Of investments, energy, metal and reclaiming

Discussion in 'Balance Discussions' started by cola_colin, October 25, 2014.

  1. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    Hey there,

    we obviously don't have enough threads on how the economy of the game works or works not. So let's add my view. Prepare for a wall of text, tldr at the end ;)

    This is talking about 1vs1 balance. I generally believe that any other gameplay modes can more or less follow 1vs1 balance, so if 1vs1 balance works well other modes work as well.
    This is also not as much about "specific unit X is too strong/weak" it is more about the economy basics that lead to interesting play or not.

    First let's talk about what we had a few month ago.
    A few month ago players would regularly rush t2. It took 8-10 minutes to really reach t2. During that phase players would start expansions all over the map. Once t2 is reached players would make t2 power and use the expansions to get metal. This resulted in a gameplay that:
    • Had a rather dull build up phase before t2 was reached. Especially since players had to build some resources before they could even make the first factory
    • did not use t1 units, apart from some weak raiding experiments
    • Had massive spamming of t2 units all over the planet
    • Had massive proxy play all over the planet, with multiple t2 bases
    Now people were unhappy about the first 2 points of this list. I don't know exactly all changes that were made during the following balance phase, but the important points as I see it are:
    • t1 units were buffed in general, the dox was made a very potent and very cheap raiding unit
    • the startup resources were buffed. Players now have enough resources to start directly with 2 factories that produce the newly buffed dox or other t1
    What did this do? It removed the initial phase where players would rush t2 and start expansions. Instead players now could build a considerable attack army basically only with the starting resources. This destroyed most expansion play. Why? Because of the relation between the investment required to expand and the investment required to build an army of t1, especially dox, and attack.

    The cost of a single expansion is at minimum a single fabber building a factory and other stuff. During the t1 phase of the game players are limited by energy. Fabbers cost 1k energy per second. Once the factory of the expansion is finished it costs even more energy. Not to mention you actually want the expansion not to take too long to be up, so you need even more fabbers to build on it. The resulting energy cost easily is as big as the cost to make a very considerable t1 army that could directly attack your opponent. Basically to attack players stay on rather low resources, as attacking does not require as many resources anymore. This makes even a single expansion as expensive as 50% or more of the army you can have in the early game. That 50% of the army can easily kill the expansion before the investment of the expansions returns anything to the player.
    This issue did not exist before as players would rush up their economy to reach t2.
    If you have 10k energy by minute 4 in a game then spending 2k energy on expansions from minute 4 onwards is not gonna kill you, especially if you further push out energy to reach 20k income by minute 8.
    If however you only have 4k energy at minute 4 and 10k at minute 8 then spending 2k energy from minute 4 onwards is gonna half the t1 army you could have, making it impossible to defend.

    An expansion, just like t2 or orbital is an investment for a players. It pays back after a while. When is an investment in general a good thing to do for a player? The player needs to be able to pay the investment and still have enough resources to produce an army to defend. Defending your home turf is easier than attacking, as your reinforcements have a smaller distance to walk and you are likely to have a stationary radar.
    This advantage can be used to make investments, as you take away resources from your army and put them into i.e. an expansion or t2. The changes to t1 changed the balance in a way that made the costs for t1 armies so small that players cannot anymore find a good window to invest into expansions as the cost for them is so high that the defenders advantage is not big enough to balance out the fact that you have only half the army your opponent has, as half an t1 army is currently the cost of an expansion.

    Why are investments a good thing to allow for players?
    Because they add diversity. Any sort of "interesting" gameplay option like t2, mass expansions, orbital, etc is an investment. Without investments you'll only see people who rush t1 against each other with as less resources as possible.

    To get back expansion play (as well as other investment based things like t2) we either need to nerf t1 units again, which would heavily risk getting back to rush t2 play, or we need to make expansion cheaper. The investment has to be smaller, so players have a chance to make it and still be able to defend.

    Here I'd like to bring up the general issue with the energy/metal balance that we have on t1 especially.
    Short version: It is upside down. Energy limits player growth, until they reach t2 at least. We do not reach t2 for reasons stated above, so in 1vs1 we are limited by energy all game, especially if we want to expand which costs the highest energy cost of anything a player can do.

    This issue existed in the rush-to-t2 balance as well. It however didn't hurt as much, as players would rush past the t1 phase and t2 power allowed to get somewhat away from the energy limitations.
    A change I have in my head to try and fix this would be to reduce the cost of all t1 structures (there may need to be exceptions, this is about a rough general idea) to 75%, reduce the t1 engineer build rate to 75% and reduce the t1 engineer energy cost to 50%. This would preserve the build times for buildings, buff engineers as expansion drivers and prevent them from being used to support factories due to the bad ratio of build power to metal cost they have. The aim here is that players should be able to reasonably expand without being limited by energy anymore and reduce the cost of expansion so much that it becomes a smaller chunk of the t1 armies players can build, as explained above in the part about investments.

    I have a feeling that the reason why the economy is limited by energy like this is because somebody thought "we need to prevent this from exponentially rush away out of control".
    If this should become an issue the per mex metal income should be reduced. Limit players by metal not by energy. Why? Because limited metal means players are forced to expand and fight for territory. I don't think I have to argue why that is interesting gameplay-wise.

    Limiting players by metal also brings back the basis for a mechanic from SupCom and TA: Reclaiming.
    In PA units wrecks were completely removed a while back. They seemed useless. Why were the useless?
    • Wrecks gave metal and cost energy. Since players are limited by energy at t1 wrecks were a waste of energy to reclaim at t1 and gave a resources players had too much of anyway. At t2 wrecks were insignificant compared to t2 economy.
    • Wrecks actually were overkilled most of the time
    • Wrecks blocked paths badly and screwed over pathfinding
    My answers to the 3 points are:
    • Reclaiming should not cost energy at all. However it may be worth an experiment to try and have the 50% energy engineers still use energy when reclaiming, but have the combat fabbers use no energy at all. So players can build those to reclaim stuff. Might need some tweaks, but it's an idea I have. Might not work, in that case: Make reclaiming free and ensure the changes to t1 engineers and the metal/energy balance mean players are mostly limited by metal so wrecks are a welcome extra metal snack.
    • The 2 next issues are one issue imho. Wrecks should not interact with weapons and units as much as they did. I think the best solution would be to make units be destroyed to a level of smaller metal pieces that lie rather flat on the ground. Any unit can just walk over it and shots either don't hit it or the pieces have high hp values that prevent overkill from destroying them
    What good does this do?
    It improves the defenders advantage. So a player can do a bigger investment in relation to the army size (or rather army cost).
    Why does it improve the defenders advantage?
    Currently if you and your opponent have 50 dox than attacking is practically without risk. You charge in, try to kill stuff in running past it and avoid conflicts that are unfavorable. Worst case you exchange your dox for his dox and maybe kill a few structures or fabbers while doing so. If the economy were limited by metal and the destroyed dox would leave wrecks that can be reclaimed to get more metal, let's say 60% of what they cost to build, you would risk to give your opponent the resources to build 60 extra dox. As your and his 50 dox are destroyed close to your opponents base.
    A player would need to think before attacking: Can I either attack without losing anything or can I attack and destroy so much that the wrecks my attack will leave are okay in relation to that?
    This makes attacking harder and therefore investments like expansions and t2 easier.

    About t2:
    Imho players should be in need to go t2 either:
    • If they want to play with t2 units in some way, so i.e. do some form of rush. This should be viable, but does not have to be easy and may be situation dependent and is a lot about the balance between fighting units as well as the "unit specialization" minefield, which is not the topic of this post.
    • want to grow their economy once all t1 mex are taken, so only t2 mex can further grow it.
    Last edited: October 26, 2014
    nateious, tatsujb, xankar and 17 others like this.
  2. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    tldr, screw 10k characters per post:
    • in the t2 rush expansion meta the expansion worked because the investment of expanding wasn't that big compared to the required resources to rush t2 and on t2 metal would be more limiting thanks to t2 power
    • the changes to t1 made attacking with t1 armies so cheap that the defenders advantage is no longer big enough to pay for any sort of investment. Neither expansions, nor t2.
    • investments are good because they are the basis of diversity in play. Without any investments a player only uses the most basic units that they start with.
    • make metal the limit of player economy on t1 and make it cheaper to build structures to buff expansion play: Players need to expand to get more metal and the cheaper structures/lower energy usage on fabbers mean a lower percentage of the resources a player has at t1 are enough to start expansion
    • if the economy grows too fast limit available metal by reducing the per mex metal income. If players want more metal they need to tech to t2 and make t2 mex or expand. Expanding should be the cheaper option until there are no more mex to take.
    • Reclaiming further helps to prevent direct thoughtless attacks without any sort of investments from being successful. For reclaiming to work it needs to not fiddle with pathfinding as much, it needs to survive overkill and it needs to exist in a metal limited economy.
    • Here I write about some of the numbers that the current build of PA has in relation to the balancing between metal and energy on t1 and t2: https://forums.uberent.com/threads/...-all-in-and-the-poxy-gate.66489/#post-1044078 They very clearly show something is very wrong with the relation between energy and metal from the point of view of t1 fabbers compared to everything else.
    Here is a balance mod that puts my concepts into action:
    https://forums.uberent.com/threads/rel-expansionist.65524/
    Last edited: December 13, 2014
  3. mered4

    mered4 Post Master General

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    So glad I added reclaiming to the Balance fix by dropping Combat fabs' cost to 300. :D
  4. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    Did you make units actually "drop" wrecks again that don't just go away?
    nosebreaker likes this.
  5. mot9001

    mot9001 Well-Known Member

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    Im not sure if i can agree to this. Im sure that if you make t1 armys for 15 minutes, you found some room for expansion. Play for 15 more and there might be is an advanced factory somewhere. The balance as Scathis made it can be seen as ''just right'' but only if both players really know how to play it properly. Just thinking you can start go expand, or make something else as basic factory will obviously just get you killed. Then there is the problem of units stuck in terrain, or stopping for no reason. This makes the skill required to get a game like this even higher, because you manually need to steer it right and keep an eye on it. Basicly, im saying the balance isn't so bad, but it will not allow for anything else then a basic factory spam beginning with minimal engineers untill you and your enemy are in some sort of stranglehold and then you get some breathing room to start doing something else.
  6. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    Yes if you have 2 players of very high skill who are playing on the exact same level on a perfectly balanced map you will probably see them have to tech, expand or do something else to get a difference. You'll probably find some games where it happened even with less equal players, exceptions always exist ;)

    The problem is that currently the players have to be too close in skill (and map advantage) to each other. Especially with the rather hard to balance maps that's just very unlikely to happen in most games.
    Basically it takes too long until players can make tiny attempts at expansion. The old balance from a few month ago yielded way more action in way more places in way shorter time.
    nosebreaker likes this.
  7. LeadfootSlim

    LeadfootSlim Well-Known Member

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    Making wreckage work like trees - not interacting with LoS or pathing - would be nice. Free or cheaper reclaim would also be worth a try.
  8. mot9001

    mot9001 Well-Known Member

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    I agree, but i dont see how you can keep the game as fun and balanced as it is, but allowing for a 5/10 minute advanced factory for example. I think that would seriously disturb the balance and i kind of like the quick games we can have now.
  9. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    I don't say we need a 5/10 minute t2 factory in the first place, or at least not as the only viable way to play. I say we need a way to expand before we are in late game. The game avg time would still be less than 30 min. I think it was around 15-25 minute, depending on the playstyle of the players back then. That's a perfect time for a 1vs1.

    Also the game a few month ago was fun and balanced. Tbh imho more than right now :S
    nosebreaker and Jaedrik like this.
  10. mot9001

    mot9001 Well-Known Member

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    Afaik games on normal 1v1 planets take about 8-15 min. And a few months ago people made only 1 botfactory, or 0. I dont call that balanced.
  11. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    Currently people make only 0 expansions or maybe 1 in rare games. I don't call that balanced.

    Seriously I am not talking about the balance of t1 and t2 or of bots vs tanks. I am talking of the balance between expansion and straight up attacks. Going more towards expansions, as we currently have "1 expansion, or 0" as the norm would not change anything about the rest of the balance. Or rather I am trying to build up ideas of how to do change the balance in that way. The goal of my thoughts is to have people start to fight over more territory for resources again while maintaining a decent t1 phase before going to t2.

    Also less than 10 minutes is damn short for a 1vs1 imho.
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  12. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    Suggested changes of a balance mod experiment:

    reduce the metal cost of all t1 buildings to 75% exception: teleporters and turrets
    reduce the metal build rate of all t1 fabbers to 75%
    reduce the energy usage of all t1 fabbers to 50%
    reduce price of all t1 fabbers to 75%
    reduce price of combat fabbers t1 and t2 to
    reduce the t1 mex metal income to 5
    reduce t1 combat fabber price to 100 metal
    reduce metal rate of t1 combat fabbers to 20 metal/s
    increase t1 combat fabbers hp to 150
    teleporters cost 50% more metal: trying to make sure people dont use them too often as they are available from combat fabbers which are expected to be part of normal armies now.

    I'll write a program now to build such a mod based on a config definition file that defines this stuff. :)
    nosebreaker likes this.
  13. igncom1

    igncom1 Post Master General

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    Why can't turrets be balanced like normal combat units?

    Why do they need to be so proportionately expensive, with such little effect?
  14. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    I tbh don't know the current balance stats of turrets. You mean they need a buff? I've just tried to preserve their current balance. They might be better off with a little nerf, I dunno.
    nosebreaker likes this.
  15. killerkiwijuice

    killerkiwijuice Post Master General

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    Uber should genuinely review this post and take all of this into consideration.

    I completely agree that energy should not be the limiting factor in any type of game, whether it's 1v1 or huge battles. It seems like it is right now.

    PS. Combat fabs need to use either no energy to reclaim and/or cost less to build.
  16. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    They already use 0 energy. So my list of changes does not contain them ;)
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  17. igncom1

    igncom1 Post Master General

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    Im not in the competitive circuit, so really, I might need you to tell me!

    People never build them, why is that?

    Wouldn't they fantastic dox killers?
  18. killerkiwijuice

    killerkiwijuice Post Master General

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    Oh...

    Well then they need to cost less :rolleyes:
  19. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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    I tbh don't know for sure. Yes they may be too weak. Or maybe they cost too much energy to be build. I do reduce that by the changes to engineers.
    nosebreaker and igncom1 like this.
  20. cola_colin

    cola_colin Planetary Moderator

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