Another Economic Thought: matching mass and build times.

Discussion in 'Planetary Annihilation General Discussion' started by BulletMagnet, September 2, 2012.

  1. BulletMagnet

    BulletMagnet Post Master General

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    Lots of people love the rate-based economy. I, myself, am one of them.

    But lots of people also claim that it's difficult to learn. I don't doubt this, and there's many factors that influence its difficulty.

    One thought I have on making the rate-economy easier to learn and manage is to fix the rate at which engineers and factories consume mass/metal/one-of-the-resources.

    Why?

    • Because doing this means that for any unit you build, you know exactly how quickly it consumes resources. And changing units being built doesn't change your metal consumption at all.

    If something more expensive is going to be built; it'll take longer to build. Simple! If it's exactly twice as expensive, it'll take exactly twice as long.

    But how do you make things balanced? Surely there's some units with a high cost that can be built quickly.

    • Well, I think that's where much of the problem lies. In SupCom, people didn't realise how much mass and energy it took to repair an ACU, and how quickly it could be repaired (hence the resource rate was very high), and then accidentally walked their damaged ACUs near engineering towers. This crashed economies and made the new players very upset.

    What about engineers assisting factories?

    • This is both good and bad.

      If engineers spent metal at -1m/s, and factories spent metal at -5m/s, then you know that five engineers will double the output of a factory. That didn't take a college degree, and it didn't require an Excel spreadsheet to calculate. That's the advantage of it.

      Now, the disadvantage. If engineers spent metal at -1m/s, then a factory will take a bloody long time to build. If you don't want factories to take ages to build; make them cheaper. [EDIT: no it doesn't] But that creates the unfortunate situation where surrounding factories with engineers is the most efficient way to build things. There's a big discussion on these forums about that, and it's considered a bad thing for gameplay.

    Doing this is secretly a way of removing mass/metal as an actual resource, and replacing it as a moderator to limit unbridled spam. I'll justify this a bit better in a later post, but right now I'm late for a statistics class!
  2. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

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    Zero-K already implements this very effectively. I would highly recommend PA duplicate that method.

    Everything costs the same amount of metal, energy, and build time to construct. If it costs 100 metal, then it will take 100 energy, and 100 build time.

    Fixing the rate at which factories and constructors build is a further simplification which is also an improvement. That said, Zero-K very much incentivizes assisting factories. However nano towers are even more efficient than mobile constructors, and those are used instead.
  3. qwerty3w

    qwerty3w Active Member

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    Resources in rts games are always something to limit unit production, no matter they are unified with build times or not.

    My sugesstions to the economy system:
    1.If the energy cost isn't unified with metal cost like in Zero-K, please adds more high-E low-M and low-E high-M units.
    2.Unless the repairing speed is much faster than build speed, repairing shouldn't cost any resource at all.
    Last edited: September 2, 2012
  4. BulletMagnet

    BulletMagnet Post Master General

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    I wasn't advocating fixing energy costs, but if ZK does it and it works well then it should be considered too.

    I think energy costs should become the economic differentiator between units.

    I agree with point 2.
  5. qwerty3w

    qwerty3w Active Member

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    Another suggestion:
    Nano towers, if they exist in PA, should have slightly lower build speed per cost than the factories, so they wouldn't discourage the player to build the same type of factories in multiple bases.
    It wouldn't make nano towers useless, they have more uses than assisting factories anyway, they are more flexible than factories, and could be used for constructing buildings and repairing.
    Last edited: September 2, 2012
  6. yogurt312

    yogurt312 New Member

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    I am against such a homogenous approach to resources.

    One of the best things about TA is that planes cost less metal and ships cost more. This gave a great aestheitc sense that ships where big and planes were flimsy as well as allowing you to ecenomicaly balance higher metal projects with lower more energy intensive ones. Further more going into supreme commander some things are better to have naturaly faster or slower build times, an issue that can't be fixed by making the factory build slower because engineers just step in and fix the problem.

    It also creates a very delicate balancing act for... well balance. As a simplification, say we have two tanks that need to be about the same strength but we need to differentiate them while maintaining balance. because these are simple units with singular roles i shall express them as an equation (with a lot of arbitrary values and most of it is actualy meaningless but i'm trying to demostrate a point):

    (DPS)x(Health)+(Manouverability) = Goodness
    (Goodness)/((Metal)+(Energy)+(Buildtime)) = Balance

    The obvious simplification there of reducing those final three to one number means that for any level of goodness there will only ever be one answer. You can't have a heavy tank with a large build time to compensate or cheap bots that cost tons of energy to compensate for their high damage. I'm sure there is a balance that can be reached with nukes and anti nukes but its not coming to mind (thanks to engineer interferance). But my point is that homogenising the resourcese required feeds back into homogenous units.

    The obvious argument against this is that it has been done in ZK, but we are aiming for something that is much more diverse than ZK.

    But think about this, what do you gain gameplay wise from fixing these values arbitrarily? You gain nothing is the answer, you lose. There is nothing saying that the vast majority of units couldn't follow this pattern anyway but if they all HAVE to you wont be able to change that when you NEED to.

    The only gain as far as i can see is simplifying the learning curve of the game. And thats a minor gain for such a large loss.
  7. dmii

    dmii Member

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    Honestly, I would like the idea, if there also were an other feature implemented:
    Factories which provide a high rate in one and a low rate in the other resource and one with balanced rates.

    If all units cost exactly the same of one resource, as they do in the other, there actually is no point in having two different resources, since they are essentially the same except one looks different.
    However, if you have more variable costs one resource becomes the deciding factor in determining the build time and the different factories would allow you to exploit this, in exchange for longer build times for units with unfavorable costs.

    But the different factories actually is something I dislike, because it makes the game unneccessarily confusing with three kinds of factories building the same units.
    So even though I like the idea I am against it.


    What I would use to make the rate based economy easier (and imho also better) is actually quite simple:
    Don't allow engineers assisting factories and each other.
    There you go, everything takes exactly as long as it is shown in the tooltip and drains resources exactly at the rate shown in the tooltip.
    You want to increase your production? Build more factories.
    Factories take too long to build? Build multiple at a time or ask the balancing people to lower the build time.
    Problem solved.

    I am going to be honest, I don't like assisting at all. It just promotes mindless spamming of engineers and therefore removes the question, wether you actually need more or should use the resources (and the factory) for something else.
    Also it doesn't really add anything besides making everything faster, which doesn't really change anything since both players will be doing it.
  8. yinwaru

    yinwaru New Member

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    I think that there will be plenty of time to play with the economy in the alpha/beta, but the things mentioned in this thread should at least be taken into account. Honestly I'm fine with the system as it is, but that's because I've been using it for years and know it like the back of my hand. I can see how homegenizing it would be beneficial to new players, but I think there are better ways to do it than flatlining values - that's boring.
  9. yogurt312

    yogurt312 New Member

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    A lot of the reasons for changing the system are to make it simpler, which results in things being easier to learn. Now it might just be me but from the time i picked up TA when i was just a wee lad knee high to a grasshopper, I have never once been confused about what was happening. Then sup com came out and it worked exactly the same but it gave you all the information that you needed before you pressed any buttons. I would be fine with just more information again because there isn't anything wrong to the system. I'm sure there are improvements to be made but they seem to be more in the lines of streamlining than simplifying.
  10. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

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    This is completely wrong. You need to control mex spots to get metal. You can build energy producing facilities in different places, and there are ways to make it anywhere. And furthermore, mexes and energy producing structures create resources in differing quantities, with differing costs to construct them.

    It makes more sense to balance the resources by the output of the supply side than to have a weird rate of conversion during production.
  11. yogurt312

    yogurt312 New Member

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    While it makes good sense to try and balance energy to metal supply side so they are equal, the reason i think that hasn't happened is that a lot of things have small energy upkeeps that would make things unreasonable. you could instead balance metal to energy (metal x20 or so) but as a general rule smaller numbers are easier to read and understand so they try to take the best of both.
  12. qwerty3w

    qwerty3w Active Member

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    A C&C like solution:
    Remove the energy storage, make the same type of working factories and the same type of working constructors always cost the energy at the same rate no matter what unit they are building.
    Some buildings like the radars could cost some energy too, if the cost rate of the energy become higher than the increase rate, some of them (depends on their economy priorities which should be controllable like in Zero-K) might be shut down temporally.
    The redundant energy increase rate could be used by metal makers.

    edit: This is flawed, cause the factories and constructors cost energy intermittently when building a queue of things, so the players could stagger their working time for higher efficiency.
  13. ooshr32

    ooshr32 Active Member

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    I like the intuitive nature and simplicity of the idea.
    I dislike the fact it removes a balance adjustment lever from the devs.

    Kinda torn but I think the good outweighs the bad.
  14. jurgenvonjurgensen

    jurgenvonjurgensen Active Member

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    While "everything costs the same ratio of mass, energy and build time" is fine for a general principle, making it a hard and fast rule isn't a good idea.

    Units which are relatively cheap in one of the three allow for players who are adaptable to recognise when they're falling behind in one of those areas and minimise this disadvantage by building units which rely less on the thing they're lacking. Counters shouldn't just be reacting to your enemy's force composition and building units that counter them. Reacting to one's own situation is important too.

    Energy storage has another purpose, that being powering big weapons (LRPCs, BLoDs, D-Guns), which tend to massively overconsume a player's instantaneous energy production at the point in the game where they first become available. Storage allows for these weapons to have a higher short-term DPS than a player's energy production would normally allow, adds an element of strategy beyond simply making sure one number is larger than another number all the time.
  15. GoogleFrog

    GoogleFrog Active Member

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    I'm going to try to agree on what the variable resource ratio system does before assigning values to it. The values of course will change from person to person depending on which type of game they want to play.

    When playing I think the best situation to be in is when your metal storage is empty. This is because metal is usually more valuable, you must take territory to get it whereas energy and BP can be built anywhere. If you cannot spend all your metal (ie stalling energy or BP) then you need to build whichever of the secondary resource you are lacking. Simple enough, I think everyone agrees.

    When the resource ratios are not fixed you have another option. Say you are stalling energy, you can switch production to things with a higher metal/energy factor. The same can happen for stalling BP because in construction-land they are the same except for the different global/local property.

    Because of the option to switch spending ratios we have a situation in which your build options are constrained by the current state of your economy. To most efficiently build things you want to spend all your metal but also have little excess energy and BP. Of course often what you actually need will mean you don't aim for the best efficiency but we have to assume that something costing more energy is on average better. There will be a trade off between what is good for your economy and what is good for the rest of your situation.

    So far I would expect everyone to at least understand this although not necessarily agree, I may have missed something. Also apparently flow economy is hard to understand.

    Players are not stuck responding to their economy as such because their economy is controlled by themselves as well as other players. Good players would presumably build their economy to a certain ratio to make as many units of a type as possible. Your opponents would raid different parts of your base or territory depending on what they want to punish you for building.

    Now my point is that if players didn't actually do this in any TA derived game then what is the point of the different costs in the first place? These things have to be noticeable or it will be ignored by players and game balance until someone gets out their spreadsheet and calculates a few optimal builds.

    A lot of people bring up ships and aircraft. These tended to have a general ratio which as far as I can tell existed mostly for lore. But that is not to say that the idea of ratios is bad, they just need to be intuitive and balanced with them in mind.

    Finally I will say that I dislike the system in Supcom and TA because the costs are all over the place. There are trends such as air and ships but a lot of it was too variable to take into account. So my take on this is instead of automatically putting in different ratios all over the place think about the effects of each ratio and keep them minimised and noticeable.

    For example all structure could have halve BP, aircraft could have 1.5x energy cost, ships could have 1.5x metal cost. To me these are fairly arbitrary assignments but if it's a game rule then it is there, just make it understandable. These should be broad rules about classes of units. The actual topic title "matching mass and build times" could be a good middle ground between these systems. But if that cannot be done it is really a lot easier to go with a fixed ratio, I think it works well and little is lost.

    There is also a bit to say on the cost of territorial resources vs build anywhere resources. High metal cost things tend to be favoured early on in the game whereas BP and energy is much more plentiful later on.

    This doesn't hold at all. There are a lot of things different units can do.

    This seems to imply that variable ratios are there to differentiate similar units. I completely disagree. If you are just differentiating similar units then then you just have to know whether to build tank A or tank B based on what your economy is doing at the moment. For example if someone raids your mexes then just switch production to the high E ratio tank (or even army mix). For any meaningful choice and interaction to occur your opponent has to think "I want to prevent them building so many aircraft so I will raid some energy". Otherwise you're all doing random things and fighting against a system which theoretically allows you to do what you want but takes a spreadsheet to figure out how.
  16. sal0x2328

    sal0x2328 Member

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    I think that varying build time, metal/mass cost, and energy cost each independently of each other of each unit (like is done in TA) is fine (and when I was a kid, my younger brother and I had no problem play TA).

    To reduce the confusion units could display estimated time, as well as cost in metal/second and energy/second in addition to the traditional total cost in metal and energy. Units building things can display the how much resources they are using as well as the total resources being spent (per second) on that unit, and the estimated time too completion.
  17. johnnyhuman

    johnnyhuman New Member

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    Hmm. But, here is the other thing to consider. If different units can be built with different amounts of mass and energy, different strategic options stay open without needing to rely on matching your opponent 1-for-1 in mex control. A player who controls fewer mex spots than an opponent, but still has sufficient energy, could still choose to invest in different units.

    Mex control is obviously important, but if you make all units costs the same amount of metal and energy, then that means the person who controls more mexes will always be able to build more of any unit, regardless of what types of units are desired. I think it provides more strategic gameplay permutations if you have some units that can be built for low metal/high energy, as well as high metal/low energy and balanced metal and energy.

    In regards to the economy in general, I really don't think that differing mass and energy costs for different units is really what makes economy complicated. The hard part is figuring out how to upgrade your economy. When do you upgrade your mexes? When do you build the next tier's power? How many engineers do you have assisting? How do you balance factory production while you're upgrading your eco? Theses are the things that confuse new players. It won't matter if they know each unit costs equal mass and energy because they'll still be falling behind on overall production to players who understand the subtleties of the most efficient ways to upgrade an economy.
  18. jurgenvonjurgensen

    jurgenvonjurgensen Active Member

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    Johnny is correct. The real barrier to entry is not costs, but upgrades. It's fairly obvious that you should go out and take those glowing yellow mass points, and after a game or you it's also pretty clear that those big wrecks which show up are worth a lot. What's not so obvious is why the guy with a couple of T3 mexxes squirrelled away in the back of his base is losing two tanks to every one he kills, and yet still somehow overrunning your positions. It was much worse before the massfab nerf, since that made map control pretty irrelevant, and knowing the most efficient massfab farm design and build order was more important than anything else. Hopefully, there being only two tech levels will reign this problem in, since it wasn't so bad in TA (although it still suffered a lot from Moho Metal Makers being very spammable).
  19. ledarsi

    ledarsi Post Master General

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    Do away with upgrading mexes. It is just not a good system.

    If you really must have increased output per mex spot (and you really, really don't) then copy Zero K and utilize a mex overdrive system which spends energy to increase their yield. Late game when you have a large energy surplus, your mexes haven't changed, but their output has increased.
  20. zordon

    zordon Member

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    Upgrading mexes had one benefit. You're making a decision on the safety of mass point, and the worth of investing into it. If however every mex just increases production based on the amount of spare energy you have then you no longer have to be concerned about which mexs you're going to invest into.

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