Discussion: The Future of 4X

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Home Forums Age of Wonders 3 Discussions Discussion: The Future of 4X

This topic contains 100 replies, has 27 voices, and was last updated by  spockimpossible 2 years, 9 months ago.

Viewing 11 posts - 91 through 101 (of 101 total)
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  • #242898

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Would of course cumulate in Juggernauts needing massive crew (60 population! 2 turns of growth!) or Kharags being hungery (100 less goblins…ah well. They grow fast anyway..)

    This is the sort of thing I’m referring to about it feeling like increasing population requirements becoming arbitrary. Juggernaut crew? Easily justified. Kharaghs? The idea that you’re feeding a hundred goblins to the Kharagh is a bit disturbing, particularly if you’re a good-aligned leader (which may or may not be possible for a goblin leader in a hypothetical future AoW), but maybe for non-flying big monsters that are only semi-tame, you could justify it on the basis that there is a large support crew offscreen taking care of it and making sure it behaves. Maybe big monsters just want servants.

    What about flyers, then? Well, I guess you could say that a dragon, say, wants a cohort of draconians to look after its lair while it’s off fighting for you somewhere else. That could explain why you need 120 draconians to build a dragon. They’re still there in the city, technically, but they’re tied up in watching the dragon’s den. But why do they disappear when the dragon dies? Is it part of the agreement that they keep watching after the dragon’s death? Or was the dragon actually formed from draconians that combined their draconic essences together to reforge themselves into a true dragon (we don’t know if multiple draconians came from a single dragon egg like in Dragonlance, but if they did, it would make sense that if you wanted to get a dragon back out of draconians, you’d need multiple draconians to do it)?

    Let’s say we’ve explained dragons and other flying monsters. What about elite troops? Why would a gryphon rider need more population than a unit of unicorn riders? We can probably safely assume that the gryphon isn’t raised on elf-flesh. A gryphon and rider might reasonably be expected to require more maintenance than a unicorn and rider… but would it need more than three times as much support staff? And how is it then able to fly on the strategic map – is it carrying that support staff hanging in a net below it? Or will Flying in a future game be nerfed to what is now Lesser Flying, to account for the support crew that’s tagging along the ground?

    Mechanically-speaking, it’s an interesting idea, but from a lore perspective, the idea of using population as a balancing resource to favour lower-tier units over higher-tier ones just becomes absurd when you think about what would have to be happening in order to explain the increasing population requirements as the figures-per-unit is likely trending down. It also flies in the face of historical reality – improved military technology and other things that are accounted for in climbing the tech tree happened because, all things considered, it was a more efficient use of your population than handing them all pointy sticks and sending them at the enemy as a disorganised mob.

    I’m also not convinced that it would even serve the purpose mechanically – since at the time where high-tier unit spam is an issue, you also generally have cities with high populations so you can afford to spend a lot of population without sinking below the threshold that causes a metropolis to revert to a city.

    It makes sense for more powerful units to need more gold, more mana, more of some other exotic resource you might come up with as long as it’s sensible. More population? Generally, if military units start requiring population, it should in most cases be more or less proportional to the number of figures in the unit (don’t worry about being the exact number, we can always say that one figure on the battlefield actually represents ten or a hundred or whatever it needs to be unless the figure is a hero, dragon, or the like). Exceptions could be made for some (generally but not necessarily always evil) units that genuinely do have a background where it requires some sort of sacrifice to have them in your army, but having population requirements be proportional to tier across all units will be opening a massive can of worms to try to explain lore-wise.

    (One possibility that just crossed my mind was the idea that things like gryphons were part of the population to begin with, and their contribution to the productivity of the city is equivalent to X number of regular citizens. However, even that falls down when you look at elite troops versus militia.)

    At the bottom line, I think it’s an interesting idea mechanically, but the mechanics are supposed to simulate a believable world, and population costs relative to tier just becomes more awkward the more I think about what must be happening inside the world to justify it.

    #242911

    Mechanically-speaking, it’s an interesting idea, but from a lore perspective, the idea of using population as a balancing resource to favour lower-tier units over higher-tier ones just becomes absurd when you think about what would have to be happening in order to explain the increasing population requirements as the figures-per-unit is likely trending down.

    Idea was proposed within the context of AoW3, where I think pop is underused. Add in complaints about upper tier “spam”, and now a way to address both presents itself.

    I did say I’d prefer limiting some tier 4 units to the availability of MCUs, or map structures, such as Air Galleys requiring a Harbour (in practice, building a harbour in a city usually means you miss out on some resources you could have got by placing that city radius elsewhere, and the payoff is getting a very strong/useful unit- that kind of trade off is to be encouraged imho).

    Infact, having unique resources be required for unique units is not actually a new idea, and I think Homm did this? I know Civ 4 did it, with iron and horses being unique resources on the map.

    Back to population, it just seems to me that in SM and AoW3, pop doesn’t really do anything, and I know the concept of manpower has been considered in other games, and could be a useful and interesting mechanic, e.g. you have x population, of which y% can be soldiers, but you need certain amounts to maintain buildings (blacksmiths etc for creating armour for your troops)

    However, that carries quite the risk of shifting the focus of the game to something else entirely, and if not done well can result in some ugly micro.

    At this point, I’m not sure if this is a future AoW3 or future of 4x wishlist, but if the former, then multihex cities please, like in the original AoW1, with a view to having cities be limited by the geography of where they are, hopefully providing a more nuanced approach to founding new cities, in that the area with most resources may not be particularly habitable (race dependent ofcourse).

    #242920

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Idea was proposed within the context of AoW3, where I think pop is underused. Add in complaints about upper tier “spam”, and now a way to address both presents itself.

    Yeah, when you think of it purely in mechanical terms, it kinda works from the ‘kill two birds with one stone’ perspective. It’s when you consider what must be happening in-world to justify it that it starts falling down. Why would a unit of 8 Chargers require 8 population, while a unit of 3 Flyers requires, say, 30? Does the training regime have a 90% fatality rate?

    Infact, having unique resources be required for unique units is not actually a new idea, and I think Homm did this?

    Homm had 7 resources, IIRC: gold for the abstract stuff (everything costs gold), wood and stone for most buildings, and gems, crystal, sulphur and mercury for advanced buildings and units.

    I did say I’d prefer limiting some tier 4 units to the availability of MCUs, or map structures, such as Air Galleys requiring a Harbour (in practice, building a harbour in a city usually means you miss out on some resources you could have got by placing that city radius elsewhere, and the payoff is getting a very strong/useful unit- that kind of trade off is to be encouraged imho).

    Reminds me of MoM draconians, where airships can be produced if the city is coastal. MoM made it both easier and more desirable to have coastal cities, however.

    #242924

    Population doesn’t have to be thought of as sacrificing the units. If you need an in-game reason just think of it as dedicated population required to maintain the regiment (you need individuals to maintain their weapons/armor, grow food, provide entertainment, train replacements, and to carry everything back and forth from the city to the army). Why don’t they reappear after the unit dies? Maybe they were caught and killed while resupplying the killed unit, maybe others left because there weren’t any jobs for them anymore in the city.

    Lore should never be a reason why a gameplay mechanic isn’t put in. In most cases it takes less than a minute of imaginative thinking to come up with a reason why the mechanic exists in the in-game universe. The numbers in the game are ultimately an abstraction and combination of many different things.

    Regardless, population is a resource that’s definitely underused. It should either have its role expanded for use in building units (IMO best solution since it doesn’t take too much work except balancing the numbers AND it keeps population a dynamic, important resource throughout the game), or there should be more mechanics/methods related to reducing populations.

    #242927

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    Guys, that’s all very nice, but that will mean, that the great low-tier units will rule, for example Elven Longbowmen. Of course, in theory it sounds nice to alow T1 everywhre, T2 in Village and upwards, T3 in town and upwards and T4 in Cities and Metros, but in practise that just means, you build what you can build, and that will make the rest of the economy pretty unimportant.
    It would just be too restrictive.

    If population is supposed to play a role, then it shouldn’t be military, but economic. For example, you might need a certain amount of population to work a site. Or, simplified, depending on city size you could exploit only a certain amount of them.

    Producing military units might cost population, though. I’d think that the basic racial Irregulars which need no building to build, should cost population (for example, the town might not grow, in pop, when building one).

    Of course that’s true for all racial builds, when you think about it – they have to come from somewhere.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  Jolly Joker.
    #242962

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Lore should never be a reason why a gameplay mechanic isn’t put in.

    I disagree.

    The gameplay mechanics are intended to simulate a world. Yes, there’s a certain amount of abstraction necessary to make good gameplay, but things still need to make sense.

    I might be able to come up with a perfectly good gameplay reason why even the most mundane low-tier units produced from cities should all be able to be produced with mana instead of gold*. It doesn’t mean it passes the sanity check, though.

    *”Gold is always a limited resource, but it’s common to end up with more mana income than you can spend in the mid to late game. Being able to produce and maintain low-tier units using mana instead of gold would keep mana income relevant in the late game while encouraging players to produce more low-tier units.” It’s… actually not that far off from the argument people are making here.

    In most cases it takes less than a minute of imaginative thinking to come up with a reason why the mechanic exists in the in-game universe.

    The problem is that you practically need a different kind of imaginative thinking with every unit. Are we going to replace all the current flavour texts of how we’ve justified the population cost this time? Either way, it’s going to be obvious to anyone looking that it’s been something put in purely for mechanical reasons, with at best a lore excuse squeezed in as an afterthought.

    Regardless, population is a resource that’s definitely underused. It should either have its role expanded for use in building units (IMO best solution since it doesn’t take too much work except balancing the numbers AND it keeps population a dynamic, important resource throughout the game), or there should be more mechanics/methods related to reducing populations.

    You state this, but why is it so inherently obvious that population itself should be a resource to be spent, as opposed to a means of resource generation that grows over time?

    Historically speaking, yes, population was a military resource. Historically speaking, however, relative to overall combat power it was the lowest-technology units that were most expensive in terms of manpower, which is the opposite of what’s being proposed here. How many people armed with clubs would it take to overpower the four crewmembers inside a modern tank? Even if you included the people providing the supply chain, I bet the tank comes out ahead… and the supply chain can continue supplying the next tank if the first one is overwhelmed.

    Guys, that’s all very nice, but that will mean, that the great low-tier units will rule, for example Elven Longbowmen. Of course, in theory it sounds nice to alow T1 everywhre, T2 in Village and upwards, T3 in town and upwards and T4 in Cities and Metros, but in practise that just means, you build what you can build, and that will make the rest of the economy pretty unimportant.
    It would just be too restrictive.

    We actually have experience in how this works, from Age of Wonders 1.

    In my experience, it generally became ‘you build the best units you can at the cities that can build them, while level 1 and 2 cities tended to go on merchandise unless you had spare gold after you were done with the 3s and 4s’. If anything, I think AoW3 is actually better at keeping low-tier units generally relevant.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  Draxynnic.
    #243040

    Going back to the broader concept of the endgame, I wonder if you guys could expand on what you feel the issues are, and your potential solutions, and also mechanics from other games that work well, or don’t, as this is a discussion on 4x as a whole, not just our beloved AoW3.

    The issues for me are:

      micro management and lots of clicking (scaleability of managing what you did in the early game, basically).

    AoW3 guilty due to needing to move multiple stacks (although, at least against AI, which to be fair is where most late game issues are going to come from, you need maybe 3 powerful stacks and you can win), alternatives discussed in the dev survey a few months ago). I’d label this as a quality of life issue, and I think the solutions here are interface and design related. Using Aow3 as an example, the advantage of multiple stacks is it allows strategic map control, e.g. chokepoints. Disadvantage is clicking and also split stacking.

    Ergo, if there is a way to maintain area control, and negate the need for clicking (and by extension negate the chance to split stack) then this is worth considering. So, potential solutions are higher stack numbers and a zone of control. I think the Total War games do this fairly well (thinking Rome 2 and Attila as those are the ones I have most recently played) and is worth considering

      Challenge

    Or lack thereof, but before you have “won”. A lack of ‘tension,’ or ‘pressure’ which leads to tedium and a mop up phase. I see some notable attempts to alleviate it, for example:

    Endless Legend with Winter and Titans mechanics. My issue with this game is that is just plays quite boring, but there are many good ideas there (provinces, city management, racial intros, quests) than on paper make for an amazing game, but somehow don’t quite gel. Still, it’s an important game and worth discussing.

    I feel like Winter is a good idea to limit player progression (I understand the upcoming Shifters dlc allows players to exploit winter?) and it makes sense within the lore (dying planet) but I wonder if weather, climate, and seasons could be used more in games to encourage pacing and strategic thought. Rome 2 eventually added this in, and winter can be annoying there (attrition etc).

    I see Titans are coming to Thea as well, and this and winter seem like good ideas to increase the challenge of the environment (I assume increasing the challenge of the AI is a whole different kettle of fish).

    I think the Cosmic Happenings are a great great idea in AoW3, and I think more could have been done with them. They work well to break up the routine and provide a challenge (although it seems to me that whenever indies come onto the map, they always go after me and only me!) I also think the visiting heroes etc could have had quest chains attached to them but I digress (greater quests, interlinked quests, etc are things I have in my dream version of AoW!)

      AI

    I suppose this is related to challenge, but it deserves its own section imho. We’ve recently seen an AI defeat a GrandMaster at Go, so it should be easy to create amazing AI, right, RIGHT?

    I doubt it’s quite that easy, but it is worth considering how it was done. My understanding is that they basically data mined what moves are most often played and ‘taught’ the ai to do that, instead of trying to analyse every possible permutation.

    I could be very wrong about that though, as I know nothing about AI programming, just what I read on the ever reliable internet.

    So, I think, going forward, the goal in 4 xs should be to create a more Human like AI, not necessarily a more brutal/efficient/challenging. By Human, I mean mimicking playing against a Human, I don’t mean create a biological brain AI with loads of neurons.

    Feel free to enslave some Humans and force them to play your games and work out their routines and then transplant that into your AI logic though. I kindly volunteer to be enslaved for this project, for the greater good of Humanity, ofcourse.

    Jokes aside, credible, entertaining AI is I think the area that has progressed the least since computer games started being a thing. Graphics have become awesome, photo realistic in some cases and we can now have multiplayer games with 32 people (Stellaris) etc etc. Quite some amazing stuff.

    But not so much AI it would appear.

    #243041

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Ergo, if there is a way to maintain area control, and negate the need for clicking (and by extension negate the chance to split stack) then this is worth considering. So, potential solutions are higher stack numbers and a zone of control. I think the Total War games do this fairly well (thinking Rome 2 and Attila as those are the ones I have most recently played) and is worth considering

    One thing I’ve considered is having a method whereby you can select multiple stacks where one stack is considered to be the leader. Issuing a move command with this group would then cause the lead stack to move to that location while the other stacks maintain their relative positions to the lead stack (moving at the speed of the slowest). This could reduce the degree of clicking required to move large armies in general, while also helping to prevent things like a quick-moving player being able to initiate battle against a single stack before their opponent can move up the others in simultaneous turns.

    I think the Cosmic Happenings are a great great idea in AoW3, and I think more could have been done with them. They work well to break up the routine and provide a challenge (although it seems to me that whenever indies come onto the map, they always go after me and only me!) I also think the visiting heroes etc could have had quest chains attached to them but I digress (greater quests, interlinked quests, etc are things I have in my dream version of AoW!)

    As I’ve expressed previously, these generally tend to come in three categories: either they do nothing or even help you win, they apply some setback to you that ultimately just makes it take longer, or they knock you out and you feel as if you were beaten by the RNG. (Conservative play can reduce the chance of a ‘knockout’, but can also tend to make the game longer, which often means a longer mopup phase…)

    Mind you, sometimes fighting the environment is half (or more) of the fun. Nevertheless, this is why I tend to put my focus towards means to end the game quickly when the player is dominant, at least in single-player. Other measures that have been proposed can add spice, and are worthwhile considering as options on that basis, but I don’t think any of them are actually likely to eliminate or even substantially reduce the mopup phase. At most, they delay the onset. In my experience, the more time you spend fighting the environment rather than other leaders, generally the more likely you are to have an extended mopup phase.

    I doubt it’s quite that easy, but it is worth considering how it was done. My understanding is that they basically data mined what moves are most often played and ‘taught’ the ai to do that, instead of trying to analyse every possible permutation.

    From what I recall, they started from there, but the real breakthrough was coming up with an AI that could genuinely learn. They then had that AI train itself by playing a few million games against itself and evaluating after each game what worked and what didn’t.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  Draxynnic.
    #243046

    @ Drax, I think at least part of the problem is that the mop up phase is tedious and boring, not necessarily that it exists as such.

    If it can be made fun…

    However, you are right in that it can feel as if the rng did you in. I think a system whereby the likelihood of such events, i.e. events that disrupt the player in the lead, is related to the actions of the player in taking that lead, is more intuitive and makes sense.

    I suppose this could be called a reactive world/system. For example, in the Stellaris Blorg videos (which you should watch, quite entertaining) the player rapidly destroyed an ai in a war, which prompted certain other ais to form a coalition because he was now perceived as a threat.

    That is a good example of a reactive world, and the players actions influence that. In getting stronger, the opposition scales. It makes sense in Stellaris, and could also in AoW, as you talk about in your diplomacy posts.

    I think a part of inducing later game tension (which would reduce the tedium) would be having stuff for the player to aim for (e.g. in Crusader Kings2, which is a long and never ending game, there is always something to play for) and having the player never have quite enough resources etc to completely steamroll an opponent.

    #243048

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Yeah, a reactive system is one of the things I’ve been pushing for. AIs should recognise when the player is growing powerful and act accordingly, including potentially uniting to oppose the player.

    However, as long as the game is one that is intended to have an endpoint that isn’t simply reaching a preset game length, I think it’s also worth having an option (in allied victory games anyway…) for the AI to recognise it just can’t win and seek to negotiate a peace. Like I’ve said before, my experiences with having a mopup phase have generally come about because of the mechanic that was introduced where some AIs will just point-blank refuse to ally with you regardless of your relative strengths, relations, or anything else, and you have no way of knowing which until you’ve built them up a bit and still get your offers refused with the “Sorry, we just can’t afford this” message.

    Previously, if I was dominant and only had one or two other leaders present, they were either already allies or I could bully cajole them into forming an alliance if I didn’t feel like militarily crushing them.

    #254331

    The genre is only stagnant because of the player base. There are so many good strategy games from AoW3 to Dominions4. Total warhammer and many other 4x games have a lot of players. As for a community the good ones remain. AoW3 has so much live multiplayer value. If the players on different timezones could coordinate better, the game could be played in 2-3 sessions. What makes AoW3 and Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion so good is the original base building. People overlook how important orignal and fun base building adds to a genre.

    Rather than competing with SC2 and Warcraft 3 base building, they take a different approach, Giving the games longevity. I would play AoW3 or SoaSE Rebellion over any traditional base building game any day. I have never played Dominions 4, but from what I hear both SP and MP are great. The genre will always have a hard time competing with FPS and MMORPG playerbase, but the desire for a great online boardgame will always remain.

    The player base is smaller, so the developers and players can work to find a middle ground that fits players schedules and remains original.

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