Author Topic: Turning SMAX back into strategy game  (Read 4658 times)

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Offline tnevolin

Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« on: October 18, 2018, 08:42:17 PM »
Hi All.
I've started exploring this idea just recently so may not give you a ready solution yet but I'll keep thinking. At the same time I like to share ideas to get a different view on this.

First. My understanding of strategic game is that it 1) gives your plenty of activity options, 2) each option has a distinct impact on a game state (including yours), 3) each option can be useful at some time or another depending on circumstances, 4) you need to monitor current situation and adjust your strategy (change your chosen option set) to be successful and continue to advance.
Some options are mutually exclusive. So you pretty much need to chose your strategy (option set). You cannot get everything at once. To excel you need to analyse the situation, foresee future game development (both yours and opponents) and apply best option set combination (i.e. strategy). That is why they are called strategical after all.
In short, game situation changes every turn and you are juggling lots of variables trying to work out a best balance. Due to large number of variables and their non-linear effect on a game, analysis is quite complex. It is not guaranteed that new player will be able to find a best solution every time. In fact, it takes lots of practice, thinking and hints just to improve your results little by little.
That, in my mind, is a cornerstone of strategy games appeal.

Now. The above paragraph describes a desired strategical game design. It is not easy to achieve such perfection. In game terminology it is called a good balance or variability. Good balance is achieved when there are no superior or inferior strategies. Even better if best strategy as some point would soon need to be revised due to game situation change and replaced with other. In other words, there should be no situation when you run same strategy unmodified for extended period of time and be successful. Otherwise it gets boring.

Sorry for long introduction but I had to go back in history to illustrate my point. Let's look at Civ I early game units: Phalanx (1-2-1) and Legion (3-1-1). They cost the same so their comparative economical effectiveness equals to their combat odds. Let's assume for a moment that player A build Legions to conquer player B who defends with Phalanxes. They raw odds are 3:2 if they encounter each other on flat field unprepared. Legion raw effectiveness is 1.5 bigger. Now let player B be completely prepared. They can place their units in fort fortified or behind a city wall also fortified. That changes odds to 3:6 and 3:9, correspondingly. So even in the flat terrain Legion suddenly becomes twice as less effective. This doesn't come for free, though. Player B need to prepare the defense - build fort or city walls. The idea of overpowering defense over offense is to protect valuable assets: cities and territory. Building few units and capture a well developed but poorly protected city in few turns is undoubtedly the most lucrative investment of time and money. So to keep game in balance game should allow defender to invest less to stop the attack. Now knowing that they will sacrifice a lot of units (= time and resources) player A would think twice if they want to opt for neighbor city capture. Even for economically stronger player grinding through weaker opponent defense may slow down their technological and economical development so much that other rivals would take the lead instead. Summarizing the above, ability to defend cheap keeps multiple options in balance, whereas ability to attack cheap breaks balance by leaving only one viable option: conquest. And we all remember what superior strategy of all times is - boring!

The Civ I was nice in design: offensive units are more effective attacking unprepared defenders and less effective against prepared ones. However, AI poorly executed defensive strategy (as any other military strategy for that matter). It didn't beef up the defense except building lots of units in cities and didn't plan the attack by amassing troops on target either. As a result, AI to AI wars ended in stalemate. Whereas human player could take on unprepared AI cities and territories. I vividly recall that conquering the world in Civ I yielded about 300% rating while best economical development only 70-100%. Pity. So much for economic based strategy.

In Civ II it became worse. Even the design balance itself went down the toilet by introducing multi-round combat and healing concepts. Now it became irrelevant how much stronger the attacker units are. Even mere 3:2 ratio would give them 100% winning chance. Together with following healing it created unstoppable and indestructible armies of bombers and howitzers. 10-20 of them can wipe out enemy city in a single turn rolling in by enemy railroads. Game become boring from this moment on. I completely stopped all economical management in cities as soon as I got military advantage and just keep conquering whole world.

SMAC broke this already broken balance even more. Up to Civ II the nominal ratio of attack and defense for contemporary units was kept at about 3:2 with all original defensive bonuses. In SMAC this ratio explicitly changed to 2:1 and defensive bonuses went down. Now the best flat field defense bonus is 1.5 * 1.25 = 1.875 (bunker + sensor). That doesn't even bring defense up to the contemporary attack. The base with perimeter is a little better: 2 * 1.25 = 2.5. With such ridiculous numbers you don't even need needlejets to start a conquest. Everything you need is to discover weapon with 2:1 advantage to opponent armor and artillery! Here we see how single invention tilts battle to large stack. With artillery you can weaken defenders in a city by 50% and take it without casualties. Indestructible army in motion! Turn 50 of, supposedly, 400 turn game, gentlemen!!! Gets really boring. I stopped playing about 90% of my games at this moment even not finishing the actual conquest as the fate of whole planet was already sealed, obviously. The strategy game turns into "survive until you get the military advantage" game.

Enough about sad stuff. Let's see how this can be fixed to make game more challenging and beneficial to AI. After all this is what most of the modders are trying to do here.
# Return combat mechanics back to single round instant kill without later healing. This would make all unit effectiveness proportional to their attack/cost (defense/cost for defense units). Morale and morale increasing facilities would proportionally increase unit effectiveness and, therefore, play constantly important role throughout the whole game. Which is kinda the Morale idea.
# Slow down weapon progression to bring it to about 3:2 best attack to best defense ratio at any given point in time instead of 2:1 as it is now.
# Remove small attack and defense bonuses those make no sense. Like infantry +25% against base. Why on earth attacking unit in base would be more effective that in plain? I never understood a strategical need for this. Same goes for 25% intrinsic base defense. It is too small to make a big difference. If one wants to protect a base they need to build a Perimeter - that's it.
# Make all psi attack base odds 1:1 everywhere. Currently the 3:2 ground psi attack odds encourages unlimited planet pearl harvesting and worms harvesting. With 1:1 player will be cautious about natives as it should be. If you relay on fungus combing strategy - invest in Morale and Planet. That would potentially make you weak in other areas but that is your strategical choice.
# Improve bonuses for prepared defense. So that you can shield yourself from sworn enemy to some extent if you don't have power or technology to counterattack. Strategically placed fortified units in a bunker should be able to at least deflect first attack against contemporary weapon even if weakened in half by bombardment. I propose to raise artificial structure defensive bonuses for that. Something like: bunker = +100%, sensor = +50%. It brings raw 3:2 attacker odds to 3:(2*1.5*2*1.5) = 3:9 against unit on forest/fungus/rock + in bunker + near sensor. Or 6:9 if weakened by bombardment. Which still stops invasion quite good. Having bunker to provide 100% defense bonus is in line with base defense bonuses. Bunker is half as strong comparing to max base defense but it uses terrain bonuses additionally so should be more or less on pair.
# Improve overall sea defense. I am always crying my eyes out when I see ship attacking sea base. +25% intrinsic defense does not do good against 2:1 attacking odds so attacker wins all the time. Moreover, regular infantry defenders cannot counter attack ship even after it stopped after first attack. Comm jammer is not applicable against ships. So overall sea bases are helpless against even contemporary weapon. The only way to effectively defend it is with own ships and aircrafts. Without ZOC at sea enemy ships can surprise attack any of your bases. So you need sea or air defenders in all of them and not only one. This is insanely expensive.

Unfortunately, some of above variables need to changed in exe and not in alphax.txt. So here is my quick and dirty alphax.txt modification that I've tried so far and enjoyed.
0,       ; Combat % -> intrinsic base defense {-100 to 32767}
0,       ; Combat % -> for attacking from higher elevation {-100 to 32767}
0,       ; Combat % -> defending against lower elevation {-100 to 32767}
; Elevation bonuses seem too small and too inconvenient to use. You don't get a clear visibility to elevation and need to measure every adjacent square. Too time consuming.
0,       ; Combat % -> Defend vs. mobile in rough {-100 to 32767}
; Rough terrain already provides defensive bonuses. Comm jammer is free and already does a pretty good job against fast units.
0,       ; Combat % -> Infantry vs. Base {-100 to 32767}
; Pretty strange bonus from strategical point of view. If you want to encourage infantry usage then Comm jammer already does an amazing job.
0,       ; Combat penalty % -> Non-combat unit defending vs. combat unit {-32768 to 100}
; Another strange bonus. Non-combat units are pretty easy to knock out anyway. Why they need to be weakened even more?
-50,    ; Combat % -> Bonus vs. ships caught in port {-100 to 32767}
; To make ships in port actually more effective. This is the only way to protect sea bases.
50,      ; Combat % -> Defend in range of friendly Sensor {-100 to 32767}
; As proposed above
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 02:30:06 PM by tnevolin »
Tim

Offline bvanevery

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2018, 04:02:24 AM »
# Slow down weapon progression to bring it to about 3:2 best attack to best defense ratio at any given point in time instead of 2:1 as it is now.

In my mod the ratio of weapon to armor power in the tech tree is 1:1.  There are more weapons than armors in the tree so parity is reached, then weapons creep forward, then parity is reached again.  I had heard too many complaints over the years about armor being pointless because the weapons are so powerful.  I tried to adjust that.

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# Remove small attack and defense bonuses those make no sense. Like infantry +25% against base. Why on earth attacking unit in base would be more effective that in plain? I never understood a strategical need for this. Same goes for 25% intrinsic base defense. It is too small to make a big difference. If one wants to protect a base they need to build a Perimeter - that's it.

The idea is that infantry do a better job in crowded streetfighting conditions.  This is historically accurate.  Tanks, especially Cold War tanks that were designed for the plains of Europe, aren't so good in the 3D combat of a modern urban environment.  It is possible to make "street fighting" tanks and vehicles that do better in cramped quarters, but it's a specific kind of design, and infantry do generally have real world advantages in such environments.  Whereas out on the plains, infantry get killed.

You might be getting hung up on the idea of the infantry "attacking".  Instead consider how they are "performing".  Of course they should be getting +25% attack and defense in a base, meaning you want your city to defend with infantry.  Or else infantry is +0% and various vehicles get penalties. 

For a sci-fi game, it is significant that they didn't bother with powered armor.  It would have obvious advantages in urban combat.

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# Make all psi attack base odds 1:1 everywhere. Currently the 3:2 ground psi attack odds encourages unlimited planet pearl harvesting and worms harvesting.

You mean you personally have the patience to bother with all of that?  If you're really willing to grind your way to victory through excessive mouseclicking, should the game stop you?  It's a lot of work.

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With 1:1 player will be cautious about natives as it should be.

I'm already cautious. I use very few units to explore with, and get the most done with them.  If I pop a pod and 8 mindworms surround me, I'm gonna die, unless I was using a mindworm myself.  If I'm a PLANET friendly faction and build up some mindworms in the bush, I don't see that as a big deal.  Logistically, they don't move quickly to a military front that actually needs them against other factions.  They tend to be in the wrong place whenever a war is happening.  If you throw your horde at a distant enemy, and that's all you've got, they don't tend to prevail.  They have a bit of a "glass cannon" vibe to them.  They're strong when they rendezvous with a more conventional invasion force, supplied by more conventional logistics.

One thing I did do in my mod, is take away free Trance and ECM abilities.  You have to pay for those.  This in essence makes mindworms tougher on offense, because they face fewer units specifically designed to defend against them.

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Strategically placed fortified units in a bunker should be able to at least deflect first attack against contemporary weapon even if weakened in half by bombardment.

I took bunkers out of my mod entirely.  The AI builds them obsessively when it should be developing other terrain improvements.  Then it never populates those bunkers, instead just creating liabilities when a human player invades their home territory.  Human gets all this great free defense that the AI built for it.  Forget it! 

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Comm jammer is not applicable against ships.

It isn't?  I thought ships are "fast units".

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Without ZOC at sea enemy ships can surprise attack any of your bases.

So strategy might say not to invest in the sea then.  You were interested in strategy.  Are you sure you aren't just making synonyms for "turtling up" rather than strategy?

I did make Sensor Arrays buildable on water, i.e. sonar buoys ala Call To Power.  I'm told that they won't give any defense bonus on the water though.  Still, being able to see what's approaching is valuable.

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So you need sea or air defenders in all of them and not only one. This is insanely expensive.

I cut chassis costs in half for foils and cruisers.  They are equivalent in cost to speeders and hovertanks.  Expense problem solved.  I've had naval wars against the Hive where I took a whole lot of his sea bases.  Then he counterattacked with his own ship spam and foil probe teams, taking back most of what I'd gained.  The naval wars are more fluid now.  Easy come, easy go.  Like water itself!

Offline PvtHudson

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2018, 07:42:56 AM »
My understanding of strategic game is that ... That is why they are called strategical after all.
… That, in my mind, is a cornerstone of strategy games appeal.
Excellent wording!
Now the best flat field defense bonus is 1.5 * 1.25 = 1.875 (bunker + sensor)... The base with perimeter is a little better: 2 * 1.25 = 2.5.
A little clarification that furthers your point even more: I believe those boni are additive, not multiplicative.
So overall sea bases are helpless against even contemporary weapon. The only way to effectively defend it is with own ships and aircrafts.
Another little clarification: Naval Yard provides +100% defense against ships.

As I understand it, SMAC is all about active defense, i.e. counterattack with mobile forces: rovers on roads, ships, aircrafts, probes. Only groups of combined arms defenders in prepared locations stand a chance against attack in force, and even that only to buy time to bring reinforcements. And in my humble opinion this more dynamic warfare is good. Less turtling makes the game better, just not to the point of simple exchange of devastating blows - leave that to Blanet Buster apocalypse. After all it's not ancient times with years-long sieges. Except maybe air power should be nerfed somewhat. If only AI could execute active defense better!
However, another defense buffing mod is always welcomed.

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2018, 02:26:57 PM »
Hi again, bvanevery.
Thank you for actively responding to my posts. I appreciate that. Now to the specific points you highlighted.

# Slow down weapon progression to bring it to about 3:2 best attack to best defense ratio at any given point in time instead of 2:1 as it is now.

In my mod the ratio of weapon to armor power in the tech tree is 1:1.  There are more weapons than armors in the tree so parity is reached, then weapons creep forward, then parity is reached again.  I had heard too many complaints over the years about armor being pointless because the weapons are so powerful.  I tried to adjust that.
Yep. That should work too. Besides, it is all approximate. One can develop stronger weapon earlier on purpose and other can opt for better armor. So it varies. I just wanted to avoid situation of 8 weapon fighting 3 armor or something. Anyway, with other defensive bonuses this going to bring defense on par of somewhat better. I think your ratio works great for naval combat, though. The Civ I and Civ II were using equal attack/defense for majority of ships. I guess mostly because of fast movement, lack of ZOC, and lack of terrain bonuses. So it makes perfect sense for me. I should try your ratio now.

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# Remove small attack and defense bonuses those make no sense. Like infantry +25% against base. Why on earth attacking unit in base would be more effective that in plain? I never understood a strategical need for this. Same goes for 25% intrinsic base defense. It is too small to make a big difference. If one wants to protect a base they need to build a Perimeter - that's it.

The idea is that infantry do a better job in crowded streetfighting conditions.  This is historically accurate.  Tanks, especially Cold War tanks that were designed for the plains of Europe, aren't so good in the 3D combat of a modern urban environment.  It is possible to make "street fighting" tanks and vehicles that do better in cramped quarters, but it's a specific kind of design, and infantry do generally have real world advantages in such environments.  Whereas out on the plains, infantry get killed.

You might be getting hung up on the idea of the infantry "attacking".  Instead consider how they are "performing".  Of course they should be getting +25% attack and defense in a base, meaning you want your city to defend with infantry.  Or else infantry is +0% and various vehicles get penalties. 

For a sci-fi game, it is significant that they didn't bother with powered armor.  It would have obvious advantages in urban combat.
OMG, man. "historically accurate"? I've heard this stupid argument a lot of time before but didn't expect it from you taking that you are seriously focused on balance. Pardon my language. Didn't mean any offence but, seriously, let's not appeal to real life while creating a game!
The idea of giving different bonuses to different unit types is to support variability. Make some units better at something and others at something else. So player would mix and match and make choices. Mobile units already have great advantages. They are faster to the front line wasting less mineral support and building faster army concentration. They can first strike not adjacent infantry. With +25% in the open they can clean slow advancing army in the field. Obviously, infantry need to have some bonuses too to be viable. I agree with you that giving infantry +25% on both attack and defense in a base would be a good choice. This would essentially impact tank performance against base. Unfortunately, this cannot be done through alphax.txt. So maybe we should keep both base bonus and infantry vs. base as the closest thing to it. I'll think about it.


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# Make all psi attack base odds 1:1 everywhere. Currently the 3:2 ground psi attack odds encourages unlimited planet pearl harvesting and worms harvesting.

You mean you personally have the patience to bother with all of that?  If you're really willing to grind your way to victory through excessive mouseclicking, should the game stop you?  It's a lot of work.
It doesn't matter who bother to do what. What matters is the exploit is there and don't want it to be there. Besides, this is not the most important aspect of psi ground combat. The more important one is base defense against random worms and psi warfare. Existing ratio is too high it is a guaranteed kill of unit in a base without additional psi ability. I don't want the attacker to have free advantage.

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With 1:1 player will be cautious about natives as it should be.
One thing I did do in my mod, is take away free Trance and ECM abilities.  You have to pay for those.  This in essence makes mindworms tougher on offense, because they face fewer units specifically designed to defend against them.
Oh, that's a good suggestion! I generally agree nothing should be free. When it is free you got not option - you just got to have it! With price you are always thinking whether to opt for it or not.

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Strategically placed fortified units in a bunker should be able to at least deflect first attack against contemporary weapon even if weakened in half by bombardment.

I took bunkers out of my mod entirely.  The AI builds them obsessively when it should be developing other terrain improvements.  Then it never populates those bunkers, instead just creating liabilities when a human player invades their home territory.  Human gets all this great free defense that the AI built for it.  Forget it! 
Hmm. I noticed this too. I agree bunker doesn't help AI. How did you get rid of it without exe patching?
But then without bunker how do you bump up defense in a field? Probably stronger sensors which automatically affect friendly units and AI uses them. Also going down to 1:1 weapon/armor ratio should do the trick too.

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Comm jammer is not applicable against ships.

It isn't?  I thought ships are "fast units".
Nope. Read docs. It says it there explicitly. I would love it to extend to naval.

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Without ZOC at sea enemy ships can surprise attack any of your bases.

So strategy might say not to invest in the sea then.  You were interested in strategy.  Are you sure you aren't just making synonyms for "turtling up" rather than strategy?

I did make Sensor Arrays buildable on water, i.e. sonar buoys ala Call To Power.  I'm told that they won't give any defense bonus on the water though.  Still, being able to see what's approaching is valuable.
Let me reiterate it once more. It's not about strategy. It's about making game strategical. Which means: every choice should be viable in some way or another. If they have an ability to build sea bases then they should be defendable at least with some effort. No level of efforts help protecting them in vanilla game. Whoever has bigger armada eventually knocks out all enemy ships and takes all sea bases with zero loss. That is not a strategical game.

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So you need sea or air defenders in all of them and not only one. This is insanely expensive.

I cut chassis costs in half for foils and cruisers.  They are equivalent in cost to speeders and hovertanks.  Expense problem solved.  I've had naval wars against the Hive where I took a whole lot of his sea bases.  Then he counterattacked with his own ship spam and foil probe teams, taking back most of what I'd gained.  The naval wars are more fluid now.  Easy come, easy go.  Like water itself!
Aha. That's a good solution. I should try it. Is it all in your AI growth mod now?
Tim

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2018, 03:13:17 PM »
Now the best flat field defense bonus is 1.5 * 1.25 = 1.875 (bunker + sensor)... The base with perimeter is a little better: 2 * 1.25 = 2.5.
A little clarification that furthers your point even more: I believe those boni are additive, not multiplicative.
You sure??? I always thought they are multiplicative. Would like to check it out. I'm sure there a thread on this somewhere. Did you happen to stumble across one?

So overall sea bases are helpless against even contemporary weapon. The only way to effectively defend it is with own ships and aircrafts.
Another little clarification: Naval Yard provides +100% defense against ships.
Yep. I know that. In vanilla game it is the only defensive sea bonus and even with it it just brings defense on par with attack. Besides, AI rarely build them.

As I understand it, SMAC is all about active defense, i.e. counterattack with mobile forces: rovers on roads, ships, aircrafts, probes. Only groups of combined arms defenders in prepared locations stand a chance against attack in force, and even that only to buy time to bring reinforcements. And in my humble opinion this more dynamic warfare is good. Less turtling makes the game better, just not to the point of simple exchange of devastating blows - leave that to Blanet Buster apocalypse. After all it's not ancient times with years-long sieges. Except maybe air power should be nerfed somewhat. If only AI could execute active defense better!
However, another defense buffing mod is always welcomed.
You are right. I figured it out too in the beginning and hoped for interesting games. Unfortunately, this idea didn't fly mostly because of two things.
First, AI sucks at war. It doesn't do any sophisticated tactics, forget the active defense. It doesn't populate own bunkers. It doesn't kill severely damaged attackers next to the base even with exceptionally favorable odds. In other words: bad AI.
Second is that you need quite a lot of different unit types to prepare active defense (infantry, tanks, artillery, diplomats, interceptors, bunkers, sensors, perimeters, maybe worms too, etc.). If you are lacking few - your defense is flawed. If you are lacking many - your defense is non-existent. So you need to be already pretty strong economically and have enough time preparing for defense. Which is in vanilla game just plain ineffective comparing to building assault army with the same resources and wiping out your enemy instead.
The thing is that active defense is nice idea but it ain't cheap. That is what I am working on: to make equivalent defense much cheaper. So, even in case of surprise invasion when you scramble for one defender here and one there, you'll be able to slow down the invasion so you can prepare even stronger defense behind the line and eventually stop it completely.
Tim

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2018, 03:16:47 PM »
By the way, bvanevery.
I want to apply your mod to Yutzi's patch and Binary Dawn. I guess since it is all alphax.txt I should be able just cut and paste it and get best of both worlds. Any special things I should keep in mind besides that?
Tim

Offline bvanevery

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2018, 03:50:11 PM »
One can develop stronger weapon earlier on purpose and other can opt for better armor.

Um, actually, you can't.  Not unless you're an Alien, or playing with directed research turned on, which I consider to be cheating.  Ordinary blind research is you can choose Explore, Discover, Build, or Conquer, that's it.  And in my mod, both weapons and armor are strictly Conquer techs, they have no overlap with any other category.  So in my mod you can choose to research weapons and armor or not research them, that's all the choice you have about it.  There are more Conquer techs than anything else in the tree, so whether you get stronger weapons or armor first is pretty much random.  The only way you're going to get a lot better of one or the other is if your research rate is very fast.

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So it varies. I just wanted to avoid situation of 8 weapon fighting 3 armor or something.

It happens all the time.  So does fighting with Fusion Power units against fission units.  In Civ terms I think of it as a Colonial slaughter.  I considered taking Fusion, Quantum, and Singularity reactors out of the game but I didn't do it.  I tried to shove them all the way to the end of the tech tree for awhile, but that didn't work as it was very annoying to suddenly go through 3 tiers at the end.  Also the Unit Design Workshop got very cluttered because there was no point at which units would become obviously obsolete.  I eventually went back to the way the unmodded game mostly does it, although I think due to the breadth of Conquer techs available, Fusion Power actually comes a bit later.  Maybe late midgame.

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Anyway, with other defensive bonuses this going to bring defense on par of somewhat better.

That's been fine by me.  I find that in a base, defenders often barely survive with severe wounds.

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OMG, man. "historically accurate"? I've heard this stupid argument a lot of time before but didn't expect it from you taking that you are seriously focused on balance. Pardon my language. Didn't mean any offence but, seriously, let's not appeal to real life while creating a game!

There is nothing inherently invalid about taking a Simulationist approach to game design.  GNS Theory is the usual way in which I personally consider the concerns. 

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The idea of giving different bonuses to different unit types is to support variability.

This approach is inherently Gamist.  A Simulationist says if tanks are supposed to die in the streets because they can't move around, then they must die.  Regardless of whether that creates interesting choices for a player or not.  I say it does create a choice: the choice not to be stupid with urban combat.

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You mean you personally have the patience to bother with all of that?  If you're really willing to grind your way to victory through excessive mouseclicking, should the game stop you?  It's a lot of work.
It doesn't matter who bother to do what. What matters is the exploit is there and don't want it to be there.

Ah, but that's what you want.  I don't feel like dictating how to play the game, when the payoff comes from doing a pile of real world work.  Let's put it this way: if we had a competition where the goal was to win the game fastest in real time, not turn time, I think the mindworm farmers would lose.  Some people want to build and sandbox when they're playing the game.  I don't see a reason to stop them when their excessive micromanagement isn't terribly consequential to the ordinary flow of the game.

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Besides, this is not the most important aspect of psi ground combat. The more important one is base defense against random worms and psi warfare. Existing ratio is too high it is a guaranteed kill of unit in a base without additional psi ability. I don't want the attacker to have free advantage.

Putting my Simulationist hat on again, I don't have a basic problem with offense working.  In real life, it works.  I don't think anyone is entitled to have an armored forward point just anywhere they want.  If you are too close to an enemy who can logistically sneak up a lot of troops on you, you get to die.

If you don't want to spend on Trance (where in my mod you must in fact spend for it), you can have your units have higher morale.  Either pick MORALE increasing SE choices, or make units in Command Centers, or give them High Morale ability (but you might as well have chosen Trance since they cost the same), or level up your units manually and send them back for garrison duty when strong enough.  You've got plenty of choices here about how to beef up defenses against mindworms, so I'm not really seeing the problem here.

Increasing your PLANET rating also helps in Psi combat.

Oh, and if you really don't want to face a lot of mindworms, don't flood the planet.

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Hmm. I noticed this too. I agree bunker doesn't help AI. How did you get rid of it without exe patching?
Easy, in alphax.txt:
Code: [Select]
Bunker,           Disable,  Bunker,           Disable,  5,  Construct $STR0, K, K
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But then without bunker how do you bump up defense in a field?
In an open field, you don't.  Stay off of them unless you're a Speeder.  Stick to Rocky terrain and use armored infantry if you want to advance towards an objective more safely.

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Nope. Read docs. It says it there explicitly. I would love it to extend to naval.
It says, "50% defense bonus against ground units with more than 1 move (Speeders and Hovertanks)."  It doesn't talk about ships.  I think the bonus might still be applied to ships attacking a unit in a sea base, regardless of whether or not it's documented.  I'm certain it doesn't apply to air attacks.  In my mod, ships are not allowed to have comm jammers, as I believe them to be "fast units".

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Let me reiterate it once more. It's not about strategy. It's about making game strategical. Which means: every choice should be viable in some way or another. If they have an ability to build sea bases then they should be defendable at least with some effort. No level of efforts help protecting them in vanilla game. Whoever has bigger armada eventually knocks out all enemy ships and takes all sea bases with zero loss. That is not a strategical game.

Your claim here doesn't make sense to me.  It's been awhile since I've played the unmodded game, but I don't remember naval assaults on sea bases being some kind of "gimme" where I take no wounds.  Yes someone can use naval artillery to wear down a base, but someone can put artillery in the base to stop that.  Also, artillery takes multiple turns to wear a base down, unless one's guns are rather powerful compared to the defender's armor.  It a capture takes time, then that's time for someone to bring in units to defend it.

Another thing to consider is unless you're the Pirates, you don't want someone else's sea bases.  Generally they're worthless.  Poor production, too far away, they just create Bureaucracy drones.   If I'm not committing atrocities, they're the last thing I conquer.

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Aha. That's a good solution. I should try it. Is it all in your AI growth mod now?

Of course, and much tested.  Generally speaking, I'd be interested in whether you have nearly so many objections to combat balance, after playing my mod.  I made a lot of non-trivial changes to this stuff.  I didn't use any particularly sophisticated method to arrive at results.  I just said, "this is too weak" and made a minor change in a setting.  "This is too strong" and another minor change.  A lot of iteration on that.  Over time, a lot of variables affected.  I doubt there's any way to just cakewalk anything, aside from the usual Fusion reactor problem.  But at least that comes later in the game now.



« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 04:11:35 PM by bvanevery »

Offline bvanevery

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2018, 03:54:34 PM »
By the way, bvanevery.
I want to apply your mod to Yutzi's patch and Binary Dawn. I guess since it is all alphax.txt I should be able just cut and paste it and get best of both worlds. Any special things I should keep in mind besides that?

For Yitzi, try to see if you can get Vidsek to make a public release of his own incorporation.  There are no special difficulties as Yitzi has very few conflicts with mods.  He did something tweaky about Conventional Missile attack strengths, changing the encoding somehow.  That's about it. 

I'm not familiar with Binary Dawn so I can't comment.  You can run its alphax.txt and faction.txt through a diff tool such as WinMerge to see what's changed, comparing it to the original unmodded game.

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2018, 04:10:18 PM »
One can develop stronger weapon earlier on purpose and other can opt for better armor.

Um, actually, you can't.  Not unless you're an Alien, or playing with directed research turned on, which I consider to be cheating.  Ordinary blind research is you can choose Explore, Discover, Build, or Conquer, that's it.  And in my mod, both weapons and armor are strictly Conquer techs, they have no overlap with any other category.  So in my mod you can choose to research weapons and armor or not research them, that's all the choice you have about it.  There are more Conquer techs than anything else in the tree, so whether you get stronger weapons or armor first is pretty much random.  The only way you're going to get a lot better of one or the other is if your research rate is very fast.
I didn't mean on purpose. I meant occasionally it happens.

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So it varies. I just wanted to avoid situation of 8 weapon fighting 3 armor or something.

It happens all the time.  So does fighting with Fusion Power units against fission units.  In Civ terms I think of it as a Colonial slaughter.  I considered taking Fusion, Quantum, and Singularity reactors out of the game but I didn't do it.  I tried to shove them all the way to the end of the tech tree for awhile, but that didn't work as it was very annoying to suddenly go through 3 tiers at the end.  Also the Unit Design Workshop got very cluttered because there was no point at which units would become obviously obsolete.  I eventually went back to the way the unmodded game mostly does it, although I think due to the breadth of Conquer techs available, Fusion Power actually comes a bit later.  Maybe late midgame.
It does indeed. Don't know what to do with reactors either. Maybe make them do units more expensive? That would be fair. Otherwise, they are more powerful and less expensive. That is leaping too far.

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OMG, man. "historically accurate"? I've heard this stupid argument a lot of time before but didn't expect it from you taking that you are seriously focused on balance. Pardon my language. Didn't mean any offence but, seriously, let's not appeal to real life while creating a game!

There is nothing inherently invalid about taking a Simulationist approach to game design.  GNS Theory is the usual way in which I personally consider the concerns. 
That is my point. There are simulation games. Even then they are tuned to be addictive. I never ever saw a pure pure 100% simulation to be a game. They train pilots in aircraft simulation station but it is not a game. From the other hand, SimCity is a game and not a real city planning simulation. It borrows concepts from a real life but all game rules are completely custom and have nothing to do with real life.
Whatever is it I don't want to play pure simulation it's boring. I prefer strategical games instead.

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The idea of giving different bonuses to different unit types is to support variability.

This approach is inherently Gamist.  A Simulationist says if tanks are supposed to die in the streets because they can't move around, then they must die.  Regardless of whether that creates interesting choices for a player or not.  I say it does create a choice: the choice not to be stupid with urban combat.
Precisely! Now I know who I am.
:)

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You mean you personally have the patience to bother with all of that?  If you're really willing to grind your way to victory through excessive mouseclicking, should the game stop you?  It's a lot of work.
It doesn't matter who bother to do what. What matters is the exploit is there and don't want it to be there.

Ah, but that's what you want.  I don't feel like dictating how to play the game, when the payoff comes from doing a pile of real world work.  Let's put it this way: if we had a competition where the goal was to win the game fastest in real time, not turn time, I think the mindworm farmers would lose.  Some people want to build and sandbox when they're playing the game.  I don't see a reason to stop them when their excessive micromanagement isn't terribly consequential to the ordinary flow of the game.
Well sure. I am building game for myself. As you mentioned in my other thread about Social Effect comparison: "change whatever you don't like about the game and try it out".

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Nope. Read docs. It says it there explicitly. I would love it to extend to naval.
It says, "50% defense bonus against ground units with more than 1 move (Speeders and Hovertanks)."  It doesn't talk about ships.  I think the bonus might still be applied to ships attacking a unit in a sea base, regardless of whether or not it's documented.  I'm certain it doesn't apply to air attacks.  In my mod, ships are not allowed to have comm jammers, as I believe them to be "fast units".
explicitly: Speeders and Hovertanks. Well, it doesn't say "only" but this is how this documentation is written. Ugh.

Tim

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2018, 04:12:50 PM »
For Yitzi, try to see if you can get Vidsek to make a public release of his own incorporation.
Not familiar with Vidsek. Why do I need a special release?
Tim

Offline bvanevery

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2018, 04:27:49 PM »
3, 4, 5, 6 yields 100%

Just realized those would be the Planet Buster blast radii too.  Bit of a dealbreaker!
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 07:22:01 PM by bvanevery »

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2018, 04:43:31 PM »
Not familiar with Vidsek. Why do I need a special release?

Come to think of it, you probably don't.  I just thought it would be less tedious.  Yitzi altered a few things in alphax.txt.  Run it with a diff tool against the unmodded game to see what he changed.  Start with my mod, then add whatever Yitzi added to alphax.txt.

Just did the diffing exercise myself.  He made a lot of changes to the "Fundamental Rules" section, mostly adding new lines for his features I think.  He changed Conventional Missiles and Stockpile Energy.  He corrected a spelling error.  He changed the description of The Bulk Matter Transmitter.  He changed the prereq for The Ascent to Transcendence from "Thresh" to "None", which I guess is an interpretation of "anyone can build it" once Voice of Planet is complete.  Cosmetic leading space removed in SE choice tables.  Longer comments about faction mod options.  Reshuffled Bonus Names, not sure if he added any.  Added a "1" after natural landmark entries.  That's it.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2018, 05:01:57 PM by bvanevery »

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2018, 07:21:09 PM »
I slap together a program that calculates how soon each technology is about to be discovered statistically. Of course, this is not an indication of a particular game but some expected progression.
Anyone can have a look at my worksheet attached. Tab: "Binary Dawn 3.2 techs" with technologies and columns showing their research sequence index (min, max, average). Tab: "Binary Dawn 3.2 weapon armor" shows corresponding technologies for weapon and armor and their average research sequence index. The only sequential problem with weapons is that Chaos Gun gets researched sooner than Bio Shard on average. So I put Chaos Gun in front of Bio Shard in term of attack rating. I also made weapon attack rating progression more dense by adding rating 3 for conventional weapon (ignoring all special types). The progression now looks rather smooth and proportional. No more 12-13-16 as in vanilla. I've change a progression of armor to match the one of the weapon exactly. After all changes in less than 20% increment will be difficult to notice for both weapon and armor.
This is for Binary Dawn mod. I'll do the same for AI Growth. I'm sure the balance there is much better. I'll just check the research sequence index for corresponding technologies making sure they are coming in order.

Actually, it would be much much easier and natural to chain military technologies together to assure higher weapon and armor ratings come in succession. Otherwise, researching weaker weapon or armor is a waste. However, it may require intense weapon/armor to technology reassignment.
Tim

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Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2018, 07:32:59 PM »
Actually, it would be much much easier and natural to chain military technologies together to assure higher weapon and armor ratings come in succession.

I did that.  The Conquer sequence is pretty much the backbone of the tech tree.

I'm not sure why it ended up 2 posts ago, but a note on reactor sequences.  3, 4, 5, 6 would unfortunately be the size of Planet Buster blast radii as well.  Bit of a dealbreaker!  Only thing that remains is to test whether they take a decimal number rather than an integer.  I bet they don't.

Offline tnevolin

Re: Turning SMAX back into strategy game
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2018, 07:34:41 PM »
Actually, it would be much much easier and natural to chain military technologies together to assure higher weapon and armor ratings come in succession.

I did that.  The Conquer sequence is pretty much the backbone of the tech tree.
Awesome!!!
 :D
Tim

 

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