Author Topic: Multiplayer games considerations  (Read 324 times)

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Offline Mart

Multiplayer games considerations
« on: May 26, 2019, 12:26:07 PM »
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  • This is general discussion on a topic of multiplaying SMAC or SMAX games. I thought about it already many years ago, but never came to any concluding special rules for MP games


    So mostly, as I think we can all see, MP games have implicit objective and a way of play to achieve this implicit victory:
    Player gets his/her faction strong and defeats other players, either by: conquest, real taking all the bases of opponents, or by inevitability of conquest, like we can see Air Power makes the first faction to get  it, to jump in real power quickly. Other players may at this point consider themselves defeated, what could be proofed by Air Power player.
    Sometimes it is other objective, like on huge map, large distance can make a good builder game to complete with Transcendence, though such game can be micromanagement nightmare.


    I remember once I played civ3 multiplayer game. Civ games are from ancient era to space exploration, but my first MP was an "hotspot" when we played turn after turn simultaneously. So the game ended when one of my opponents got Iron technology, made swordsmen and defeated me and a 3rd player. After this short game, I was told by that 3rd player: "I have seen, he was getting 'Iron' tech so I knew, that you had no chance." This is like what, 3% or 5% of the game there? We can see something similar in SMACX, maybe Laser Infantry rushes are not typical ways of conquest in MP games, but we rarely see late game, if not at all.


    My idea is to introduce a system of points for MP games, that would work together with existing victory system, like we have transcendence, diplomatic or economic victories.
    A system, that would make factions to play with strategies, that do not lead to "kill'em all ASAP" default strategy. I thought it to be a Leader's personality trait, maybe some set of additional aims which would make winning a SMACX game more involving, than just "fastest conquest" game.
    Here is the catch though:
    - All SMACX existing features, like all SPs, all weapons and all possibilities like copter with any weapon attacking cities, would be there to use. No restrictions to existing game mechanics would be introduced, like we do presently by getting "house rules" for copters, Air Power, etc. This would make the game to extend, but not be modified in its core rules.


    Well, we may say, there are victory conditions, like Diplomacy for example, but if you conquer all human players on Planet you win Diplomacy with AI factions. Similar you can do with Transcendence. So these "peaceful" victories in SMACX do not work.


    I have some ideas, but wanted to have this brainstorm discussion, so we could get something for future to use. After long time I do not have anything concrete. And with shared ideas, we may come to some useful solutions.


    What would make for example Santiago to not to destroy all other factions with Air Power, even if she had it alone on Planet? Something, that would make a player to loose if he simply conquers all others at this point.
    What would make Deirdre in need to stop her onslaught with mindworms in order not to loose a game, but allow other factions to continue with a chance to win still.

    Offline bvanevery

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    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #1 on: May 26, 2019, 06:38:22 PM »
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  • What would make for example Santiago to not to destroy all other factions with Air Power, even if she had it alone on Planet? Something, that would make a player to loose if he simply conquers all others at this point.

    An expensive Needlejet chassis might work.  Such as is actually done in my mod. 

    Quote
    What would make Deirdre in need to stop her onslaught with mindworms in order not to loose a game, but allow other factions to continue with a chance to win still.

    Cheap Trance 3-Res units.  I don't know if I've got the balance of power right on this or not in my mod.  For a time I think the balance was favoring the PLANET friendly factions, so  I raised mindworm costs back to what they were in the original game.  Trance ability actually costs something in my mod though, it's not free.

    Nobody's going to rush with Speeders in my mod, because it takes some time to get even basic weapons together.  There is time for others to build a defense.

    There are no Copters in my mod.  They are banished.

    Factories, Supply Crawlers, and Thermal Boreholes all come much later, so that's not a ready path to victory.  You can thank Thinker Mod for me postponing the availability of those things.  Terraforming the super profitable stuff also takes twice as long.

    Armor and weapons are progressed in lock step with each other, giving an advantage to defenders.  That might make it easier to survive in multiplayer.  My mod has a bit of a "low tech" feeling to it until you get to late midgame.

    Although new victory conditions, constraints, and scenario balancing options are contemplatable, one might start with whether all the old play mechanics actually work if they are balanced.  I'm not aware of anyone doing any multiplayer testing with my mod, but they could.  I wasn't trying to solve multiplayer problems, but I've always been trying to solve balance problems, and more recently AI abuse problems.

    Perhaps a mod has to be known and accepted for quite a long time, before multiplayers will try it.  Perhaps releasing new versions of a mod, always works against multiplayer acceptance, because rule changes mean multiple people have to install new stuff, and learn some new stuff.  My development of SMACX AI Growth mod is seriously slowing down though.  Version 1.31 is imminent and it's a minor tweak / fixes a documentation bug.  I don't know that there will even be a version 1.32.  I said the same about 1.31, but a couple of minor things were found.

    Offline Mart

    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #2 on: May 28, 2019, 02:51:54 PM »
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  • With Mods the thing is, they are in practice less know, less tried, than a standard vanilla game. Mostly people want to play the game they get "out of the box", probably for simplicity of approach, most known play info materials, or even nostalgia.
    That's true, there are sub-communities, that prefer a specific Mod, these people are minority though.
    I thought of special ruleset for victory conditions to play in completely unmodded and without any additioanl "house rules" So no copter rules, no SP restrictions, like banning CBA, etc.

    Offline bvanevery

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    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #3 on: May 28, 2019, 11:18:24 PM »
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  • I think you are proposing to accomplish this by binary patching only.  In which case, you are still going to have the "subset of the players" problem.  As ascendant as Induktio's Thinker Mod may be, only so many people are going to discover and adopt it.  The difficulty of getting more people to adopt it, is similar to the difficulty of getting people to adopt any mod that's had a bunch of work put into it.  For instance, my own.  And I can tell you, I have not seen Induktio advertizing in the places he should be, so his work is going to be a niche item for some time.

    The only other candidate for "widespread binary patch only" deployment is Scient.  He does have some historical name recognition, which would help his cause some.  But again: he's not advertizing in the needed places.

    If I think really really hard, maybe I will come up with ideas within the very limited parameters you are setting, but...

    ...as of right now, my opinion is your desire to "not change stuff" needs to go the way of the dodo bird.  The stock game is what it is.  It is not a number of other things, such as balanced.

    I've made a pretty substantive effort to actually balance it.  I actually acknowledged you in my readme, because your basic push that some Secret Projects are overpowered and come too early, did make it into production reality.  I daresay I carried that sentiment to its logical conclusion.  It's downright painful to get various SPs now.

    My work may not turn out to be a complete solution to the multiplayer problem, because it was never designed with that in mind.  There could be some other kind of player abuse that isn't on my radar, that Thinker Mod didn't make me aware of either.  It could turn out that the early Cloaking Devices I've provided in my mod, which are totally inconsequential when playing against AIs, are devastating against other human players.  It could be that planetwide Conventional Missiles are game enders.  Or whatever.  But I do know this!  I'm way farther along on the quest to make a balanced game that actually works, than the stock game is.

    Offline Mart

    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #4 on: June 25, 2019, 10:10:30 AM »
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  • It would be only players agreement to follow some set of "additional victory conditions", or rather "replacement victory conditions"
    It could be seen as special "house rules" for the game, since it would pertain to victory only. The play would be with regular game exec, though could be patched to versions compatible with "out of the box" versions of SMAC/X
    [Edit]
    (thinking of scient's 1.0 here)

    Offline bvanevery

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    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #5 on: June 25, 2019, 09:54:38 PM »
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  • In your original post, I did not understand your idea as being, or willing to be, just a set of game external "house rules" about new victory conditions.  That increases the scope of what is creatively possible.

    Part of your motivation for wanting to think up such, seems to be wanting to experience more of the game's content.  In particular the late parts of the tech tree.  Now, if the stock tree is unconstrained, you cannot realistically expect to achieve this.  The stock tree simply has techs that are way better than others, that make other things down the road pointless.  You don't need Gravships when you can win with Marines.

    I know this is true because I've rebalanced everything.  I know when techs cease to be important, or become important.  Many of my acts of rebalancing, have been about delaying the onset of techs that were clearly overpowered.  The net result of such delays is the game takes longer and more of its content gets explored.  I have plenty of games nowadays where Gravships actually get used, and I've also found Psi Gates to be useful during a global flood.  Your rail lines get chopped up and it's a good way to reinforce cities.

    Now having said that, it's probably possible to win the game a lot earlier than I bother to.  I have the vision distortion of a single player fighting the AIs.  Multiplayer might reveal problems of balance that I've overlooked.  There might yet be some killer tech placed inopportunely early in the tree, that simply makes it Game Over for anyone who doesn't get it.

    But as I believe I've said before, I've gone a lot farther towards having players experiencing the full content of the game, than the stock game is ever going to do.  The balance of the stock game isn't there, it's a sow's ear. You need to recognize it as such, if getting players to experience more of the content of the game is one of your prime goals.

    You can come up with any "house rules" you like to try to prolong the content of the game.  I would suggest things like "Supply Crawlers may not be built until X".  "Boreholes may not be built until X".  "Choppers may not be built at all".  You said you didn't want to make such rules, but I think you are completely wrong to say that, if getting players to experience more of the stock binary's content is one of your main goals.  You have to delay the various Killer Techs or there simply isn't a game to play after that.

    Now, once you've decided how much of the game you really want players to experience, then it would be fruitful to discuss "creative" victory conditions.  Whether you expect players to win early or late in the tech tree, is rather fundamental to your problems.

    I would also point out that in coming up with your "house rules", you haven't solved the mod adoption problem.  You still have to convince human beings to utilize the piece of paper, or electronic scrawling, that your house rules are printed on.  People won't become aware of your piece of paper.  People won't care about it, or will forget about it.  You still have to do the hard work of convincing a community of people to adopt the rules, and to foster a player culture of games being played with those rules.  None of this is an easy social engineering or content delivery problem.  Frankly, doing this sort of thing successfully is worth money to a commercial game developer.  Players have many competing options of what they could be playing, such as the stock game, any competing mod, or any other game.  It's a tall order for your alternate rules to be "that good" and that easy to use, to overcome the natural path of least resistance.

    This "mod adoption" problem is why I don't require a binary patch to play my mod.  That's quite a deliberate deployment decision on my part.  Nothing is worth extra steps, in the difficult problem of getting people to adopt non-standard stuff.

    Offline Jade Panther

    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #6 on: July 18, 2019, 08:07:58 PM »
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  • If you look under the scenarios, you'll find that several of the scenarios were designed as multi-player games.  (I know, who even looks at the scenarios in SMAC/X? But the option's right there, next to "Load Game".)  If you want to play SMACX wargame-style, that's probably your best option.

    You could do a cooperative MP game - you and a friend against the world.

    If all players want to play "builder" style, you can agree not to fight with each other (or settle in each other's territory, etc.) You could find a person to act as a judge of who's won, although it's also very possible you might reach a point where people concede. You may want to agree on some "Marquess of Queensberry"-style rules, e.g. limiting the number of bases each can build, or limiting how many crawlers can be used.

    In competitive MP games, it's necessary to play with blind research off. Then, if another player has aircraft for a substantial period of time, and you don't, it has to do with your choices, not simply that the random number generator refused to give you some key tech until you were far behind everyone else.

    Offline bvanevery

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    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #7 on: July 19, 2019, 02:51:59 AM »
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  • Aircraft might not be a problem in my mod, because I made the Needlejet chassis expensive and I've severely restricted minerals production even through midgame.  However, it's easy to abuse even a Gun Jet to give cover to advancing ground troops.  Of course it's also easy to shoot down a Gun Jet, if you have Doctrine: Air Power yourself.  I took the severe attitude that you don't get AAA defense or Air Superiority abilities until you've researched Doctrine: Air Power yourself.

    I don't have any data on anyone using my mod for multiplayer.  I suspect that nobody has done so, due to the difficulties of getting multiple cooperating people to try out and stick with a mod.  Also, any kind of release cycle probably works against the agenda.  I'm still on a monthly cycle even though much less is changing now.  I'll go a few months making only trivial adjustments, then decide there's something major to do, then back to trivial.  "Major" stuff is driven by playtester feedback at this point, not my own ideas.

    Offline Mart

    Re: Multiplayer games considerations
    « Reply #8 on: July 19, 2019, 06:34:22 PM »
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  • Playing cooperative, yes, this is one way of playing MP, but often people want to compete against other human players, like people play PvP MMORPGs for that reason.

    There should be differentiation between factions, so I think as an example: PK should get points for maintaining peaceful balance on the Planet, all factions existing when game ends, and maybe PK has no vendettas. Spartans, on the other hand, would tend to subjugate other factions, limit their number of bases and get bonus for status other than vendetta, e.g. Pact with limited number of bases would mean, that a given human controlled faction has submitted to Spartans.

     

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