[Balance] Specials and Guards

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alleryn
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[Balance] Specials and Guards

#1 Post by alleryn » Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:57 pm

I plan to do a pass on planetary specials after the next release (0.4.9) for balance. The main focus of this pass will be on guards for specials, in an attempt to (a) standardize the guards, (b) reduce the degree of impact unguarded specials, on the one hand, and special guards, on the other, have on the early game, (c) reduce somewhat the amount of randomness in the guards, and (d) weaken/strengthen the guards in relation to power of the special [(d) somewhat overlaps with (b)]. There may be a few tweaks to specials themselves as well, but that is not the main focus here.

As always, these are my opinions.

Outline:
I. Scope of changes
II. Current state
III. Perceived problems currently
IV. Suggested solutions

I. As previously mentioned, the changes will be focused on guards for specials. In addition, i do not intend to address monster nests at this time (i don't feel like i've seen enough of these in my games to competently address balance at this time). It also does not apply to system specials, or to specials which are not generated at game start (Head on a Spike, the Monster Stealth specials).

II. Currently, the focs for special guards is a bit of a hodgepodge (note that guards are only generated if monsters are not off in game settings and ai aggression is not set to the lowest setting):
  • There is monster_guard.macros, which defines a single macro CHANCE_OF_GUARD_1, which when applied has a 42% chance of creating either a Sentry or Maintenance Ship at the special's planet, or a 28% chance of turning the special's planet's species to Anicent Guardians (if populated and not high tech natives). The remaining 30% chance produces no effect. This applies to the following specials: the 9 Growth Specials, Computronium Moon (+.2 research/pop on all planets in empire with res focus). {I call this Tier 1 guards}.
  • Some monster guards are implemented directly into the focs files:
    • Fortress: Fortress is something of a special case, since the special itself grants a number of inherent defensive bonuses, making the planet difficult to capture. The planet receives Shields +100, Defense +30, Troops +30, Detection +30, increased shield and defense regeneration, as well as 3-damage mines and a 5% chance each turn to create a sentry owned by the planet's owner, if no sentry is in orbit. In addition, on universe generation, the planet is always guarded by one Sentinel.
    • Gaia (automatically terraforms and once Good, gives further bonus max population and happiness) is always guarded by one Sentinel.
    • Ancient Ruins (+1 research/pop on res focus, random bonus on colonisation with xenoarchaeology) has a 90% chance of being guarded by one Sentinel.
    • Panopticon (Planetary Detection Range +75, Empire Detection Strength +10) is always guarded by one Sentinel, with a 50% chance of a second Sentinel. {I call all four of these variations of Sentinel Defense Tier 2 guards}.
    • Honeycomb (+0.5 industry/pop on all supply-connected planets with ind focus) is always guarded by one Warden. {I call this Tier 3 guards}.
  • The remaining specials are unguarded {I call this Tier 0 guards}:
    • Philosopher Planet: Infrastructure is reduced by 20. As long as planet is unowned, gives +5 to (target) research at all other inhabited planets in the system (regardless of focus)
    • Eccentric Orbit: Supply -2, Research +3
    • Abandoned Colony: Infrastructure +10
    • Scrying Sphere: vision of all other planets in the galaxy with Scrying Spheres
    • Kraken in the Ice: with Domesticated Mega Fauna and Xenoarchaeology, can release a White Kraken
    • Tidally Locked Rotation: +0.2 industry per pop if ind focus, max pop decreased by 1 per planet size
    • Temporal Anomaly: +5 research per pop if res focus, max pop decreased by 5 per planet size
    • Resonant Moon: Buildings and orbiting ships have +10 stealth, some interaction with techs (bioterror facility, artificial moon)
    • World Tree: Supply +1, Detection Range +10, Population +1, Happniness +5, all empire planets Happiness +1
III. Perceived problems:
  1. Organizationally, leaves a lot to be desired. Doesn't make sense that some of the guards are defined in a separate macro file and some are put directly into the focs files.
  2. Some of the unguarded specials are very imbalancing early game. Philosopher Planet and Eccentric Orbit can give massive research boosts (as much as doubling an empire's research with one colony). Kraken in the Ice can yield a ship far superior to anything that can otherwise be fielded relatively early.
  3. Special Guards can impede expansion, especially maintenance ships on the quite common growth specials. There are ways to work around this currently, but none that fully alleviates an aggravating obstacle that can impede the flow of the game.
  4. The randomness of the guards feels arbitrary. In the planets that use CHANCE_OF_GUARD_1, there is a chance of no guard, a chance of a sentry, and a chance of a maintenance ship. This is too large a range. For Panopticon, the difference between 1 Sentinel and 2 is too large.
  5. There is not always a correlation between power of special and the guards. In addition to the early game outliers mentioned above, this includes Panopticon (guards are too strong), arguably Fortress (too strong), Computronium Moon (arguably too weak), and arguably others.
IV. Suggested solutions:
  1. Move all the guards into monster_guard.macros, with varying levels of strength of guards. (I.e. add a CHANCE_OF_GUARD_2 with stronger guards than CHANCE_OF_GUARD_1, and so on).
  2. Add guards to the three specials mentioned: Philosopher Planet, Eccentric Orbit, and Kraken in the Ice. The other unguarded specials:
    • Abandoned Colony: Infrastructure currently has very little game impact (i actually don't know if it has any), so this doesn't need a guard.
    • Scrying Sphere: A double edged sword with relatively little impact in the vast majority of cases.
    • Tidally Locked Rotation: A decently nice special, but not gamebreaking. A single additional colony is far better than finding this special, so in terms of balance not a gamebreaker.
    • World Tree: Again, nice to have, but doesn't make-or-break.
    • Resonant Moon: Minor Impact in the scheme of things. 10 stealth is usually not noticable, and it only applies to buildings and planets.
    • Temporal Anomaly: A pretty large bonus but takes some tech just to colonize.
  3. This one is more difficult. Some ideas:
    • Try to avoid producing specials at chokepoints, or find another pathing-related solution. The idea here is to avoid producing guards in a way that would obstruct empire expansion by not allowing specials in places that would get in the way. Seems complicated.
    • Make more specials unguarded. As far as balance goes, this is just trading one problem for another.
    • Reduce the spawn rate of specials. There is already a setting for this, so it's not clear how much tweaking this would help. Reducing the spawn rates of growth specials might help, since they seem, in my experience, to be the most egregious offenders.
    • Weaken the defenders of growth specials. Growth specials are powerful, but just how powerful are they? I think eliminating maintenance ships at growth specials could be a decent compromise. A sentry is an obstacle, but one that can be overcome in a timeframe that can keep the empire competitive and will be somewhat (too little? too much?) offset by the special itself, at least when the special is of use (i.e. not an organic special for an entirely robotic empire, or any growth special for a phototroph or self-sustaining).
  4. Reduce the randomness of guards. Right now the biggest variances (as mentioned above) are [nothing <--> maintenance ship] and [sentinel <--> sentinel + sentinel]. I think a more reasonable range would be [ship <--> ship + lesser ship]. I wouldn't object to complete determinism here, but i can see how variety is also nice. The new tiers would look like (for example):
    • Tier 0. No guards (same as now).
    • Tier 1. Sentry
    • Tier 2. Maintenance Ship + chance of Sentry (current tier 1 would be split into Tier 1 & Tier 2).
    • Tier 3. Sentinel + chance of Maintenance ship (current Tier 2).
    • Tier 4. Warden + chance of Sentinel (current Tier 3).
  5. Adjust the power of some specials and where they fit in the hierarchy of guard strength:
    • Panopticon: Increase Detection Strength bonus from 10 to 20 (a bonus of 10 to stealth rarely changes anything. Most bonuses to stealth/detection are in multiples of 20). Reduce strength of guards from Tier 3 (current tier 2, i.e. Sentinel strength) to Tier 2 (~maintenance ship strength).
    • Growth Specials --> Tier 1. (Instead of Maintenance Ship/Sentry/Nothing, these would all be guarded by a Sentry).
    • Computronium Moon --> Tier 2/3. This is a pretty strong special that can increase the research of your whole empire.
    • Philosopher Planet, Eccentric Orbit --> Tier 1
    • Kraken in the Ice --> Tier 2/3
    • Fortress --> Tier 2
    • It is also worth considering adding additional tiers, or adjusting the stats of the current guard ships. I'd recommend waiting for the next iteration to do this (if needed).
Please share all of your corrections, criticisms, suggestions for improvement and other thoughts. Thank you.
Last edited by alleryn on Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Oberlus
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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#2 Post by Oberlus » Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:14 pm

I like it all.
What about adding the chance of more numerous fleets of monsters?. E.g., instead of <Sentinel + chance of Maintenance Ship>, <Sentinel + [chance of maintenance ship OR 6 sentries]>. I'd like that the there was the need for more than one tactic for high tier monsters, and allowing fleets of many small monsters allows that.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#3 Post by alleryn » Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:49 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:14 pm
What about adding the chance of more numerous fleets of monsters?. E.g., instead of <Sentinel + chance of Maintenance Ship>, <Sentinel + [chance of maintenance ship OR 6 sentries]>. I'd like that the there was the need for more than one tactic for high tier monsters, and allowing fleets of many small monsters allows that.
Yes, excellent.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#4 Post by Oberlus » Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:51 pm

Also, some guards could be krill (that use fighters), to annoy empires focused on shields.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#5 Post by JonCST » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:08 pm

alleryn wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:57 pm
[...]
Outline:
I. Scope of changes
II. Current state
III. Perceived problems currently
IV. Suggested solutions
[details]
I like your proposals quite a bit. The individual details will require some play testing, but i believe the fundamentals are sound.

General comment: I still prefer no specials in multi-player. In single-player, until AIs take better advantage of specials and chokepoints, i haven't found them to be game-changing issues.

One could maybe add more incrementalism to frequency. Maybe make it a settable percentage from 0-100? Or maybe "none, very rare, rare, common, very common, all"?

My one specific comment:
alleryn wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:57 pm

[*]Kraken in the Ice --> Tier 2/3
I've never had an experience where one very powerful ship made all that much difference in the game. It would be different if you could get that Kracken to spawn more Krackens, or if you could add the parts to ships you build. Just one extra big ship for the cost of two items researched (which i don't bother with if i'm not doing organic ships) doesn't seem like that big a deal.

Maybe other people's experience is different.

I'd suggest tier 1/2 for this one.

Jon

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#6 Post by JonCST » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:22 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 7:51 pm
Also, some guards could be krill (that use fighters), to annoy empires focused on shields.
Krill can migrate? I like the idea of fighters, though.

Jon

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#7 Post by The Silent One » Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:19 pm

JonCST wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:08 pm
I've never had an experience where one very powerful ship made all that much difference in the game. It would be different if you could get that Kracken to spawn more Krackens, or if you could add the parts to ships you build. Just one extra big ship for the cost of two items researched (which i don't bother with if i'm not doing organic ships) doesn't seem like that big a deal.

Maybe other people's experience is different.

I'd suggest tier 1/2 for this one.
Second that.
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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#8 Post by Oberlus » Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:22 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:19 pm
JonCST wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:08 pm
I've never had an experience where one very powerful ship made all that much difference in the game. It would be different if you could get that Kracken to spawn more Krackens, or if you could add the parts to ships you build. Just one extra big ship for the cost of two items researched (which i don't bother with if i'm not doing organic ships) doesn't seem like that big a deal.

Maybe other people's experience is different.

I'd suggest tier 1/2 for this one.
Second that.
If early game, when you have around 100 points of damage and structure, you get a white krakken, that's 500 structure points, right? That's enough to overpower any nearby neighbour in packed galaxies.
Nests of krakkens are worse, of course.

I would say then tier 2.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#9 Post by Vezzra » Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:13 pm

I want to mention that some timne ago we introduced a special species ("Ancient Guardians") which are supposed to be some kind of powerful guardian robots as an alternative to the guardian space monsters. The big advantage of them is that while they can protect a (planet-bound) special as well as a space monster, this kind of guardian does not block spaceships from traveling through the system, they really only protect the special.

Some specials were switched to these guardians IIRC, but not all. So, as far as addressing the space monster problem is concerned, an easy fix would be to switch more of the specials to be protected by Ancient Guardians instead of space monsters.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#10 Post by Oberlus » Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:35 pm

alleryn wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 6:57 pm
CHANCE_OF_GUARD_1, which when applied has a 42% chance of creating either a Sentry or Maintenance Ship at the special's planet, or a 28% chance of turning the special's planet's species to Anicent Guardians (if populated and not high tech natives). The remaining 30% chance produces no effect.
[...]
[1] Try to avoid producing specials at chokepoints, or find another pathing-related solution. The idea here is to avoid producing guards in a way that would obstruct empire expansion by not allowing specials in places that would get in the way. Seems complicated.
[2] Make more specials unguarded. As far as balance goes, this is just trading one problem for another.
[3] Reduce the spawn rate of specials. There is already a setting for this, so it's not clear how much tweaking this would help. Reducing the spawn rates of growth specials might help, since they seem, in my experience, to be the most egregious offenders.
[4] Weaken the defenders of growth specials. Growth specials are powerful, but just how powerful are they? I think eliminating maintenance ships at growth specials could be a decent compromise. A sentry is an obstacle, but one that can be overcome in a timeframe that can keep the empire competitive and will be somewhat (too little? too much?) offset by the special itself, at least when the special is of use (i.e. not an organic special for an entirely robotic empire, or any growth special for a phototroph or self-sustaining).
As per Vezzra's comment, I guess the best would be to tweak probabilities in CHANCE_OF_GUARD_1 (whatever its name can be after the grooming, but to be clear: the one for growth specials) as well as the monsters that can spawn (as per [4]). I would say something like the following would be a good start:
20% unguarded
20% Sentry
30% Ancient Guardians
30% Ancient Guardians with moderate tech

The moderate tech is to give some "danger" to the mission. We would be changing a maintenance ship by Ancient guardians with moderate tech.


Regarding the other options:
[1] Too hard. Also, some chances of having chokepoints closed by a monster seems good.
[2] You're right, not a solution.
[3] Maybe current "specials: medium" is too much (and then probably "specials: high" is also too high), so some tweak could be sensible.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#11 Post by alleryn » Fri Nov 22, 2019 4:24 am

Vezzra wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 7:13 pm
I want to mention that some timne ago we introduced a special species ("Ancient Guardians") which are supposed to be some kind of powerful guardian robots as an alternative to the guardian space monsters. The big advantage of them is that while they can protect a (planet-bound) special as well as a space monster, this kind of guardian does not block spaceships from traveling through the system, they really only protect the special.

Some specials were switched to these guardians IIRC, but not all. So, as far as addressing the space monster problem is concerned, an easy fix would be to switch more of the specials to be protected by Ancient Guardians instead of space monsters.
This is a good thought.
Oberlus wrote:
Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:35 pm
Ancient Guardians with moderate tech
Ancient Guardians already start with a 500 point shield, so this seems a little overpowered to me. A 10 defense/510 shield enemy is pretty strong compared to a maintenance ship. Plus you have to get through their massive troop count (close to 100 troops on a medium sized world) to capture it.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#12 Post by alleryn » Sun Nov 24, 2019 4:55 pm

Just a small update to my current thinking. I've tried incorporating most of the ideas from the thread so far. This is still in rough stages. Numbers aren't in place yet.

New Guard Ship: SM_GUARD_CARR
If implemented, this would be the new smallest guard ship. It will have SH_GUARD_0_BODY (same hull as maintenance ship) but without the precursor plate that gives the maintenace ship most (400) of its structure. It will be a carrier ship (fighter type TBD).

Change to Ancient Guardians: Reduce default shield value and troop values (magnitude of changes TBD). This will give room to give weaker Ancient Guardian defenders to some of the weaker specials. For Ancient Guardians on stronger specials, we can implement Ancient Guardians with bonuses to defense/shields/troops (using Native Planet Fortification macros from https://github.com/freeorion/freeorion/pull/2591 or similar).

Tier 0: No Defenders
  • Abandoned Colony
  • Scrying Sphere
  • Tidally Locked Rotation
  • World Tree
  • Resonant Moon
  • Temporal Anomaly
Tier 1:Random chance (distribution and details TBD) of
  1. Sentry
  2. 2(?) x Carrier Guard
  3. Ancient Guardians
Applies to:
  • Growth Specials
  • Eccentric Orbit
  • Philosopher Planet
Tier 2: Random chance of
  1. Maintenance Ship
  2. Sentry + Carrier Guard
  3. Stronger Ancient Guardians
Applies to:
  • Computronium Moon
  • Kraken in the Ice
  • Fortress
  • Panopticon
Tier 3: Random chance of
  1. Sentinel
  2. Multiple smaller ships (TBD)
  3. Highly Advanced Ancient Guardians
Applies:
  • Computronium Moon
  • Gaia
  • Anicent Ruins
Tier 4: Random chance of
  1. Warden
  2. Multiple smaller ships
Applies:
  • Honeycomb Warehouse
Last edited by alleryn on Sun Nov 24, 2019 8:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#13 Post by Oberlus » Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:22 pm

Great work.

If lucky (not much luck needed), Ancient Ruins can give you the edge. I'd put them on tier 4.
Computronium, empire-wide effect, on tier 3.

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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#14 Post by The Silent One » Sun Nov 24, 2019 6:40 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:22 pm
If lucky (not much luck needed), Ancient Ruins can give you the edge. I'd put them on tier 4.
Don't agree here, if you put a warden in front of it you basically take it out of the game until very late, and then it's worthless.
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Re: [Balance] Specials and Guards

#15 Post by Oberlus » Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:07 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 6:40 pm
Oberlus wrote:
Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:22 pm
If lucky (not much luck needed), Ancient Ruins can give you the edge. I'd put them on tier 4.
Don't agree here, if you put a warden in front of it you basically take it out of the game until very late, and then it's worthless.
You're right, a Warden is too much. And I guess Highly Advanced Ancient Guardians will be tough too. So alleryn got it right.

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