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How to avoid "stacks of doom" in 4X?

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#21 rnlf   Members   -  Reputation: 1095

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:20 AM


By then generally the micromangement burden exceeds the usefulness of optimizing a given planet which is why newly conquered planets after the first half dozen or so just tend left to governs or prebuilt building queues becoming research outposts or cash generators.

 

 

Exactly my experience. Once the empire is strong enough, I just build cash (or sometimes food) generating and defensive buildings in a fixed order. That's another problem with 4X games in general and a reason to only ever play on small maps...


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#22 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2278

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:55 AM

I agree large 4x maps tend to be less fun. Large maps are slower, turns take longer, you have to destroy more planets and fleets and if you're stronger then your opponent this isn't challenging just time consuming. 

 

I wonder how you could make a 4x game that was fun to play on bigger maps? Competiting with half a dozen races of 18 planets is fundimentaly going to be more exciting and challanging then half a dozen races fighting over 60 planets.


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#23 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 1589

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 09:56 AM

Sure, the larger the game world/universe, the larger the number of small raiding groups are required to do damage.  Also the longer it will take a super stack to traverse around the map and win the game.  It's a balancing act to get that all right and fun.

 

(Though I generally agree that larger maps aren't really 'more' fun.)

 

 

Another option is to have to keep a supply line open to the super stack, which prevents it from just marching willy nilly, it will have to try to hold territory if it penetrates too far, or get cut off and lose health/supply/morale/widgits.


Edited by ferrous, 15 July 2014 - 09:56 AM.


#24 rnlf   Members   -  Reputation: 1095

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 10:13 AM

Even the supply line idea is present in MoO, but by the time it would be needed to balance the game, it doesn't matter anymore.

 

In MoO, ships have a limited range, based on their fuel cell technology. If a ship is stranded too far away, it will automatically return to the closest colony (which doesn't make any sense, considering that it was limited by the fuel cells, but whatever). So if you the closest colony to your currently targetted system, your attack will be cancelled. Too bad, after a while you can research better and better fuel cells, resulting in Thorium Fuel Cells which provide infinite range. So while this again limits the expansion in the early game, it is useless in the end game.

 

I really wonder if all these things were added in that fashion to make for more challenging middle games and quick end games or if it was actually just a balancing error.

 

Maybe they decided it was not desirable to have a more balanced end game because the game would get too slow paced then. That's a really interesting question for me, as I never thought about similar game design issues yet...


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#25 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3123

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 10:39 AM

Important note: the topic is not about limiting the total number of ships the player has but about making it not desirable to keep all these ships in one fleet. It's about how to make it desirable to have 3 smaller fleets at once instead of one big fleet.


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#26 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 1589

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 11:42 AM

Important note: the topic is not about limiting the total number of ships the player has but about making it not desirable to keep all these ships in one fleet. It's about how to make it desirable to have 3 smaller fleets at once instead of one big fleet.

 

By making sure upkeep on each ship is high, that means that the player must keep their territory.  If they lose too much territory and it degrades the performance of the stack, the stack can then be defeated or lost without the engagement of another super stack.  That gives an incentive to the player to keep several fleets, at the least an offensive fleet for attacking, and a defense fleet to avoid having raiders come in and take territory.

 

EDIT:  The assumption is also that new territory gained by the super stack isn't going to outdo the raiders in supplying upkeep costs.


Edited by ferrous, 15 July 2014 - 11:46 AM.


#27 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2278

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:14 PM

Important note: the topic is not about limiting the total number of ships the player has but about making it not desirable to keep all these ships in one fleet. It's about how to make it desirable to have 3 smaller fleets at once instead of one big fleet.

 

If there a lot of targets then players can either go through them slowly with one big fleet or have smaller fleets that are as big as they need to do be.

 

You could add weapons of mass destruction into the mix. Making it possible to devastate or destroy entire fleets.

 

You could add stealth making hit and run attacks by small fast fleets useful.  One small fast stealth ship might be able to drop a nuke on an enemy city before they even know they are under attack.  

 

"Magic particle" weapons. The most powerful equipment drains X particles from surrounding space. X particles are a finite resource in a given sector and take time to recover so a large particle weapon based fleet can completely drain the area of X particles in a prolonged fight leaving themselves defenceless. 

 

Spacing guild bribes. The spacing guild conrols intersetteler travel the more ships you want to move the more it will cost you.

 

 

But ultimately if there isn’t a deterrent or a sufficiently large arms gap then large stacks are always going to be the key to battle.  Your large fleet versus the enemies’ large fleet and the one with the edge in weapons, or ships is going to win.


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#28 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3123

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 12:29 PM

I always wondered if it was possible to change the rules in such a way, that battles are not concluded within a single galactic turn (with either one fleet completely destroyed or retreated), but instead have battles last for several galactic turns (stopping after a number of battle turns and continueing in the next galactic turn). Also switching the active player after a number of unit-turns instead of after he has used up all his units' turns could make battles more balanced. That way, it would be possible for either player to bring new ships into a battle, smaller ships could destroy bigger enemies even if the enemy has the advantage of the first turn.
Yeah, I was thinking about it too (it's always nice to not be the only one, it makes you not the only one that's insane :D). If we discard tactical combat we could go for "each battle takes 3 turns" for example. Any side can retreat any time (but can only do so in direction of a neutral planet/system, friendly system or system with you fleet only (under your occupation - no enemy fleets). If no one retreated at the 3rd turn the side who got bigger loses (assuming none was eradicated) is forced to auto retreat. You can add forcers anytime but it will not extend the battle (3 turns).

 

This way you could use smaller fleets to slow down/lock bigger fleets (so sure, you will suffer heavy loses in your inferior fleet but by doing this you locked enemy big fleet for X turns during which the rest of your small fleets wheak havock behind enemy lines). Prolonged battles (especially if much weaker fleet can't be annihilated in one turn) indeed promote splitting fleets.

 

I would also go for taking over a planet to take X turns (regardless of defences). Actually Endless Space did that part.


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#29 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 1589

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 02:08 PM

You don't have to discard tactical combat, either.  You could fudge it by just not having tactical combat get initiated until the 3 turns are up.  You could give bonuses to ships that were there first by letting them pick better starting positions, for example.

 

I do think you have to be careful with that method though, as one could prolong combat indefinitely with a legion of tiny scout ships, if not balanced well.  


Edited by ferrous, 15 July 2014 - 02:09 PM.


#30 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3123

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Posted 15 July 2014 - 02:38 PM


I do think you have to be careful with that method though, as one could prolong combat indefinitely with a legion of tiny scout ships, if not balanced well.
That's why I was thinking of "You can add forces anytime but it will not extend the battle (3 turns)", so, something like the first ship that arrives there initiates a battle and the battle will last 3 turns. The winner of that battle gets "recently won here" marker or some sort of "space superiority" marker which lasts for 5 turns during which that player (and that player only) can pass through that system ignoring battles. Hmmm, I'm not sure... Or maybe make the battle last just one turn if the enemy is below 20% strength (or even better if he gets annihilated by the first salvo the battle immediatelly ends)?

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#31 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3123

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:38 PM

Maybe a combination of these?

- decrease combat loses (like 50% your fleet will be damaged for 10 turns instead of destroyed)

- promote being in several places at once for several turns (like blockade of a planet, ground invasion)

- relatively high free defence for planets (not in terms of dealing damage to invading ships but as an ability to hold them off for several turns before the defences break down)

 

 


I do think you have to be careful with that method though, as one could prolong combat indefinitely with a legion of tiny scout ships, if not balanced well.
That's why I was thinking of "You can add forces anytime but it will not extend the battle (3 turns)", so, something like the first ship that arrives there initiates a battle and the battle will last 3 turns. The winner of that battle gets "recently won here" marker or some sort of "space superiority" marker which lasts for 5 turns during which that player (and that player only) can pass through that system ignoring battles. Hmmm, I'm not sure... Or maybe make the battle last just one turn if the enemy is below 20% strength (or even better if he gets annihilated by the first salvo the battle immediatelly ends)?

After thinking it over I say my idea has no sense :D Way too complex & confusing. At least my approach, I'm not saying one of you can't invent some working "multiple turn combat" :)


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#32 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 1589

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Posted 22 July 2014 - 12:56 PM

Yeah, I could see that being an issue, it's unique, which always makes things harder, as you have to pull all the stops in the UI to really sell it to someone not used to it.

 

 

I think you should give the upkeep stuff a try.  As long as you avoid some of MOO's pitfalls, which shouldn't be that hard, since the MOOs were fun games, but they weren't exactly well balanced.



#33 powerneg   Members   -  Reputation: 1299

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Posted Today, 02:23 PM

i'm seeing MOO:II mentioned several times, but not how they countered this, which was with a building that slowed down all incoming opponents-fleets.

There was also a possibility of disabling retreat during combat, meaning an overextending opponent might be forced to waste his fleet on your defenses.



#34 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2278

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Posted Today, 04:52 PM

I don't think MOO solved the stack problem rather it created it.  in MOO 1 you could build multiple ships per turn and ship types stacked so in a single battle there might be a stack of 10,000 small ships and you might kill a few thousand a volley with your spatial disrupters.  

 

In MOO2 ships no longer stacked but you still had large AI Fleets.  Generally they would have massive fleets with 40+ ships and just move that from planet to planet. Depending on tech you might be able only be able to kill 1 or 2 a round or 1 per shot.  That is probably why the game included the stellar converter weapon which more powerful then every other weapon combined.  It did 2000 damage never missed and could destroy planets the second strongest weapon only did 50-100 damage.  Many times in MOO2 late game planets would get stuck in lengthy blockades where you simply didn't have enough combat rounds per turn to kill all the enemy ships. The computer opponents cheated so they could build and maintain far more massive fleets then players could build.

 

And you couldn't use non-tactical combat because it didn't resolve to the same out come as tactical combat on auto.  The non-tactical combat would let a large weak fleet win against a small fleet of high tech ships they couldn't damage in tactical combat.


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