tech trading / stealing / etc.

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Geoff the Medio
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tech trading / stealing / etc.

#1 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun May 29, 2005 12:07 am

In many games with researchable technology, it's often possible to exchange technologies between empires / civs / players for other techs, money, or other stuff. It's also often possible to use espionage to steal techs from other empires. This is fine and good, but it's often problematic for gameplay in that an empire can go from not knowing anything about to fully understanding a tech instantly, or worse, going from not knowing a tech to knowing the tech as well as several more techs that have the first tech as a prerequisite.

So... my suggestion is that rather than instantly stealing or trading techs, perhaps it could take several turns for the transfer to occur. Whether stolen or traded, the result would be that the recipient empire would get free turns' progress on a particular tech while the transfer is in progress. Thus, a tech that normally takes 10 turns to research would still take 10 turns to transfer (or teach) to another empire, and would take 10 turns to steal form another empire.

The difference between this and normal research is that there would be no cost in RP to do the research, and that we could potentially alter the prerequisite rules for techs, such that you can steal or be taught a tech for which you don't have the prerequisite. You'd also have to maintain the espionage activity, however that's done, or maintain whatever agreement you made in order to get the tech transferred to you, in order to get the whole thing.

As well, one might have new scenarios arise from this, like trading for 50% of the knowledge of a tech, after which you'd have to finish the research yourself, or having your espionage discovered after 60% is learned, with similar results.

I suspect whether to make it possible to trade or steal techs faster than they can be normally researched is an obvious issue here... I'm not sure whether this would be desirable or not, but presumably would be dependent on balance issues. For stealing in particular, the speed with which it occurs could be a function of your espionage ability or research or other factors, of both the stealer and the empire (or particular planet / system) from which the stealing occurs.

Another possible tweak related to this is the issue of advantages to learning techs when many other empires already know the tech. In some games, the cost to research a tech is reduced if one or more other empires knows it. Since we have fairly fixed costs and research times, adjusting them could be problematic, so perhaps we could instead have +1 RP / turn towards the total cost of a tech for each other empire that knows the tech... Or perhaps that should be

(free RP per turn) = (empires who know tech ) * (cost per turn to research tech) / (total number of empries)

which would be added whether or not you were researching the tech yourself. And again, the above could be tweaked by various other factors, like your social or political standing with the other empires, and your and their socieities' openness levels, and how much trade there is between you, etc.

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#2 Post by Ran Taro » Sun May 29, 2005 9:42 pm

I like this idea.

There are a few small things I'd like to add to it.

1. If stealing tech works this way, maybe you should also be able to steal physical items which employ the tech more quickly (instead of stealing the blue prints for the death ray, you steal a ship with the death ray installed). This gives you the use of the single item you stole instantly, plus the normal benefits of stealing the tech itself over time (the time it takes to reverse engineer the technology - and probably the same amount of time it would take to trade/steal it normally).

2. If trading/ stealing tech works this way both of these gameplay mechanics should be less dependant on tech themselves. This mechanic is essentially giving 'bad research/good trade or espionage' type races a disadvantage. While this is essentially just a balance issue, I think its important to keep in mind. In previous games it can be a frustrating vicious circle that (for example) espionage driven races can't keep up in tech because high tech is essential to be able to perform espionage. So while tech should be able to enhance tech trading and espionage, these areas should be mainly dependant on other prerequisites (eg racial / cultural development). A real life example of this dynamic might be the soviet union being very sucessful at espionage in the cold war, despite being hopelessly behind in tech.

3. While I think the general principles of this idea are good, I still think you should get a traded/stolen tech 'somewhat' quicker than a self researched one, and still have to spend 'some' research on it. A quick and dirty rule might be to halve each. After all, it's hard to imagine that an empire wouldn't get some speed of implementation benefit out of stealing/trading a tech, and equally hard to imagine that there wouldn't realistically be significant adaption/implementation costs.

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#3 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun May 29, 2005 10:38 pm

Ran Taro wrote:1. If stealing tech works this way, maybe you should also be able to steal physical items which employ the tech more quickly (instead of stealing the blue prints for the death ray, you steal a ship with the death ray installed). This gives you the use of the single item you stole instantly, plus the normal benefits of stealing the tech itself over time (the time it takes to reverse engineer the technology - and probably the same amount of time it would take to trade/steal it normally).
Just to clarify, you want to get free research on a tech if you steal a ship that requires the tech to build it? So you'd still a ship with Lasers Mk. IV and you'd get free research towards that tech, equivalent to maintaining espionage to steal the tech (but without having to actually do so)? Sounds reasonable...
...espionage driven races can't keep up in tech because high tech is essential to be able to perform espionage. So while tech should be able to enhance tech trading and espionage, these areas should be mainly dependant on other prerequisites (eg racial / cultural development). A real life example of this dynamic might be the soviet union being very sucessful at espionage in the cold war, despite being hopelessly behind in tech.
I was thinking about this issue, and figured a good way to resolve it would be to:
-make espionage techs relatively easy to learn in terms of RP costs so that they're easy to research, even if you're not a research-heavy race
-make them take a relatively long time to research, so that science races don't just get all of the espionage techs quickly
-make various non-tech and non-RP prerequisites be required in order to get espionage techs, and/or build espionage buildings or USE espionage techs, so that you have to strategize and plan to do espionage, and can't just start doing it whenever you feel like it suddenly
-and most importantly, make the big important research bonus techs and buildings have rather significant negative penalties against espionage, so that races that do lots of research and build lots of research buildings are incapable of doing much espionage, and are significantly penalized in defence against espionage
3. While I think the general principles of this idea are good, I still think you should get a traded/stolen tech 'somewhat' quicker than a self researched one, and still have to spend 'some' research on it.
As with the free tech from the community even without espionage, you could presumably do research on a tech in addition to getting it through espionage... so you could effectively double the research speed by using espionage. That might be enough bonus in of itself. As for requiring some research as well, this might be problematic if the techs being researched are very expensive, such that the espionage race can't actually get a significant part of their cost each turn, rendering espionage mostly useless at later stages... Or maybe not... hard to say at this point.
After all, it's hard to imagine that an empire wouldn't get some speed of implementation benefit out of stealing/trading a tech, and equally hard to imagine that there wouldn't realistically be significant adaption/implementation costs.
We could make a distinction between theoretical techs, applications, and refinements... Theories would be easy to steal at any time, and require no additional manual research. Applications would be difficult to steal, and would require that you know their prerequisite theories to be able to steal. Refinements would be easy to steal, but require the application they refine to be already known.

Ease of stealing would be in cost to do so, perhaps, or limits to how much you can steal. We could just make stealing some techs require some RP input as well, representing the research you have to do to figure out how to use what you've stolen. Also, the costs of stealing a tech could be independent of the cost of that tech per turn... (but dependent on lots of other factors).

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#4 Post by Ran Taro » Sun May 29, 2005 11:38 pm

Yep, that all sounds pretty good to me.

Particularly like the thing about being able to steal a tech and research it at the same time if you choose to, potentially decreasing the total research time. Seems an elegant solution, and one that gives the user good tactical options.

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#5 Post by Geoff the Medio » Mon May 30, 2005 2:31 pm

Another thing: If you're a science / research empire, and thus have lots of buildings and techs that improve your research but worsen your espionage defence (and offense presumably), then you'd probably want to not research any espionage techs, because if you did, another race without any espionage penalties could steal your more advanced espionage techs from you, which would benefit them much more than it would you.

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Something on Star Trek

#6 Post by guiguibaah » Mon May 30, 2005 3:03 pm

A long time ago I watched an episode of Star Trek, The next generation, where the premise of the episode was a time traveller from the 22nd century steals a 26th century time machine and takes it to the 24th century. He begins to steal various items, like scanners, phasors, medikits, etc... so that when he returns to the 22nd century, he can patent them as inventions and make millions making futuristic devices. As predicted, he is foiled and the moral was don't fool around with the crew etc.. etc.. etc... meh..


Then I thought, wait a second... Suppose I come from the year 1802, travel to the year 2002 and steal a laptop. I could then return to the year 1802 and show to the world this incredible device that produces sound, video, can record text, file, assist calculations, compute, etc.... It would completely revolutionize their world! But I only have one problem...

No matter how hard I try, I cannot reverse-engineer the item. Why? Because I have no knowledge of integrated chip manufacturing / polymer building / plasticizing / programing theory / etc. All I have is some unique artifact I cannot reproduce.

It was like in CIV1, where a pre-horseback riding spy infiltrated your cities, and stole the automobile. The next turn the computer would be manufacturing tanks.
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#7 Post by Sandlapper » Mon May 30, 2005 5:59 pm

As for the tech trading aspect, I wonder if two, or more, empires could become allies and combine their tech research? Each pre-selects specific items to research independently, then exchanges with each other as they are finished. Two or three smaller empires pooling their research could overcome a much larger empire.

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#8 Post by skdiw » Mon May 30, 2005 7:06 pm

I think transfer should be quick or instant, otherwise there is little difference between researching a tech or paying to maintain spying activity. At least when you are researching, you are always at the forefront of science compare to those who are just imitating.

It's not like once you start spying, you'll automatically get a tech. Rather, your spies builds up their information database. For example, first 1000 credits of spying efforts gives your knowlege of their government types, trade routes. Next 3000 credits gives you additional knowlege of how their funds are alloted, morale of each star system... then finally, the last 10k credits gives you their fog of war vision and access to precious tech database, which you get a small chance to steal every turn. You can think of all the efforts up to last stage as "transfering" so stealing tech is not in anyway weird or imba or just getting lucky on first gamble, which is nothing wrong.

Moo1 got research treaty. I think its good idea. The ones proposed in this thread are too involved.
:mrgreen:

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#9 Post by Geoff the Medio » Mon May 30, 2005 8:37 pm

skdiw wrote:I think transfer should be quick or instant, otherwise there is little difference between researching a tech or paying to maintain spying activity. At least when you are researching, you are always at the forefront of science compare to those who are just imitating.
Once difference is what you pay... espionage presumably would require trade primarily. There's also the necessity of being discrete and undetected while doing it, and thus the chance of being caught and resulting diplomatic consequences. And even if tech espionage cost RPs like research does, it wouldn't have to cost the same amounts, or have costs vary in the same way. For instance, physical location and political and cultural and social issues of both the spying and spied on empires and planets are much more relevant to espionage than research, which is probably only dependent on cultural or biological issues.
...which you get a small chance to steal every turn.
Having espionage be overly random and just cost money to do is what I'd like to avoid...
Moo1 got research treaty. I think its good idea. The ones proposed in this thread are too involved.
Huh? Other than Sandlapper's post just suggesting the concept, where are specific ideas for research treaties proposed in this thread...?

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#10 Post by Ran Taro » Mon May 30, 2005 9:31 pm

skdiw wrote: I think transfer should be quick or instant, otherwise there is little difference between researching a tech or paying to maintain spying activity. At least when you are researching, you are always at the forefront of science compare to those who are just imitating.
Yes but if you're good at espionage, you can pick and choose between stealing from the empires that have the best techs. If tech-y empire A has great guns, and tech-y empire B has great shields, espionage-y empire C can have both - just slightly later. For this to be a powerful advantage, teching empires need to have significant variation, obviously.
skdiw wrote:It's not like once you start spying, you'll automatically get a tech. Rather, your spies builds up their information database. For example, first 1000 credits of spying efforts gives your knowlege of their government types, trade routes. Next 3000 credits gives you additional knowlege of how their funds are alloted, morale of each star system... then finally, the last 10k credits gives you their fog of war vision and access to precious tech database, which you get a small chance to steal every turn. You can think of all the efforts up to last stage as "transfering" so stealing tech is not in anyway weird or imba or just getting lucky on first gamble, which is nothing wrong.
IMHO it's just more fun (and strategically interesting) to be able to target the techs you want. Randomness lessens player involvement, and I think, leads to less immersion.
skdiw wrote:Moo1 got research treaty. I think its good idea. The ones proposed in this thread are too involved.
I don't see what's so complex? It's just a new implementation, so less familiar.

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#11 Post by tzlaine » Mon May 30, 2005 9:52 pm

HoI 2 has imo the definitive solution to this problem: when you get (steal or are given) techs from another nation, they are in the form of plans. Plans cut the research time in half, but you still need to research the item (and still need the prerequisite techs to do so, etc.).

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#12 Post by Geoff the Medio » Mon May 30, 2005 10:27 pm

Another quirk: With more advanced espionage techniques, you could gain the ability to start stealing research from other empires even before they've finished researching the tech themselves. You'd presumably only be able to steal up to the amount of progress that the original researcher has made, though...

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#13 Post by Impaler » Mon May 30, 2005 11:57 pm

Their are so many differnent effects that add to research we should have a well defined and generalized formula for doing it so we can easily assign that formula to all kind of game effects, special events, racial bonuses ect ect.

My thoughts are to make it a simple +X research points per turn, the total contribution is still caped as in normal research. All Bonuses are calculated first, if they exceed the cap the extra bonus is wasted. If the cumulative Bonus is less then the Cap AND you choose to research that tec then your normal Reserch Points are used to bring your yearly progress up to the Cap. Bonuses normaly last for the duration of the research in that tec unless some effect comes to an end.

Sucessfull Spying Events can win you a per turn bonus that will last for the remained of your work in that tec. Esentialy it is a perminent per turn bonus to the tecs progress. Think of this a a flexible "PLANS" as tzlaine describes, the effect can be more or less then the adsactly half system of HoO2. So for example you could get 5 points a turn on the remaining 6 years of a 9 point/12 year tec, you stole 30 points total. Both the points per turn and the turn duration are caped by the nature of the Tec and the progress of thouse you stole it from. Per turn progress is caped at the normal per turn rate of the Tec (no suprise their because anything beyond that is wasted). The Total amount of points stolen is capped by taking they victims tec progress minus your progress in the tec, thus you can never steal ahead of what the victim has OR steal when you and the victim have the same amount of progress. Turn duration is automaticaly set at how many unfull horizontal bars are left in the tec and is used to determine how many points you can steal. You CAN steal to catch up though but even then your not speeding up the tecs progress only making it free or at reduced cost. Say your Victim is 50 points into a 10point/10year tec, you have 20 points in that tec. Your spy steals 5 points per turn for 3 turns a total of 15 points. That 15 point bonus will be counted with your real progress (total 35) in any future thefts and will cap the amount of points you steal.

I belive its better to have spy events be rare and large rather then small and continual, its more "flashy" and "wow" hence more fun. It also makes for a simpler interface and messaging system.

Cultural exchange aka getting Tec progress for free would also take the form of +X points per turn, lasting as long as the state of affairs between empires that alows such exchange. Intentionaly Giving tecs away transmites the full per turn alocation of points to the reviving Empire.
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#14 Post by skdiw » Tue May 31, 2005 2:15 am

sounds like the tz's "plans" and impalers' variant will work well.
:mrgreen:

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#15 Post by yaromir » Wed Jun 01, 2005 7:33 pm

I do think that even 'aquired' techs should require some research.

Sounds good, Impaler
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