless for the player and crippling for the AIs.
You are not taking into account exponential growth, 8 turns for mine and you are already collecting minerals, you use them to build more formers/crawlers to crawl even more minerals.
While meantime AI will build borehole for many turns, without any returns while former is eating support and there is risk it will get destroyed before it finish.

Want to nerf borehole? Change it to 4 4 from 6 6, way less powerful and you don't cripple ai and make it super tedious/useles for the player. Terraforming ecodamage is non issue, just build tree farm + hybrid forest.
You don't really need food from condensers before hab domes, you can grow to the limit with popboom easily and after domes you can pop few of them as the need arise with your superformers.
With Ytzi patch I used to have 4 4 boreholes and condensers that didn't provide any extra food, only rainfall ( possible with Ytzi patch ). Now when AI can utlize them, I see no need to nerf these.

You complain about tedium but insist on playing huge maps, if you cripple AI it will be easy to win.
Play on standard map, buildup phase is way shorter - less tedious,  more options - you can rush instead of building up, no need to cripple AI.



Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 17, 2019, 11:30:54 PM
but with ++GROWTH AI can popboom with creeche and only one: demo, or planned.
So most AIs boom at simillar stage player can.

Makes me wonder if AI factions have been pop booming all along even with the stock binary, and I never noticed.  But if so it doesn't trouble me, because it's what I'm used to and balanced my mod against.  There's less early GROWTH in my mod, because my Democratic gives +1 ECONOMY +1 JUSTICE (aka EFFIC) -2 POLICE.

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With increasing terraforming cost you make these features super boring ( takes forever )

In general regarding "super boring", let's remember that you prefer Standard maps or smaller.  I play on Huge.  Not larger than that lately, but never smaller.  I play on empires that are filling up the world with a lot of terraforming over time.

I never built Condensers and Boreholes.  About 2+ years ago I did some heavy duty Condenser and Borehole games on really big maps, I forget how large.  Checked that sort of "been there, done that" off my list.  Never really saw them as being all that beneficial compared to a good foresting, Hybrid Forests, and Mines worked by workers in the cities with the Hybrid Forests.  It never helped me against the AI factions in the stock unmodded game, at any rate.

The only reason I've revisited the question of Condensers at all, is because Thinker mod is doing it.  Otherwise to me they just don't have any point.  They never fit nicely on squares, you're always irrigating a bunch of rocks or something.  I know I want my forests on the Flat Moist ground to improve their mineral content.  I'm very much in the "forest and forget" school of thought on terraforming. 

And I haven't built a single Borehole yet, despite Thinker mod's goading.  Heck I often don't even get around to building Mines anymore.  I find that the fungus becomes edible, somewhat mineral laden, and energy rich.  I build Genejack Factories nowadays, but I really don't build Robotic Assembly Plants or any more advanced factory.  I find the eco-damage penalties are prohibitive for a human player.  So I just don't do it.  I hand terraform every single square of my empire, and I do not like having a global flooding ruining all my work.

Yeah, Boreholes, great way to get in eco-damage trouble.  Eco-damage for a human player is severe on Transcend.

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and useless for the player

I already think Condensers and Boreholes are kinda useless for the player.  I figure for food, well, I just made Soil Enrichers 25% cheaper.  That's like all those Civ games where you put your farm on top of a farm, I forget what that was called.  Farmland?

For minerals, I don't use 90% of the Rocky terrain I've got available to me as is.  I've played games where I've put supply crawlers everywhere on those, it usually just makes you have to rebuild a bunch of stuff due to fungal pops.  What's the point?  Tree Farms and Hybrid Forests will be along soon enough.  Lately, in late game I just plant fungus on top of all that Rocky terrain.  It's a better use for it.

So that leaves energy.  Do I care about energy?  I'm really Meh about energy.  I've crawled my capitol to get all the energy to the +100% labs and so forth.  I think that gets really boring.  I've experimented with crawling the oceans for energy.  I probably should have just gone ahead and won those games by outright military conquest.  What's the point of all this stuff?  It all feels like churn to me anyways.

The game has twice as much crap in it as it needs to.

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and crippling for the AIs.

I never saw the stock binary build any meaningful Condensers or Boreholes at all.  Even on Enormous or Giant maps with all the time in the world to do it.  Traditionally, these are mostly human exploits.

24 turn Condensers didn't cripple a darned thing for Thinker mod.  It slowed it down a bit.  36 turn Condensers moved to Advanced Ecological Engineering is still subject to playtest. I hope it helps.  I predict it'll merely slow down the monstrosity, not stop it.

Slowing things down is important because it gives a human player time to do something else.  Like invade your sorry Condenser slinging ass from halfway around a Huge world.  I can't in good conscience just have all these giveaway buffs for the AI, stacked one on top of the other.  Planet itself is supposed to be restraining this crap and that isn't meaningfully applied to the AI at all.

Boreholes, well we'll see what the Thinker mod AI will do.  I know it'll build a 40 turn Borehole, without Super Formers.

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You are not taking into account exponential growth, 8 turns for mine and you are already collecting minerals, you use them to build more formers/crawlers to crawl even more minerals.
While meantime AI will build borehole for many turns, without any returns while former is eating support and there is risk it will get destroyed before it finish.

Which is great, perfect, fantastic.  Abusive exponential strategies should be punished mercilessly.  The game shouldn't be a GET RICH QUICK pyramid scheme because you followed the One Golden Path to absolute victory.  I think your Formers should be killed by mindworms.  Specifically, Planet is supposed to be doing that job.  And it doesn't, for the AI, so....

If Formers getting killed is ever really a problem, and I predict it won't be, then Induktio could write the magic code where he puts a Trance Scout on top of his construction site.  Or the magic code where more Empath R-Laser Speeders get built to take out enemies before they get to stuff that needs to be protected.  Or the magic code where 12 Formers show up and finish the job in 6 turns.  I use big Former fleets to do big jobs all the time.  Why shouldn't the AI?

Or simplest of all, the magic code where he builds Trance 3-Res Formers instead of the usual Formers.  I know he can write that code, his overhaul of the unit design is one of his prouder achievements.  And if he couldn't write it, I could put it in my mod as a predefined unit when Boreholes become available.  Then he only has to use it.  Of course, armoring up your Formers costs more, and that's the point.  You gotta pay for stuff, bear costs, not just have an unlimited ocean of free giveaways.  Trance actually costs 1 in my mod, it's not a free lunch.

In my mod you can build Clean Formers if you're so worried about support.  Clean Reactor comes in the same tech as Genejack Factory, so you shouldn't be worrying about this.  You should have plenty of minerals and not even care about support at that point.  But if you are worried, I was really nice and dropped the cost of a Clean Reactor to 1.  I don't think they're all that valuable by the time they're available in the game.  I experimented with having them available much earlier in the game, specifically to help out the stock AI with the running out of minerals problem.  But the stock AI was too stupid to take advantage of it, so I returned it to a more traditional place in the tech tree.

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Want to nerf borehole? Change it to 4 4 from 6 6, way less powerful

It's an option, but not what I'm playtesting right now.  It lacks aesthetic grandiosity.  The (0,4,8) idea doesn't have this problem, it's equally grand.

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and you don't cripple ai

There's no evidence yet that the AI is crippled in any way by cost changes.  Remember, the stock game doesn't even build the damn things except once in a blue moon.  I have many AAR writeups of vast games played where the stock AI didn't do it.

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and make it super tedious/useles for the player.

Ok, how many Boreholes do you personally build per game?  And how many Fomers would you estimate you build?

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Terraforming ecodamage is non issue, just build tree farm + hybrid forest.

BS!  "Just" build those things when Thinker mod AI is racing ahead as fast as it is?  There's no time.  The total eco-damage giveaway they get, puts them so far ahead of you in tech and productivity it's not even funny.  You'll sit around building Hybrid Forests as it starts to build Sky Hydroponics Labs.  Which is saying a lot in my mod, they do not come early like in the stock game.

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You don't really need food from condensers before hab domes,

Glad you think so.  Good reason to require Advanced Ecological Engineering.

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With Ytzi patch I used to have 4 4 boreholes and condensers that didn't provide any extra food, only rainfall ( possible with Ytzi patch ). Now when AI can utlize them, I see no need to nerf these.

That's good evidence but I'm never going to require Yitzi patch for my mod.

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Play on standard map, buildup phase is way shorter - less tedious,  more options - you can rush instead of building up,

Rushing is pretty much the only strategy that matters on a Standard map.  Compared to a Huge map, everything on Standard is "close quarters battle".  I think against an AI, it's a baby game.  I'll change my mind if I see Thinker mod actually defending itself, but in the February release, its defense was worse than stock binary.  I'm still playtesting March release per my other thread, and I haven't started fighting yet.

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no need to cripple AI.

I think you are confusing crippled for constrained.  Crippled is when you see an AI get stuck with their starting cities, no minerals, no expansion.  I call it "vapor locked", as after a phenomenon in old cars.  And the March development release of Thinker mod is crippled somehow.  Observed with 3 factions in my current test game.  Has nothing to do with anything I did.  All that crippling happened before any Condenser was available.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 18, 2019, 02:19:34 AM
Boreholes are like chicken pox
Boreholes are like chicken pox

MY 2238.  Domai has got a Borehole now.  He doesn't have the Weather Paradigm, so I know he paid at least 60 turns for that.  This settles the question of whether Thinker AI will pay for 60 turn boreholes.  It will.  Complaining about Formers getting killed is a hand wave / totally invalid argument.  Obviously the Drones have terraformed the crap out of all the land around where the Borehole was built, for miles and miles around.  No mindworm is just going to wander up.  Now if a fungal pop took out some Borehole construction, I would consider that excellent.  And I know that's not really going to happen, because the game cheats like a mad dog on AI eco-damage.

Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 18, 2019, 07:21:01 AM
Well I quit my latest test game.  Among other things, I conclude that I need to test more expensive supply crawlers.  It's really hard to put any kind of brake on the way Thinker mod AI abuses stuff.  I think every tool in the toolbox is going to be required.

I will try changing

Code: [Select]
Supply Transport,     Supply,         0,10, 8, -1, IndAuto,
to

Code: [Select]
Supply Transport,     Supply,         0,10, 30, -1, IndAuto,
At this value, an infantry chassis Fusion supply crawler costs 50, same as an Artifact.  The fission version costs 80.  That's harsh but I don't see a way around it.  Fusion reactors come almost immediately after you get supply crawlers in my mod, and I can't have that reducing the cost to 30.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: Induktio on March 19, 2019, 12:59:28 PM
> insist on playing on the biggest map sizes and the highest difficulty level

> complain about the AI growing too big

Well, some things are hard to solve. But many drastic cost/value changes will mess up the AI strategy for sure.

After a quick glance, it looks like the eco damage is calculated in function 0x4E9CB0 "base_minerals". Equalizing the eco damage between AIs/humans would probably require rewriting that function, so that's where the relevant code is. I don't see implementing that myself as any kind of priority now though.
Title: Re: jacking up Borehole and Condenser cost
Post by: bvanevery on March 19, 2019, 03:05:39 PM
> insist on playing on the biggest map sizes

Huge is hardly the biggest map size.  It's the size at which the game is not about immediately rushing your enemy in close quarters.  Your new faction placement algorithm aside, which seems to enjoy putting opponents into cage matches.

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> and the highest difficulty level
> complain about the AI growing too big

Why should I change my standard of what's been an appropriate level of challenge for 20 years?  There's a difference between the AI being smart and the AI being given large gifts.  Jacking up costs is about taking away the gifts, closing the exploits.

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Well, some things are hard to solve. But many drastic cost/value changes will mess up the AI strategy for sure.

Actually there's still no evidence for this.  For instance in my current test game, the Morganites have the Weather Paradigm.  It's almost business as usual for them.  The Gaians don't, but they have Industrial Automation which gives both supply crawlers and Thermal Boreholes.  They're still the leading faction of the game.

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After a quick glance, it looks like the eco damage is calculated in function 0x4E9CB0 "base_minerals". Equalizing the eco damage between AIs/humans would probably require rewriting that function, so that's where the relevant code is. I don't see implementing that myself as any kind of priority now though.

Well if you've found it, that's good to know.  Why is it a rewrite?  Why isn't it just inserting a "5" where there's a "3" ?