The biggest balance problem with PA, eco snowball and exponential growth.

Discussion in 'Balance Discussions' started by insertcleverphrase, February 11, 2015.

  1. insertcleverphrase

    insertcleverphrase New Member

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    Wile I applaud the recent additions to the game, as well as the great balancing that has been happening by the Uber team, the biggest balance problem with PA is an economy one.
    Any small advantage in the early game results in a large 'snowball effect' and that an early eco imbalance usually decides the game. While an eco imbalance should be punishing, it shouldn't automatically decide the winner in the first few min, this results in games that are decided in the first 5 min but take 20 to finish, and results in user frustration (despite playing a good mid game, a bad early game will screw you anyway), less people playing the game, less money for Uber, and less exciting e-sports games.
    Playing well becomes less important than getting a snipe the moment you realise you are down in eco relative to your opponent.
    The best games are where players have relatively similar eco throughout the game and the game is decided through play-skill, but this, unfortunately, rarely happens due to the snowball effect of exponential growth. Generally the winner can be picked at the 5 min mark 90% of the time, even at competitive levels.
    One possible way to resolve this is to have resource caps or in-game upgradable resource caps.
    In other words, you could have a cap on metal production be toggleable (and settable) at the game creation menu, allowing games to be decided by overall play-skill throughout the game rather than eco expanding skill, while still rewarding early eco-ing due to first-to-the-market effect.
    The other way (and my favourite way) to resolve this is to have eco-caps be expanded by the use of a structure that is built (metal storage and energy storage buildings would work well for this effect) that upgrade both the storage of the resource, as well as how much can be gathered at any given point in time. This forces the player who has more eco to invest more if he/she wants to get beyond the resource cap, as well as give up valuable real-estate. Essentially this would create a system where players farther ahead are charged an 'income tax' that allows them to continue to be farther ahead, but does not allow them to exponentially outgrow their opponent (the more above the cap they are the more they have to invest, and the more space they give up, furthermore, they have to then protect their resource expanding structures as much as their Mex and P-gens increasing their liability if they want the extra eco).

    Please tell me what you think. is this an issue, or does the possibility of snipes completely alleviate this problem?
  2. cola_colin

    cola_colin Moderator Alumni

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    I don't think we need any fancy systems that are obviously just designed to hinder the player who is ahead. We need wreckage again.
    You are ahead? Well then attack!
    Oh your attack barely wasn't enough.
    OH NO all that metal of your army is being reclaimed by your opponent. He is rushing up a nuke with it.
    You died!

    In FA that worked out quite well. I can remember I won a game on Fields of Isis on a pretty high level of play where my opponent threw some T4 units into my base. He killed half my base but the huge amount of mass I could reclaim allowed me to quickly strike back with T4 myself and win the game.
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  3. zihuatanejo

    zihuatanejo Well-Known Member

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    I don't like the sound of eco caps, I don't think there is anything wrong with the current system. The only thing that arguably needs tweaking is t2 viability/t1 eco balance. The recent t1 eco tweaks were very nice but I think it would be worth exploring further changes and testing them.

    As for wreckage, I'm actually glad it isn't in the game any more, it makes it simpler. The notion of a failed attack providing metal to let the flagging player recover is certainly interesting but I do think it detracts from the simplicity. Clearly I just like things to be very simple, hah :D
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  4. Pendaelose

    Pendaelose Well-Known Member

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    I recently came to the opinion that T2 MEX should actually provide much less metal than a T1 MEX and require energy to run.

    The idea is that a T1 MEX efficiently extracts the vast majority of the metal, while the T2 MEX works twice as hard to collect what ever scraps would be left over.

    It would also mean that ground control is far more important than the timing on your tech-up. T2 would be used to give you that extra little boost in metal instead of replacing T1 completely.
  5. squishypon3

    squishypon3 Post Master General

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    At one point there was a PTE build where both t1 and t2 metal extractors extracted only 5 metal each, the same system Statera would use in the future.
  6. zihuatanejo

    zihuatanejo Well-Known Member

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    That would make t2 pretty awful. The extra metal from a t2 generator is important. It drives the t2 economy (for the more expensive units).
  7. Pendaelose

    Pendaelose Well-Known Member

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    Obviously the costs of T2 would get adjusted at the same time... I'm still firmly of the opinion that T2 should be specialized units rather than linear upgrades to the T1 units.
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  8. cybrankrogoth

    cybrankrogoth Active Member

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    Well I can understand your reasoning, however I would still want at least a t2 variant of t1 stuff which is maybe around 2x more expensive, even if it isn't 2x better.

    Setting units aside, I really like the current metal extractor setup. But energy storage I think might need buffing.
    Or just more stuff using energy. While existing stuff uses slightly less energy.

    My reasoning is simple, late game if I decide to start spamming factories and engineers to build stuff, I bottom out energy pretty quickly. Having said that, as soon as I'm done whatever it is, I have too much energy that I can't possibly spend, unless I use everything I have... It's a bit hard to put easily into words but basically either I have too much or too little, and I have a hard time doing everything I want and striking a balance in consumption.

    It could be that I play badly, I don't know but I think it's worth considering. More things use energy, and existing things use slightly less energy. :)
  9. LeadfootSlim

    LeadfootSlim Well-Known Member

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    The main reason they removed wreckage, IIRC, was because it was a pathing nightmare, not for economic reasons.

    What if we had wreckage without pathing? Would that improve the econ balance by returning the throwing-metal-at-your-opponent interplay back?
  10. exterminans

    exterminans Post Master General

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    Yes, it probably would. Because that way, the eco is capped by the amount of metal which is already in play, rather than the combined output of all metal extractors you control. So the pace at which the game escalates isn't so much determined by your current production rate (which is subject to exponential growth until all mex spots are captured and you are no longer stalling on energy), but rather by the duration of the game.

    But they removed it for a second reason as well, and that was performance. Wreckages just piled up, and even if they did remove collision, it would still add a significant cost to render times on the client. That's why wreckages need not only their collision disabled, but they also need to be consolidated into a texture or a generic rubble object when they start to pile up or when mobile units would collide with them. Similar like this issue was solved back in TA.


    A system such as as the OP proposed doesn't work unless there are diminishing returns aka a hard cap on the metal consumption rate. Even if the allowance is tied towards buildings (hint: factories already do that, except for enforced diminishing returns), it would only work if there was an actual hard cap or at least logarithmic growth, whereby the latter also enforces a hard limit as these buildings require an exponential amount of space.
    This ultimately stops the escalation of the game entirely and forces players to fully tech up, not exactly a favorable scenario either as it enforces heavy micro and other exploits to gain any further advantage. It also makes attacks on enemy outposts pointless, as he is capped either way, so the losses wouldn't hurt him much.
    While such micro heavy games are somewhat interesting for casted e-sport formats, they are far less enjoyable for the player as they turn out quite stressful with little perceived progression and little variance aside the optimized meta game.
    Last edited: February 21, 2015
  11. Bgrmystr2

    Bgrmystr2 Active Member

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    I believe you are correct. Thankfully, that was back then when pathing was a nightmare in general. Now the pathing has been improved greatly and continues to get better. I think it's about time they tested the pathing with wreckages again. I'm not sure if pathing has improved enough to allow wreckages into the game yet, but it's a staple feature in games like this, and I'm not sure if they'll be able to balance an exponential eco without reclaim.

    Like, how do you mean? Wreckage without pathing would simply mean the units would phase through them or push them out of the way. I'm not a fan of either one, as it diminishes what I would call 'the battlefield'. A war-torn area with wreckage is something you can claim with the makeshift walls. Enemy fire hits the wreckages instead of hitting your own units, and most things won't be able to fire out either. Artillery would be especially fulfilling here, this is the same role they've had in TA.

    Economy-wise, if all weapon fire and units phased through wreckages, it would definitely help the eco as defensive players would be able to climb out of their metal hole using the very units the enemy tried to destroy them with. It's completely irrelevant if the wreckages had perfect pathing or phase-through pathing, it would help the eco balance because that's how reclaiming works.

    Wreckages being actually pathable would make every map more unique and fluid per game. PA is the perfect game for wreckages because unlike basically every other RTS in existance, here you can simply go around obstacles and attack your enemy from a different angle. Any angle. Wreckages may give them a wall to defend from, but it also keeps them from getting out in that direction too. This combined with the ability to reclaim wreckages to fuel your metal economy makes vastly different gameplay than what we see now.

    The cool thing about wreckages is that it indirectly makes things like nukes and other such weapons more viable. Currently, nukes are only valued based on metal cost versus metal destroyed. They don't leave any metal behind (from building the nuke itself) like units would. So take a scenario that you nuke an enemy base. They easily reclaim and rebuild their own structures. Even if they gained 100% of the metal from what the nuke destroyed, they would need to spend time giving orders to reclaim and rebuilding. It could be equivalent eco-wise, but already a loss from the perspective of time versus attention.

    Someone else may likely go way more into depth than I can about wreckages and how it changes gameplay entirely. Hopefully this gets more attention now that they're spending a lot of time looking at community suggestions and interests when it comes to balance.
  12. zihuatanejo

    zihuatanejo Well-Known Member

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    I think I am actually coming around to this now, putting wreckage back in the game (it was removed, right? I can't remember why), might well be enough to force players to 'commit' to their attacks. All or nothing, because if you screw up, you're just giving metal to your opponent.
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  13. nateious

    nateious Active Member

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    Wreckage back sounds good, but I think I saw a thread the other day that said reclaiming uses energy. I haven't checked myself, but if true, I think that should also be fixed. Also to cut down on micro it might be neat if combat fabs auto-reclaimed, the same way they autoheal. Then you could send a bunch of them into the wreckage when you need the metal. Plus bringing some along in a fight might help clear a path for your attacking army, or at the very least deny your opponent some of the spoils.
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  14. Quitch

    Quitch Post Master General

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    Wreckage was likely not just bad from a navigation perspective, but also the performance hit due to all the extra pathing.
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  15. nateious

    nateious Active Member

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    If that is the case, what if it was made pathable, but applied a movement speed penalty.
  16. cola_colin

    cola_colin Moderator Alumni

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    Well one more reason for the "no collisions, mostly rubble" wreckage
  17. crizmess

    crizmess Well-Known Member

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    If you want wreckage to interact in any meaningful way with other things, you need some computational time for it.
    For example, you need collision checks:
    a) to turn wreckage into rubble when a unit moves over it.
    b) for projectile blocking.
  18. cola_colin

    cola_colin Moderator Alumni

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    wreckage won't turn into rubble when a unit move over it, only from shots hitting it. The amount of hp on wreckage should be put to a value that yields mostly rubble with a few full wrecks after medium sized battles.

    So sure those are some extra objects. But hey we have some maps with hundreds (thousands?) of trees. Those also react to projectiles. They are pretty similar in how they work.
  19. Pendaelose

    Pendaelose Well-Known Member

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    Late game (once I control a moon or two usually) I try and build a couple energy storage fields. Just a few extractors laying out a few grids of storage. Not a huge drain to build them all but 30+ energy storage buildings will give a very stable energy economy.
  20. cybrankrogoth

    cybrankrogoth Active Member

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    Yeah, once you control a moon. But that's not always possible and as much as I want to say that you should be building storage and that's the correct thing to do. If you don't get storage, I feel like my excess is too disproportionately large and there needs to be a more optimal way of distributing and deciding energy consumption.

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