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Let's talk about balance

research balance MoO 2

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Kr_mel #1 Posted 23 August 2015 - 12:25 PM

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Preface:

As some of you may have heard, it seems that the remake is replacing the tech tree of the original games (where you had to make choices at each step unless your race was creative) with a fixed tree instead. This (german) source here http://www.gamestar.de/spiele/master-of-orion/artikel/master_of_orion,52363,3234668.html quotes producer Chris Keeling saying that the old system was "poorly balanced". The author of the article seems to agree, saying that "anyone who researched the Plasma Gun did not have to care too much about battles in the future" and that "creative races were overpowered even though the cost for being creative was high".

 

I would be interested in a discussion about that topic of balance, since I always felt that on the higher levels of the game there were various ways to build sucessful ship designs depending on the current tech stage and the A.I. was just too stupid to use combinations properly and had certain weaknesses in their basic jack-of-all-trades design (but was able to field way more ships than they should be able to in order to sort of balance that).

 

Just to be clear: I am not asking or requesting to bring the old system back in the remake and would be willing to see how that turns out first before making up my mind about if that is a good of bad decision.

 

Background information that I assume the reader to be familiar with:

There are various ways unlocked by research that enable weapons to bypass specific layers of defence on ships, which in MoO 2 were:

  1. Shields (do regenerate in all cases after each turn)
  2. Armor (do normally not regenerate)
  3. Structure (if specific parts of this get destroyed, the ship goes down)

Most of those were bypassable by installing advanced targeting subsystems (like the Achilles Targeting Unit, which bypassed Armor). However, there were always options to stop the bypass mechanisms too (like using Heavy Armor).

Also, research included a system that made technology that was "old-gen" more interesting because you could build these for lower cost and at less space when you researched improvements and often made you think about if you wanted to use your "new toys" or a larger quantity of systems you were already familiar with.

Fleet combat happend in a turn-based fashion, which depending on the version either favoured the attacker by going first or whoever had the higher initiative.

Calculating the actual damage depended on a lot of factors, not only the raw damage of the weapon, but also factors like enemy shield strength and damage reduction, hit and evasion modifiers and range dissipation.

 

Talking point I: Which weapon is the most powerful anyway?

The quoted preview article seems to indicate that specific weapons were too powerful for some reason, a notion that even in the past I heard often, especially with the already mentioned Plasma Gun. But was it really the most powerful weapon available?

What sort of made this weapon popular was its native ability called "Enveloping", meaning each shot would actually hit the enemy on all four sides at the same time. You might think this means it do four times the amount of damage that it should do, but taking enemy shields into consideration (including that you actually had to blast through four times the total amount to shield strength to begin with) and the fact that it had double the usual amount to range dissipation makes this not so clear in my opinion.

Other weapons, like the Disruptor and Phasor were able to fire three times instead of once for a little bit more space, cost and each shots getting a penalty for actually hitting. Other high end weapons like the Mauler Device and the Stellar Converter seemed unfair because they always hit, but do not get options to fire more often and took up a lot more space to begin with.

So in the end I think that the question is not so clear and to answer which would be best depends a lot on what sort of defensive system your potential target brings to the fight and involves a lot of math in the process. If you do, one likely would emerge as the most powerful (in my experience in the most cases that would be the Phasor), but most of them bring significant weaknesses with them as well (for the Phasor, it cannot cause damage to planetary installations protected by the heavy planetary shield systems for example), so is any one of them "overpowered"? I do not think any one of the better choices is that much more powerful than the other to call them such. But I would be very interested in your opinion on this, especially why you think your choice is the most powerful.


A minor side point: I excluded weapons other than beam weapons for this discussion because most of them fulfill a niche role in the late game. I do not think that that is fair, but most of those weapons had their moment in specific times in the game.

 

Talking point II: What really made player-designed ships more powerful than the A.I.?
Since the A.I. was either not researching those maybe "imbalanced weapons" nor decided to stick with it for a long time, it made battles against it too easy when the amount to ships on both sides was equal. It was even possible to wipe out way bigger fleets of A.I. ships with just a few of your own within a single combat round without even giving them the chance to retaliate.

My point here would instead be that the design practices the A.I. seemed to follow were too generic. The wasted a lot of space on their ships on smaller crafts (which never got their space and cost reduced by proceeding to higher tech, but their offensive power scaled with tech and once they managed to reach their target, they were sure to hit). Also they often were placing too much focus on very specific counter-things like Anti-Missile measures (point defence weapons and Anti-Rockets) which were helpful in the early- to midgame, but once the player switched to mostly beam weapons were just a waste of space).
Whatever much space was left over was actually used for offensive weapons, often a mix of rockets and beam weapons. However, the A.I. never combined this with helpful defensive subsystems or those subsystems that actually made beam weapons effective by multiplying the raw damage of those.

In the end, the results was too "jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none". They could be shot down by specialized player ships before their fightercrafts or missiles could do any damage because of the lack of subsystems to deny the bypass of defenses, and the small assortment of beam weapons barely managed to hit anything and were not supported enough to do serious damage even if they did.

 

So the question is: Were parts of the system "imbalanced" and abused by the player too much, or was the A.I. just to stupid?
 

I think with some small modifications, like making Hard Shields and Heavy Armor manadtory the A.I. would have actually fared a lot better. Still, they were able to build and maintain an absurd amount of ships, too, which I would be the first to admit made fights fun, because it always felt like you accomplished something.

 

Talking point III: So, was there actually something that was too powerful in player vs. player siturations?

I admit that I do not have too much experience fighting other players but I (and probably many of you, too), know about certain combinations of subsystems that resulted in ships that were built to be conventionally undefeatable. But even those can be countered, too (requiring a similar level of technology and some thinking).
So in total, was there a design that was total out of balance? Or were there just some good practices along the tech ladder that worked well in specific siturations?

 

tl;dr
Some points about the ship designs in MoO 2 are adressed. The author thinks most of those are actually preconceptions resulting from poor ship design on behalf of the A.I., but that the underlying system was properly balanced out and gave a lot of diversity, but would appreciate more talk on the matter.



MOO2MOD #2 Posted 08 September 2015 - 08:33 AM

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The research trees of MOO1 and MOO2 were quite different.

I am not sure if I have a preference, but probably for the a.i. the system from moo1 was better.

The 'pick 1 out of 3' system in part2 was giving a.i. a hard time to make proper choices.

If you like to discuss MOO2 balance, than Civfanatics forum is prob. a better place, as there are a couple of active Moo2 players there.

About weapons balance in moo2: the game can be won just using 2 Cruisers with basic x2 Nukes on a Huge map.

So in that sense the game is poorly balanced as there is no need to research anything at all.

 

As of today, we don't know anything about Moo4's balance, apart from having seen some screenshots and a couple of poor quality previews.

Let's just hope the dev's spend some good time on getting that balance right or make the game highly moddable (or both).


Edited by MOO2MOD, 08 September 2015 - 08:35 AM.


EmP64213 #3 Posted 13 September 2015 - 11:08 AM

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Which weapon is the most powerful anyway?

 

Before 1.31 patch plasma cannon, gyro destabilizer and ion cannon used less space. It was easy to kill the Guardian by spinning it to death and remember using ion cannon a lot. I don't remember whether plasma cannon was overpowered but I assume they had a reason to nerf it. With latest official patch there is no the most powerful weapon. Phasor beam is the best vs shielded ships without hard shields, distruptor is the best vs hard shields and plasma cannon is the best vs unshielded ships or vs ships with damper field. Mauler device is good for clearing planetary defenses and for having an extra option on a ship which is not designed around beam attack. Stellar converter is very large so it's simply not space efficient as phasor, distruptor or plasma cannon. There is not a single most powerful weapon but once you start miniaturizing phasor cannons AI has lost the game.

 

What really made player-designed ships more powerful than the A.I.?

Humans ability to adapt and AI's inability to surprise. Even randomly choosing between few stereotypes would be better then always building the same jack-of-all-trades design. Interestingly AI with access to only some tech can make better ships then AI with access to all.

 

About creative perk. It's not overpowerd, in fact it significantly slow the player's progress. It costs a lot "picks" and makes player spend more time developing few colonies instead of expanding. By the time creative race becomes capable of making offensive fleet, DemoLith and UniTol races have reached the end of tech tree and colonized half the map.



Seablaze #4 Posted 08 January 2016 - 09:12 AM

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Which weapon is the most powerful anyway?


 

I think the biggest issue with the Plasma Cannon, compared to Autofire Phasors or Disruptors, was the point it arrived in the game, put simply, it was the earliest of the three. Phasors could be researched the level before Plasma Cannon, however, they required the Auto-Fire modification to be supremely effective. This modification required further research, so the Plasma Cannon was the earliest acquired. In addition, gap-closing in MoO2 was often trivial. With Augmented Engines and a decent drive (Ion, maybe), you could reliably close to melee range with another ship by the second turn of the game. When combat initiative is turned off by default, Plasma cannon's drawback were nullified, and they were a very powerful weapon as a result.


 

If you wanted to balance Plasma Cannons, include longer-range engagements, and make gap-closing more hazardous, and a more involved process.


 

As for the most powerful weapon otherwise, it depends on your tech levels, and the defences of the other team. A quickly-researched Autofire Mass Driver is incredibly strong in the hands of a Creative race, because they also research Strong Shields and good targeting computers in doing so.


 

Missiles are very powerful when you exploit the game engine to force the other team to shoot at 'decoy' missiles, making Nuclear and Merculite missiles extremely potent in the early and midgame. Remember that missiles don't require a targeting computer to have excellent accuracy, so they allow non-creative races to research laboratories, instead of ship computers. This is particularly important for industrial races, who can almost exclusively use missiles for combat, and use their population for production, while researching through the passive bonuses from buildings.


 

 


 

What really made player-designed ships more powerful than the A.I.?

The ability to adapt to the situation, and build specific ships. There are a bunch of tricks you can do with player-designed ships, like firing cheap or fast 'decoy' missiles to trigger anti-missile defences before expensive missiles hit, or adapting to technology levels, whether your own, or your opponents'.


 

Human Players will often optimize their research paths to ensure they have the technologies they want for their ship designs, and will consider the most space-efficient items to put on their ships. Players will use the most effective weapons they have researched, as opposed to building a ship with some of their most advanced beams and most advanced bombs and most advanced missiles. This gives players a lot more Bang for their Buck, whether that's Space on the ships, or Research points.


 

Other than that, the AI for fighting ship battles is not amazing, but it is the only system the AI can use. Ask yourself why you don't use it as a player? - Because the AI will suicide your ships and fight much less effectively, they won't utilize tactics like rotating ships to make use of shield facing, and they won't focus on important targets. Tactical battles and Ship designs are features that expand player-vs-player gameplay, but give a Human Player a significant advantage over an AI.


 

I think that one of the best ways to improve the AI's chance in this situation is to give the AI the ability to 'learn' player-designed ship models, whether that is ships that the owner of the game builds often, over multiple games, or through modding/community designs. Otherwise, the developers could simply improve the default AI ship building strategy. As for tactical battles? That's a question of how competent that AI is - if you want to make it 'fair', play simulated or statistical battles, to ensure that you're on the same footing at the AI, but remember that it is one of the few advantages you have against Unfair/Impossible AI.


 


 

So, was there actually something that was too powerful in player vs. player situations?


 

Short Answer? There is in every game, and that is often player knowledge. If you know the game, or the strategy you're playing more than your opponent, you're going to stomp them in most cases, regardless of whether the other player picks something and you don't, typically, because you will be able to counter that pick/tech/etc.


 

If I can make a bold statement that will probably upset someone, it is that the author of the Article in the OP's post has a shallow understanding of Master of Orion as a player-vs-player game, and that assertations such as 'Plasma Cannons make all further combat trivial' or 'Creative races are overpowered' suggest that the author plays against an artificial opponent, an opponent that has a particularly poor reaction against specific strategies.


 

One of my biggest arguments for a fixed research tree is that you will always have an option to counter a particular opponent's strategy, and you can find the best way to deal with them. In addition, it makes certain choices more dynamic - do you need an armour upgrade to give your ships more survivability against the other team, a fuel cell upgrade so you can get to their worlds and fight back, or an atmosphere renewer so you can clean up pollution and build ships at a reasonable rate - if you skipped certain earlier technologies in each area, the choice is even more intresting.


 

I think there are a lot of viable strategies in Player-vs-player games, and there are not necessarily overpowered tactics. There are a lot of strong strategies, and just as many counter-strategies.


 


 

If you want to discuss specific perks or research paths, let me know, and I'd love to have a good argument about them.


 

If you want an example, the Telepathic perk is a steal at 6 points, and conveys benefits in many different areas. I would always back it on perk-point-efficiency OVER Creative, and would definitely consider picking it over Creative, even if both cost 8 perk-points.
 


Edited by Seablaze, 08 January 2016 - 09:13 AM.


OLLY24 #5 Posted 08 March 2016 - 03:19 PM

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Seablaze ... you miss a point by pointing out that everything has it's counter and out of that coming to the conclusion that creative is not a must have perk in player vs player battles. 

Yes there is a counter for everything you are right up to that point. But without having acces to all technologies of a group you are limited. So without being creative there are things you can counter und things you cannot counter. The point you are then missing is that the race tab is giving you complete knowledge about any completed research of everyone you made contact with. With that knowledge given an experienced player with a creative race will be able to adapt his strategies and designs in a way that will be a problem for you.



BraggiMoO #6 Posted 25 June 2016 - 08:09 PM

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View PostOLLY24, on 08 March 2016 - 03:19 PM, said:

Yes there is a counter for everything you are right up to that point. But without having acces to all technologies of a group you are limited. So without being creative there are things you can counter und things you cannot counter. The point you are then missing is that the race tab is giving you complete knowledge about any completed research of everyone you made contact with. With that knowledge given an experienced player with a creative race will be able to adapt his strategies and designs in a way that will be a problem for you.

 

Only if you have time enough. There's a reason why all really efficient custom races don't use creative.

Creative is an advantage when you get an instant perk from your additional tech (say better ground combat, pop growth, speed). If you get a blueprint this doesn't help you - yet. You also need the economy to build it. This is especially true for most colony upgrades. For the creative perk points another race may buy faster research, pop growth, better production, effective immediately...

So yes, creative may have all level 4 techs, but the specialist has lvl 5, making the weapons he uses smaller and cheaper.

 

UniTol is a nice race, just expanding on everything and finally building up overwhelming production capacity. But is it the best? No. Why? Same reason, time.

It takes some resources = time to build and disperse Colo ships. When founded, a colony doesn't contribute but is busy building up production. Probably cash flow is negative, as installations build faster than new people grow. While the planet has no defense, all this investment can be destroyed or worse conquered instantly. Only after quite a long ramp up time it hit break even with the colony, and starts to produce more than UniTol initially spent.

 

A creative race may know all the low tech, but the competition may have some higher ones, and more production capacity. Being creative also doesn't help you if you have to research the counter first, because you're not faster, just a know-it-all.

Even on impossible there were ways to trade tech with AI (especially with charisma and some diplomatic leaders). Leaders were also disruptive - offering boosts and sometimes techs. Modified by charisma, the best ones came to the biggest fleets or civilisations, which was often not the creative race.

 



greg240 #7 Posted 03 December 2017 - 02:15 AM

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"

I think that one of the best ways to improve the AI's chance in this situation is to give the AI the ability to 'learn' player-designed ship models, whether that is ships that the owner of the game builds often, over multiple games, or through modding/community designs. Otherwise, the developers could simply improve the default AI ship building strategy. As for tactical battles? That's a question of how competent that AI is - if you want to make it 'fair', play simulated or statistical battles, to ensure that you're on the same footing at the AI, but remember that it is one of the few advantages you have against Unfair/Impossible AI."

 

thats great IDEA > computer remember and use player ship[ designs

another good idea is change radomly tactics for example once hit weekest ship, another time ships giving bosts to other ships ...

 

PLS make in multiplayer TACTICAL COMBAT , arguments its to long r stuipid why? Make timer for Tactical combat like in Chess each side 60-90seconds, or give us choice to pick tactical timer 30,60,90,120,150 seconds!!

We want choice

 


Edited by greg240, 03 December 2017 - 02:16 AM.






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