Author Topic: Technology values and chaining  (Read 130 times)

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Offline tnevolin

Technology values and chaining
« on: November 03, 2019, 10:05:50 PM »
Question: How important are technology values for mod?

I understand they help chose target technology in blind research when player select some research priorities. This is as far as they go. They are not used for targeted research. And even for blind research selection they are of limited use. They sure help you pick a technology among available ones. However, list of available technologies is not available to you. Some technologies ready to be discover may not be available for pickup due to weird formula obscuring 1/3 of them in a not clear fashion that is not humanly possible to follow deep into the game. Setting research priorities let you more likely to research corresponding value technologies but not guarantees it. It is not even give you a clear path though not yet researched tech tree levels either as any technology prerequisites may have completely different values blocking selection engine from reaching it. All in all it does change research sequence but this change is extremely difficult to visualize and not straightforward. One would need to keep a tech tree on a table along with obscuring formula handy and change priorities every turn to be able to fine direct their research. I guess this is not the way it was designed.

In light of the above do you think it makes sense in fine balancing technologies values at all? Also would it make sense to chain some similar technologies together to build some sort of ancestry for similarly valued groups? Like to make sure that at least one prerequisite is of the same of similar value? Of course, it doesn't solve the problem I outlined above completely but, at least it makes such grouped technologies more reachable. And even in this case, it does not make much sense to me either as most of the same color technologies could actually bring drastically different outcome and specific game value. For example both terraforming and native technologies are green. However, terraforming and native units are completely different game concepts you may want only one of them when you meant "green". So even if you are able to direct blind research more or less effectively, half of what you get will be not what you wanted.
Tim

Offline bvanevery

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Re: Technology values and chaining
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2019, 01:59:09 PM »
I spent 18 months balancing my tech weights.  Yes in my opinion it is worth doing, and yes the results are highly predictable from the game designer's standpoint.  Not the player's.

One thing you gotta watch out for, is that putting 0s in something creates a hard barrier to it being researched by that focus.  For instance, when I've had Information Networks as a pure Discover tech.  Only the AI factions with a Discover research focus would figure it out, the rest never got a clue.  My only Discover factions are the University and the Cyborgs.  If they're not in the game, it could get pretty stagnant on tech.

What am I doing lately with that?  Seems I do have D1 Information Networks as a pure Discover tech.  It's intended to be a hard barrier so that the Discover factions, particularly the University, can overcome it easily and get way ahead on research.  Meanwhile I've put Biology Lab in D1 Biogenetics, which is a mixed 3, 4, 0, 3 tech and very easy for most factions to research.  That means everyone can get some research improvement by building it, to get the +2 absolute improvement.  That matters quite a bit at the beginning of the game.

Putting fewer weights on things makes the tech harder to research.  Putting more weights on things make it easier to research.  You can construct entire flows through tech trees this way.  I have a fair number of pure Conquer techs for instance.  You're only likely to get them if you have a pure Conquer only focus!  Otherwise you will tend to discover the techs that have mixed benefits, and go up those parts of the tree.

From the player's point of view, the only way to communicate a sense of the weights besides trial and error, is to have a consistent metaphor for what each category means.  I'm pretty hard assed about Conquer techs.  It's where you're going to get your weapons and armor from, and you're not getting them any other way.  If it's a red tech, it's got a weapon or armor in it.  My Build is about getting minerals and energy benefits.  My Explore has evolved to be mostly about new chasses and mindworm stuff.  It's also about making people happy, i.e. population growth, but recently I conceded that bigger populations always produces more minerals and energy as well.  So lately I've been handling the happiness techs by saying they're primarily Explore with a weight of 4, but secondarily Build with a weight of 3 or 2, depending on what they give.

I generally try to keep research continuity between successive techs.  Going from "something needs Explore" to "something needs Conquer" can become a hard barrier in practice, a sort of cliff in the terrain of the tech tree.  Usually I don't want that, usually I want rolling hills that can be traversed.  However if I disapprove of some tech, and I want to soft hide / soft remove it from the game, I hide it behind 2 or 3 layers of changing research requirements.  The current exemplar of that is Genetic Warfare.  I did implement the prereqs sensibly, it's not willy nilly, but you're going to have to go through a convoluted Discover, Explore, Build, Conquer sequence to get it.  It's overpowered, and really easy to use if you get the Planetary Council to legalize atrocities.  Another way of thinking about it, is these transitional cliffs implement substantial delays.  I can make something that seems like it's earlier in the tech tree, in practice take way longer to get to.

Offline tnevolin

Re: Technology values and chaining
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2019, 02:50:58 PM »
One thing you gotta watch out for, is that putting 0s in something creates a hard barrier to it being researched by that focus.

Clarification: by that focus solely when it is not selected as part of multi priories. In other words, If sum of technology values in all selected research priorities is zero, that technology will be last in line. It is still can be researched when all other choices are exhausted. I am sure you know this, just clarifying.

I agree with everything you said but it does only strengthen my point that it is obscure for player and almost impossible to project priority to result. Like one picking yellow would result in faction that is military weak, behind in research, behind in terraforming technologies, behind in native units, but quite ahead in mineral/economy production and having a lot of facilities in their bases. Nope. You cannot have them separated that cleanly in the game. For example, you cannot flourish in minerals without terraforming techniques and large number of economy multiplying facilities also affects your labs indirectly, etc.

In other words, these priorities should be redefined to make more sense as actual faction development direction and not just technology color group.
Tim

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Re: Technology values and chaining
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2019, 02:06:48 AM »
> It is still can be researched when all other choices are exhausted.

Which in a tech tree with research continuity such as I've implemented, will never happen.  There's always a "bread crumb" more tantalizing than the zero.

There are only 2 ways out of that pickle: 1) it's a Tier 1 tech, so you can pop a Supply Pod to gain it.  This may happen eventually.  You can get very far into the game with it never happening.  2) you trade or steal it from someone else.  In some random opponent games, none of the AIs ever learn it to begin with, so the "barrier tech" is never gained that way.

> but it does only strengthen my point that it is obscure for player and almost impossible to project priority to result.

That is false.  The player can read the README about how the mod was designed.  I've told players how things are categorized.  I've also taken great pains to try to make the lore of the game, fit with the actual tech given by the game.  There have been revisions of my mod where that got shaky, but recently, I feel I've won the battle of "intuitive relevance" as to what awards what.  This is a question of authorship, and I have not had enough feedback from players, to verify my own high opinions of my work / choices / results.  Nobody yet has said to me, "Brandon, seriously, WTF?"  :-)  Give it time, give it time.

Anyways, it's false that you can't explain things to the player.  You have to put a lot of effort into making it consistent though.  It is not easy to reshuffle the whole damn tech tree and have it all actually end up making sense.  You typically end up with a tech or two somewhere that doesn't quite fit the lore.  It's like working some kind of giant mosaic puzzle, trying to find the right piece of tile to put here or there.  Over time, I've become intimately familiar with the tiles available.  I have tried to fit the tiles in similar arrangements, multiple times, and have gone back and forth between styles of fittings.  That's what happens over 18 months of iteration on the problems.  I've never allowed lore issues to block a release; gameplay is king.  But on successive releases, as other concerned happened, I've usually found ways to improve the lore fits.

I've also got high falutin' ideas about how I'd never do the lore <--> tech linkage the way they did in this game.  It is too cumbersome to iterate on.  But that's a subject for another day, with a brand new game.

> Like one picking yellow would result in faction that is military weak,

That's not an abstractly provable assumption.  What is provable, is running my Morganites and my Pirates against my other AI factions, and seeing how they do against them.  Both are Pacifist pure Build factions nowadays.  One on land, one on sea.  How well the AI factions do, depends on how all the other AI factions go about things, the size of the map, etc.  I've been iterating on these issues for a long time.  There is no theory that will govern the results, you have to playtest.  I have my AI lab results, but I am awaiting the feedback of more playtesters as more people (hopefully) try out my mod over time.

> behind in research

Getting too far ahead in research can be a disadvantage, at least for the AI.  You have to actually produce all those units and facilities, and not just keep jacking up the cost of everything.

> Nope. You cannot have them separated that cleanly in the game.

You can / I did.  Until you put your own mod in front of enough people to give you feedback, you are merely theorizing about what can or can't be done.  I have put these separation concepts to the test.

The degree of separation has also changed over time.  For instance, the population and growth aspects of Explore vs. Build, are not nearly as cleanly separated as they used to be.  The rate at which factions also get through early parts of the tree, has also changed over time.  It is governed by how fat or thin the early tree is, like a funnel squirting water.  I've seen improvements or regressions in AI behavior simply by changes in that fatness or thinness.  I say again: you cannot theorize this stuff, because it is a complex system.  You have to playtest.  I'm still not sure if there are key early techs that end up changing stock AI behavior, once they are acquired.  I suspect there are, and I'm not sure how the pacing of these things in my mod has changed over time.  Only that in recent iterations, like say the past 10 releases, they've changed for the better.

> For example, you cannot flourish in minerals without terraforming techniques

That's not much of an example.  A Former is a Tier 1 tech.  You can certainly plant Forests and win things with those minerals.  "Forest and forget" is a known, viable approach to the game.  You can boost minerals with a big mine on a minerals special square, there is no restriction on such output.  My opinion is, you can win the game with Impact Squads if you're determined to do so.

> In other words, these priorities should be redefined to make more sense as actual faction development direction and not just technology color group.

I believe I did that, and I do not see how someone would propose to do differently than what I did.

 

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