The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

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brettz123
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:23 pm

deducter wrote:
brettz123 wrote: I would not support this at all. The same thing can just be achieved by limiting the number of prestige you get in a scenario and is less complex. There should not be any mechanics that punish play.
There are absolutely mechanics that punish play. I want to attack with my Tiger into a city with a Guards 43. Oh wait, my Tiger took 6 losses. Well, I don't want to be punished for my play. Obviously the correct balancing answer here is to allow the Tiger to destroy the infantry with 0 losses.
There is a world of between the two and I am pretty sure everyone knows the difference :lol:

I think we should focus on more elegant ways to go around fixing the problem and not brute force "take prestige" options. If the answer is as simple as less prestige than just give less in the first place.

deducter
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:33 pm

brettz123 wrote:
I think we should focus on more elegant ways to go around fixing the problem and not brute force "take prestige" options. If the answer is as simple as less prestige than just give less in the first place.
A flat reduction to prestige does not in any way resolve the issue that heavy tanks are more economical.

Regarding Tigers vs Panzer IVs, there are two general philosophical solutions: 1) Improve medium tank combat stats to be the same as heavy tanks, or 2) Introduce some sort of weakness to heavy tanks, not necessarily in combat power, but perhaps in cost. Option 2) automatically constitutes a nerf on heavy tanks, since a nerf is by definition an introduction of a weakness.

However, I don't think the phrase "punish play" is good semantics. Rather, I think a better term is "balancing," particularly if it improves gameplay where choices matters more.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Blathergut » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:38 pm

As someone pointed out: Don't forget ye olde basic gamer who has a hard time with the game. I stopped playing in the middle of the Russian DLCs because it was becoming too hard (as well as time constraints).

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by ThvN » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:01 pm

Aw, brettz123, I have to apologize in advance for my post, as you are the only one so far who has given his opinion on it. So I'm going to take your counter-arguments and try to further explain what I mean by picking them apart. It's nothing personal, I don't want to trash your opinion, but I enjoy a solid debate. And I've seen many good suggestions, including the about the scenario/AI changes you support, but this one's mine so I'll be a bit vigorous about it :shock: . If you don't like my tone and/or attitude, just let me know, I'll tone it down a bit, I can get over-excited sometimes.

Ok, are you ready?
brettz123 wrote:I would not support this at all. The same thing can just be achieved by limiting the number of prestige you get in a scenario and is less complex.
You don't have to support it, but I'm going to use your arguments to further highlight what I'm talking about. First of all, adjusting the prestige earned in scenarios is very complex, and very hard to do in the current system where everyone gets the same prestige bonuses. And you have to do it for every scenario, for every outcome. I'm sorry but saying it's 'less complex' is not going to cut it for me as an argument without some more detailed explanation/examples.
There should not be any mechanics that punish play.
I started typing this reply before deducter responded, luckily I checked before posting, but I'm not going to change to content, although his examples are slightly better to get the point across. Anyway:

With the same logic: there should be no time limit to complete a scenario, no difference in DV/MV's, you should be given all 'reward' units when finishing a scenario, you shouldn't have to pay to replace losses during when playing. Sorry, but by extending your own logic I can turn the argument upside down. This is not to say your argument is bad, just that you should be careful in stating and defining what you mean by it. Why shouldn't the units be subject to expenses when using them? You are already paying to replace losses, to overstrenght them. In fact you are paying to refuel/rearm already, in that most precious of all commodities: time.
Things like paying for "maintenance" or paying to keep a CORE unit from being transferred to another front.
Ok, now I understand why you are worried. You misunderstood my argument and made it into something else. Let me quote myself: These are just examples, please don’t take them to literally. What I meant was that in real life, a General had to exert influence to be able to keep using the most prestigious units. I used this argument to try and support the notion that keeping expensive hardware under your command might incur 'prestige' maintenance costs. And that this mechanism is already implemented in the game by the way the core transfers to GC '42-'43 West. There was some protest about that too, but it seems to have been accepted mostly. I wasn't trying to say that OKH should take my units away if I failed to pay my subscription fees. Sorry about the misunderstanding.
This needs to be fixed without taking prestige from players in a punitive manner.
I echo deducter again, the game already does this. It's just that the definition of 'punitive' can be rather personal. Some people feel punished if the combat predictor is too far off, or have their precious unit wrecked by a rugged defense. Actually it's the hardship that can provide the fun as well, nothing is so satisfying as overcoming difficulty. So what is your definition of punitive? Because it is rather pivotal to your argument, and it is rather hard for me to adress it without knowing what you mean by it. I have a definition or three, but then again I know a thing or two about penology.
How many players will become angry enough to stop playing the game (and not buy follow on DLCs) if they end up losing a unit "to another front" during the game because they don't have enough prestige to keep it?


Adressed above, this is not what I proposed. But as an interesting aside, how many people stopped playing or demanded their money back when they started GC '42-'43 West and their finely-tuned core was taken away from them, followed by the robbery of their massive prestige build-up? Cyprus pales in comparison to the losses inflicted on the player here. I haven't seen much complaints yet, but it would be interesting to see the sales of GC'44 West en GC' 45 West to see if this is happening and on what scale.
Paying anything but a token amount for supply is essentially the same as paying a per turn prestige penalty.
'Essentially', yes & no. I didn't say how much prestige would have to be spend on maintenance/supply, but it should not cripple normal players, that would defeat the entire purpose of the system.

Yes in the sense that the player will have to spend prestige regularly to keep his units fighting, but with the important distinction that the player can control within limits how much he spends.

And no: a fixed per-turn penalty is markedly different, a fixed amount of prestige for everybody regardless of difficulty (which is the current system, the one we want to change, the whole reason for this thread) will be a 'token' payment for a snowball player but extra hardship for a rookie.

If a rookie pays next to nothing and a snowballer pays more, it will reduce the 'snowball gap'. If a player with a large core of cheaper units pays very little, and a player who fields all jets and Jagdtigers pays more, than it will not penalize the people who play 'historical' cores or very large ones, and not even those who have the occasional top-tier unit. But it will dampen the multiple 15-strength Tiger II + Me262 cores, as first of all a 15-str unit would at least be 50% more expensive to maintain (not to operate, unfortunately, unless the fuel consumption mechanism is changed) than a regular unit, and you might be paying as much in maintenance and supply for it as several 'lesser' tanks.

So it would dampen excess, if you call that penalizing, it's more like taxing the rich while trying to spare the poor. And it's not a linear tax, but one that gradually ramps up.
It is a bad idea because it punishes people who cannot stockpile large amounts of prestige and again is a punitive means of limiting prestige.


Again, I didn't say how much prestige would have to be spent on maintenance. What would you consider excessive or punitive amounts? It doesn't have to be much, and it certainly shouldn't be much for the cheaper units, I just stated it should be relatively more for the more expensive ones. That's all.

And again, if limiting prestige is punitive, than the whole prestige system is based on punishment, as you are always awarded finite (=limited) amounts, and you are forced to spend it at regular intervals already, at least I assume most people don't still use Panzer I's in 1945 and have to reinforce them regularly.

The beauty with maintenance/operating costs is that you don't have to stockpile tons of prestige, as per the current system. You have to keep a small pool of prestige, but if you always start a scenario with next to zero prestige and can't get some in a few turns, well, I suggest playing at a lower level? :P

In my proposal, if it is properly balanced for the various difficulties, it will be a very gradual and 'death by a thousand cuts' system. It doesn't remove whole chunks of prestige as happens when resurrecting a dead unit or upgrading, for example. So people should not run into walls, but get gently squeezed a bit more as they try to balance maximizing their core composition vs. expenses. Just like real life, balancing the budget. And under the current system people can get stuck after upgrading too much too fast and then start to be unable to fill up their core as well.
I don't mind rewarding efficient CORE construction but punishing one style of CORE construction over another is not a good idea.
I agree with this statement. So am I correct in assuming that you are opposed to the current system then, as it punishes (even mildly) historical cores in favour of the 'big snowball of doom' cores that are, as deducter has repeated often, more economical in use, because they are not only more effecient, but the most efficient as well? If you are opposed to maintenance costs as well, what would be the best solution to this problem? You seem to advocate better scenario design and branching, coupled with better AI tactics. Those are good options as well, but I understandd from Rudankorts' posts that he want a solution which focuses more on the way experience and prestige are handled in the game. So I tried to tailor my suggestion to this.
The 5-star games are about allowing you to build your forces anyway you want and we shouldn't be changing that philosophy.
We just spend a lot of time reading how many people would like an alternative to the 'snowballs of doom' cores that are the most efficient and economical of all types. And you just stated (previous quote) that you do not want a certain type of core punished (or favoured, looked at from the other side - same difference). So in my opinion, your arguments do not (fully) support your conclusion. All other types of core are being 'punished' compared to the snowballs as of now. (same as deducter, editing in)

I'm trying to think of something that will still allow people to field some big OS units or have a 'bunch of average ones' or anything in between without favouring a very narrow type of core composition. So there won't be a 'perfect' core, or a 'typical' one, and players can spend their well-earned prestige as they like, they can squander it on keeping fleets of Tigers rumbling around, or be a bit more frugal and operate a big core with cheaper, but still experienced amd effective units which can be replaced at low cost, and they can afford to take some expensive stuff onboard if they are doing well.

It encourages experimenting with core setups, and will give a bit more depth to the supply system. I hope that people would feel more rewarded by this sort of system, instead of defaulting to the top units, wait until they are experienced, upgrade them to the best in class, and then just hammer T-34's all day long.
This game is so successful because it is easy to play and allows people to build the forces they want to build. If you start changing that you aren't going to have the same kind of game anymore and I think that is a very bad thing.
But as it is now, I can build my semi-historical core and get hammered in the field, and see my core evaporate after 1944. Not much fun. Or I could be smart, pick the best units and go on a rampage, and end up swimming in prestige that I'll never need because my units are almost invincible. Not much of a choice, I think.

I don't want to force my playing style on other people, but when even the devs start asking for suggestions to re-balance the prestige/experience system, well, I'm just trying to help out. Of course we have to accept that the game forces people to adhere to a certain minimum standard when it comes to fielding forces. For example, you can't play the whole game with the core you start with in 1939 or with only airplanes or whatever. But the current system rewards a single type of core over others, at least that is the problem we are trying to solve in this thread. And I've seen many good suggestions, and your support for better scenario/AI design is very commendable, but I got the impression that something else was being asked for, and yes, I know that introducing maintenance/supply costs will be controversial, but I think it provides an answer (note: not 'the' answer) to some of the problems.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by taffjones » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:15 pm

I think Deductors ideas are good for those advanced players, but could make it harder for new/basic gamers. Could his preposals be linked to the difficulty level?
So you keep the incremental cost for OS'ing units on the lower levels, but a multiplier is applied to the proposed incremental increase from general and above.
Say x5 to the incremental cost on General
x10 on FM
X15 for the bonus levels.
This shouldn't impact on newer players but as you increase in skill in playing the game, the cost of OS units goes up in line with your skill level and should help drain the prestige down. It would still allow players the freedom to pick the types of units in their core as they please. But cost a lot more if they OS all their core units.

deducter
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:48 pm

Blathergut wrote:As someone pointed out: Don't forget ye olde basic gamer who has a hard time with the game. I stopped playing in the middle of the Russian DLCs because it was becoming too hard (as well as time constraints).
I agree. Reform units, by lessening the death penalty, should very much help out players who are struggling with content. Even if they lose say 50% of their core, all of them come back the next scenario with only a small penalty, and can be fit to keep fighting.

Even my overstrength overhaul proposal will actually help out struggling players in late scenarios, who I assume aren't fielding massive cores full of super elite overstrength units. Which means by the time the late war comes around, their comparatively weaker cores are overrun by the AI's core of 2-3 star units with 12-14 strength. It should provide some resiliency to struggling ones.
taffjones wrote:I think Deductors ideas are good for those advanced players, but could make it harder for new/basic gamers. Could his preposals be linked to the difficulty level?
So you keep the incremental cost for OS'ing units on the lower levels, but a multiplier is applied to the proposed incremental increase from general and above.
Say x5 to the incremental cost on General
x10 on FM
X15 for the bonus levels.
This shouldn't impact on newer players but as you increase in skill in playing the game, the cost of OS units goes up in line with your skill level and should help drain the prestige down. It would still allow players the freedom to pick the types of units in their core as they please. But cost a lot more if they OS all their core units.
I absolutely agree! I've long been an advocate of introducing new rules and mechanics on higher difficulty levels.

I want to keep Colonel exactly the way it is now; if anything, there should be more prestige for the player. No overstrength mechanics tweaks, very small or no progressive increase to overstrength/maintenance costs, etc. I would like the advance rules to activate only on Field Marshall or above.

Although now that I think about it, adding some new difficulties between General and FM is a good idea. For names, they can be, Generalmajor, Generalleutenant, Colonel General, in between General and FM.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by MikeAP » Sun Mar 31, 2013 10:54 pm

I never understood the purpose of awarding prestige to players who simply capture towns.

If it's not an objective, then it shouldn't off prestige.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by boredatwork » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:56 pm

IMO the "easiest" solution is simply adopt a quality based core limit instead of a quantity based one.

As the developers have already said that such a system is out of consideration until PzC2 at the earliest and AC will not be PzC2 I have no interest in becoming involved in the sh*tstorm debate that would inevitably provoke.

However...

As an alternative to control the snowball you could adopt a different approach to arrive at the same effect: Rather than capping core quality at a fixed figure, instead design the scenario to always require a greater strength then the highest possible core quality to succeed, then subtract the actual quality of a player's core from this value and give the balance to players to purchase auxiliary units to make up the difference in quality.

"Greetings herr General, we have asked you to advance upon Stalingrad - we are temporarily allocating an extra 2580 prestige worth of auxiliary units to help you with this task"

That way difficulty level can more effectively be applied on a scenario by scenario basis to the overall force size (core + auxiliaries) and the scenario designer only has to balance each scenario on an individual basis around the single combined fixed (and thus predictable) figure as opposed to having to guestimate how a scenario's internal balance will affect the campaign as a whole.

If you have a weaker player whose core was damaged in the previous scenario he can still compete in subsequent scenarios because high command will just award him more/higher quality auxiliary units to take up the strain and vice versa.

Because it doesn't change how the current core system works implementation is relatively easy for all future content as simply an added step in the deployment phase. (plus it would allow players to buy new stuff every scenario, as opposed to just when their core was up for an upgrade.)

Of course it relies more upon the prestige value of a given unit and it's options (overstrength)/experience being a true reflection of it's actual value to allow such calculations to work so the 15 step panther Panther vs 10 step T-34 dilemma would still need to be solved.

edit - P.S. usually wait 30 minutes before responding to anything I post as I tend to edit the hell out of it for clarity. :|

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:21 am

deducter wrote:
brettz123 wrote:
I think we should focus on more elegant ways to go around fixing the problem and not brute force "take prestige" options. If the answer is as simple as less prestige than just give less in the first place.
A flat reduction to prestige does not in any way resolve the issue that heavy tanks are more economical.
That is my point. Flat reductions are a bad idea in any form in my opinion!
deducter wrote: Regarding Tigers vs Panzer IVs, there are two general philosophical solutions: 1) Improve medium tank combat stats to be the same as heavy tanks, or 2) Introduce some sort of weakness to heavy tanks, not necessarily in combat power, but perhaps in cost. Option 2) automatically constitutes a nerf on heavy tanks, since a nerf is by definition an introduction of a weakness.

However, I don't think the phrase "punish play" is good semantics. Rather, I think a better term is "balancing," particularly if it improves gameplay where choices matters more.
Agreed but don't do it by taking prestige away from people. I think we actually agree mostly.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:55 am

ThvN wrote:Aw, brettz123, I have to apologize in advance for my post, as you are the only one so far who has given his opinion on it. So I'm going to take your counter-arguments and try to further explain what I mean by picking them apart. It's nothing personal, I don't want to trash your opinion, but I enjoy a solid debate. And I've seen many good suggestions, including the about the scenario/AI changes you support, but this one's mine so I'll be a bit vigorous about it :shock: . If you don't like my tone and/or attitude, just let me know, I'll tone it down a bit, I can get over-excited sometimes.

Ok, are you ready?
No need to apologize a god debate is healthy. I will read your reply later tonight and then reply tomorrow after I have thought about what you said.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Zhivago » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:09 am

Panzer Corps II will evolve out of these kinds of discussions, however I think the ship has sailed for Panzer Corps I as far as these balancing arguments (without outsider mods). I wonder what Panzer Corps II will look like. I hope that when Panzer Corps II is released someday, it will not be a super-flashy graphics game. Keeping it simple graphically and instead pouring the time and development into gameplay will continue to make the franchise a success.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Razz1 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:28 am

1) Removing the extra die roll should solve the issue.
You could set it to 11 die rolls for any unit 11 and above.

2) Also, I never understood why all the late tanks increased in close defense by a huge amount.
By raising the CD above 3, it created super units because infantry can not attack tanks. Infantry becomes useless.

3) Another way to help is to increase the movement costs of all terrain.

Ever play an all snow/frozen/ mud map?

You have to stop every three turns to re-supply. Sure you may have Tiger I's and II's, but it does not help that much when you have to stop and resupply all the time. Want to play strategically? Well that's pretty hard because you can not move that many hexes. Roads play an important part in bad weather conditions.

Another example is hills and swamps. I never understood why tanks can just move through hills so easily. Basically hill movement is free.
Swamps only slow a vehicle when it is two or more hexes away.

The Bocage map is a perfect example of how hard it is to move tanks. In fact its a little too hard to have every map like that. However, if you play that map you will understand what I mean by increasing the movement costs for terrain.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 10:35 am

deducter wrote: I need to reiterate that in the current game system overstrength is currently the ECONOMICAL choice, not the expensive choice. You invest a significant amount of initial prestige, but you end up saving even more prestige over the course of several scenarios by minimizing step loss. Try to play some of the 1943+ scenarios with a core using all overstrength and one using no overstrength. The repair bill over several scenarios will be significant higher with the core with no overstrength.

I agree that powerful units is an important goal for players to go for. But in practice,these "powerful units" are in actuality "invincible units" that almost never take any damage and destroys almost everything in 1 or at most 2 hits. Even if the AI were playing like a human it would not be able to do anything. Rather, I think even the strongest unit should gradually take some step losses over the course of a battle.

Note also that the power increase of overstrength is not linear. A 15-strength 5-star Panther is not 50% better than a 10-strength 5-star Panther; it is more like 500%+ better, due to the former's invincibility against all but a few units.
Stronger core is always more economical than weaker one, especially in the long term. Provided that you can afford it in the short term. That's the whole point of prestige mechanics.

I still don't understand why you chose to attack the problem from this angle. You started this topic by stating that certain players accumulate a huge amount of prestige. But then, instead of investigating how to bring this prestige under control, you attack things which can be bought when prestige is unlimited. You start from over strength, but same line of argument can be applied to any other aspect of the game. Elite replacements are more economical than green replacements. Tiger II is more economical than any other tank. We cannot fix these problems by making everything which is cool and powerful in the game nerfed down. This might even be dangerous in Allied, because allies do not have such cool equipment as germans.

You say yourself that OS becomes an issue only very late, when you are at 5 stars and +5 OS. Well if you can afford all your units at 5 stars, best equipment and full OS, then you are already swimming in prestige. It is already too late to fix anything. We can scrap OS, but then instead the player will upgrade all his core to Tiger IIs as soon as they become available, and this is no smaller a problem than OS. In this game "unlimited prestige" is equal to "overpowered army". Breaking this link between game currency and core strength will require gameplay changes too drastic to consider. Easier to put prestige back under control.

As a side note, I'm not convinced that overstrength is the root of all evil. I don't doubt that 5-star 15-strength Panther is powerful. But this is a cumulative effect of experience (5 stars!), good equipment, maybe also some heroes on top, and finally overstrength. We could as well attack experience instead. Why not change the rules so that initiative is not increased with experience? It is a very simple change, it will not make any existing mechanics thrown out of the window, and it might well have the desired effect. Or we could tweak initiative altogether. For example, 1 point of initiative advantage gives the same effect as now. 2 and 3 points give the same effect, equal to what 2 gives now. 4, 5 and 6 give the same effect as 3 now. Etc. So, to grab a definitive advantage, much more effort is needed. This is risky though, because some other mechanics, like mass attack, could suffer. We could introduce combat tiredness, which would reduce initiative after every combat the unit participates in. Etc. These are just ideas from the top of my head.

---

Quick comments on other suggestions.

Prestige cap would work. The problem with it though, it discourages good play. Why try hard and finish the scenario as well as possible when you won't get any reward for this? This is a dangerous path to take. A more sophisticated approach, where the cap is soft and you still get prestige, just less of it, when you already have a lot, might work though. This is something I'm going to consider.

Adapting scenarios to player's core. This approach suffers from exactly the same problem as before. Why try to make the core stronger when the game will compensate this with stronger opposition? This is a faulty, counter-intuitive approach, which is also prone to all kinds of exploits. Depending on how the game measures the strength of the core there will be ways to fool the system, which will of course be very gamey and disconnected from reality. The only thing which might work is adapting AI behavior to player's core. The AI might gather statistics: how much damage it took from various player's unit types. If most damage is from bombers, it would buy more AA, if most damage is from artillery, it would buy more tanks etc. This is a very complex approach though, with questionable results.

Maintenance costs. It might well work. I find this mechanic rather tempting. But it will be a dramatic change in gameplay. As things stand now, you need to pay for replacements, that's your maintenance cost. Instead, we could introduce some cost for deploying a unit. It will be brought back to full strength for free, you just need to pay the maintenance. If you cannot afford it, the unit remains in reserve, but cannot be deployed. What will this give us? Losses no longer matter. Tiger II is no longer more economic, because it will have higher deployment costs, and the fact that it takes less losses does not matter any more (replacements are free). The goal of the player will be to compose a core which is the cheapest possible and still gets the job done (wins the scenario). The losses do not matter. Of course, it makes the game very different from what it is now. Sacrificing a lot of strength to grab the final victory becomes commonplace. Probably too dramatic a change, but interesting mechanics nonetheless. We could of course leave replacement costs in the game too. But then the whole unit management story becomes too complex, and the balancing effect of maintenance cost will largely be lost (Tiger II with its zero losses will become more economic again).

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by ThvN » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:58 pm

Rudankort wrote:As a side note, I'm not convinced that overstrength is the root of all evil. I don't doubt that 5-star 15-strength Panther is powerful. But this is a cumulative effect of experience (5 stars!), good equipment, maybe also some heroes on top, and finally overstrength. We could as well attack experience instead. Why not change the rules so that initiative is not increased with experience? It is a very simple change, it will not make any existing mechanics thrown out of the window, and it might well have the desired effect. Or we could tweak initiative altogether. For example, 1 point of initiative advantage gives the same effect as now. 2 and 3 points give the same effect, equal to what 2 gives now. 4, 5 and 6 give the same effect as 3 now. Etc. So, to grab a definitive advantage, much more effort is needed. This is risky though, because some other mechanics, like mass attack, could suffer. We could introduce combat tiredness, which would reduce initiative after every combat the unit participates in. Etc. These are just ideas from the top of my head.
I like the overstrength mechanism a lot, but it is very economical to use with some units. It gives cumulative bonuses of having more dice rolls and all those dice rolls are made with the experience bonus as well. So maybe reduce the bonus experience gives, like your idea to tweak the initiative, but that might not be enough. Or have unintended consequences elsewhere. It may be part of the solution, but the problem lies elsewhere I think.
Prestige cap would work. The problem with it though, it discourages good play. Why try hard and finish the scenario as well as possible when you won't get any reward for this? This is a dangerous path to take. A more sophisticated approach, where the cap is soft and you still get prestige, just less of it, when you already have a lot, might work though. This is something I'm going to consider.
Well, perhaps it would help to differentiate the difficulty levels more in terms of prestige levels. This is also an example of a 'law of diminishing returns'. But it reminds me of the complaints that in some scenarios the same prestige is awarded for DV and MV, and the path is the same as well. Some wondered what was motivating them for going for a DV in those scenarios. It may appear very illogical and counter-inituitive to some.
Maintenance costs. It might well work. I find this mechanic rather tempting. But it will be a dramatic change in gameplay. As things stand now, you need to pay for replacements, that's your maintenance cost.
That is a bit of an oversimplification I think; paying for replacements is just an aspect of maintenance. It's only the maintenance that is required when taking combat losses, nothing more really. But the rest of the 'real-world' maintenance is now simply ignored. This is not a problem, but expanding the concept might provide a solution.

In my eyes there is a system in place at the moment that models maintenance (and supply), but it ignores several very important aspects of it. Leading to the strange situation that if you do not suffer combat losses, you pay no maintenance. I believe that this is a crucial distinction, because it heavily favours units that take very few losses or are very cheap to replace. That is one of the reasons why I approached it from this angle. And yes, there will be a change in gameplay, but could be fairly intuitive and the actual combat system does not need to change, unless you also want to reduce effectiveness of experience and overstrength in the field. There is not one answer, it's a matter of prioritizing the different aspects of the game. That's your job, I'm just trying to complicate it :wink: .

BTW, what are your opinions on supply costs? They overlap with maintenance costs, but are still a little bit different from maintenance/deployment costs, I threw that idea in as it might help dampen the snowball mechanism further.
Instead, we could introduce some cost for deploying a unit. It will be brought back to full strength for free, you just need to pay the maintenance. If you cannot afford it, the unit remains in reserve, but cannot be deployed. What will this give us? Losses no longer matter. Tiger II is no longer more economic, because it will have higher deployment costs, and the fact that it takes less losses does not matter any more (replacements are free). The goal of the player will be to compose a core which is the cheapest possible and still gets the job done (wins the scenario). The losses do not matter. Of course, it makes the game very different from what it is now. Sacrificing a lot of strength to grab the final victory becomes commonplace. Probably too dramatic a change, but interesting mechanics nonetheless.

We could of course leave replacement costs in the game too. But then the whole unit management story becomes too complex, and the balancing effect of maintenance cost will largely be lost (Tiger II with its zero losses will become more economic again).


Maybe there are in-between options. To take your example, say you are in the deployment fase: green replacements can be free (as they are now), but elite replacements still cost (some) prestige. And if each step of reinforcement get progressively more expensive this would further reduce snowballing, because it will make expensive units relatively more expensive to overstrength than cheaper ones, which IMHO is another reason why the current system encourages using the more expensive units.

If you don't have to pay at all for any kind of reinforcements, than your prediction of players sacrificing strength in a last-ditch effort wil come true, I have no doubt. But the 'reform units' cheat encourages those same 'last ditch effort' tactics, as the it lessens the penalty of doing so. It is also a very popular option, apparently, and doesn't seem to break the game. Or is that a bad example?

If there is still a penalty for losses, players will have to start weighing their options. But any maintenance cost system will require a lot of initial balancing, although the advantage is then when it is balanced it should easily be adjusted for different difficulties and not affect AI and scenario design too much. I'm fairly confident it can be made to work without ruining the game as it is now. I think a lot of other options require changing existing mechanisms for little gain. I'm trying to think of an alternative that will introduce a new mechanic, which will alter existing gameplay, no doubt. But I hope it will be a sort of big damping force on the current system, to even out the excesses without affecting the combat rules.

I still want to be able to use 15-str Tigers, but I want them to cost more to field and use than a Panzer IV if no losses are taken. I don't know how a 'deploying cost' will work out, but it is an interesting idea. If losses still penalize the player by losing expensive overstrength and experience unless they pay for elite replacements, it still roughly works as the current system, maybe there is a sweet spot somewhere in there.

I think I'm going to do some rough calculations to see if I can give some examples of what I mean. But I agree that the decision-making process must not get too complex, it would detract from the gameplay I think. Then again, if a new game mechanism it is logical and intuitive, it will require far less skill to master.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:22 pm

boredatwork wrote: As an alternative to control the snowball you could adopt a different approach to arrive at the same effect: Rather than capping core quality at a fixed figure, instead design the scenario to always require a greater strength then the highest possible core quality to succeed, then subtract the actual quality of a player's core from this value and give the balance to players to purchase auxiliary units to make up the difference in quality.

"Greetings herr General, we have asked you to advance upon Stalingrad - we are temporarily allocating an extra 2580 prestige worth of auxiliary units to help you with this task"
This suggestion suffers from the same "does not encourage good play" problem I've already mentioned, but also it raises an additional interesting question: just how much shall we bail a poor player out of trouble? We all agree that this should be done to some extent. But where to draw the line, after which a poor player is on his own? Shall he be able to continue the campaign after his core is completely trashed, and there are no units, or prestige needed to buy them, left at all? That's the question.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:51 pm

ThvN wrote: I like the overstrength mechanism a lot, but it is very economical to use with some units. It gives cumulative bonuses of having more dice rolls and all those dice rolls are made with the experience bonus as well. So maybe reduce the bonus experience gives, like your idea to tweak the initiative, but that might not be enough. Or have unintended consequences elsewhere. It may be part of the solution, but the problem lies elsewhere I think.
There are two separate problems here really. Prestige snowballing is one. And it is separate from everything else. In my very first post in this topic I have shown that prestige snowballing will happen even if there is no OS, no experience, and just one unit type in the entire game. It happens due to the fundamental difference in people's playing strength, and gets amplified by the sheer number of scenarios in a campaign. To me it is obvious that prestige snowballing must be fixed on its own, without involving OS mechanics, experience mechanics or unit stats at all. ;)

Then there is the problem of invincible units. It is important too, no doubt. No unit in the game must be invincible, and this was our design goals from the very beginning. This can be easily seen in some design decisions we've made. For example, no matter how high a unit's defense rating is, it still has a certain chance to take damage. But apparently, there is a workaround to this, which is to use units with high attack, high initiative and many dice rolls, in order to fully suppress the opponent. Fixing this would benefit the gameplay. I just think that this problem is a bit offtopic in the thread named "The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions". ;)

BTW, an interesting twist in gameplay mechanics might be to disconnect OS from experience. Make them independent. So you can bring even a green unit to +5 strength if you are willing to pay extra price this involves.
ThvN wrote: Well, perhaps it would help to differentiate the difficulty levels more in terms of prestige levels. This is also an example of a 'law of diminishing returns'. But it reminds me of the complaints that in some scenarios the same prestige is awarded for DV and MV, and the path is the same as well. Some wondered what was motivating them for going for a DV in those scenarios. It may appear very illogical and counter-inituitive to some.
Yes, it is a "law of diminishing returns". And in many case an exponent instead of a linear rule can go a long way in fixing various balance problems.

Yes, DV/MV mechanics is non-intuitive and bad. And even the name "prestige" is counter-intuitive and bad. This is my opinion, anyway. ;)
ThvN wrote: BTW, what are your opinions on supply costs? They overlap with maintenance costs, but are still a little bit different from maintenance/deployment costs, I threw that idea in as it might help dampen the snowball mechanism further.
It could be an interesting mechanic with useful implications in some cases. At one point I was thinking about supply cost or supply pool for Africa which would penalize units with high fuel consumption (in particular all aircraft) and make that theatre extra special. But then I just decided to keep things simple.

However, I don't believe this idea could dampen the snowball effect in any way.
ThvN wrote: If you don't have to pay at all for any kind of reinforcements, than your prediction of players sacrificing strength in a last-ditch effort wil come true, I have no doubt. But the 'reform units' cheat encourages those same 'last ditch effort' tactics, as the it lessens the penalty of doing so. It is also a very popular option, apparently, and doesn't seem to break the game. Or is that a bad example?
For the record, PG did just that "free elite replacements between scenarios" thing, so it cannot be THAT bad.

I don't think reform units mechanic has exactly the same effect, because crippled unit is not a very effective combat unit in the first place. Losing it or not does not affect scenario outcome all that much. So, people would still need to take crippled units out of battle, or pay to replace them mid-scenario, just as now.
ThvN wrote: I still want to be able to use 15-str Tigers, but I want them to cost more to field and use than a Panzer IV if no losses are taken. I don't know how a 'deploying cost' will work out, but it is an interesting idea. If losses still penalize the player by losing expensive overstrength and experience unless they pay for elite replacements, it still roughly works as the current system, maybe there is a sweet spot somewhere in there.
In the easiest case, deployment cost could be just a certain percentage of initial unit's cost, adjusted to any overstrength the unit has. It should not take experience into account though.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Zhivago » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:27 pm

Like I said earlier, one way to make OS balanced (for those who think it needs balancing, or as an option) would be to increase the cost of OS later in the war. If it cost 150 prestige to OS a Tiger I from 11 to 12 OS in 1942, make it 250 in 1943, 300 in 1944, 350 in 1945, etc., or some slide-able scale. This would account for the historical problem of German units being able to resupply damaged/destroyed units with quality units.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:41 pm

Zhivago wrote:Like I said earlier, one way to make OS balanced (for those who think it needs balancing, or as an option) would be to increase the cost of OS later in the war. If it cost 150 prestige to OS a Tiger I from 11 to 12 OS in 1942, make it 250 in 1943, 300 in 1944, 350 in 1945, etc., or some slide-able scale. This would account for the historical problem of German units being able to resupply damaged/destroyed units with quality units.
This might be a solution for germans specifically, but for allies the opposite might be true. They can afford and need OS units late in the war, to counter german equipment. A generic solution, which works the same way for all nations and sides, would be better.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:42 pm

Rudankort wrote: Stronger core is always more economical than weaker one, especially in the long term. Provided that you can afford it in the short term. That's the whole point of prestige mechanics.

I still don't understand why you chose to attack the problem from this angle. You started this topic by stating that certain players accumulate a huge amount of prestige. But then, instead of investigating how to bring this prestige under control, you attack things which can be bought when prestige is unlimited. You start from over strength, but same line of argument can be applied to any other aspect of the game. Elite replacements are more economical than green replacements. Tiger II is more economical than any other tank. We cannot fix these problems by making everything which is cool and powerful in the game nerfed down. This might even be dangerous in Allied, because allies do not have such cool equipment as germans.
This logic is completely inconsistent with your previous suggestions, such as removing all overstrength points after a scenario. This is automatically a massive nerf to overstrength, since overstrength will no longer be the economical option in that case.

I dislike this current trend in game design to never nerf anything, only to buff. This logic simply does not work. According to this logic, and your previous statement that you dislike game mechanics that are meaningless or too weak, then why not just get rid of the normal reinforcement button, and bring back all units to max experience and overstrength after a battle automatically? To take this to the extreme, I also propose you immediately remove all units except Tiger II and Me 262, plus the new units like the Ar 234B, since all of the rest of those units are underpowered and worthless anyway, and we don't want weak units in this game, do we?

My point is that options need to have strengths and weaknesses! The system would be fine if normal reinforcements are cheap, and elite reinforcements expensive, not just in the short run, but also in the long run. And this needs to apply for all units. For instance, infantry don't benefit much from experience, so in that case, elite reinforcements is often not necessary. So in this case, some sort of buff to experienced infantry is needed.
We can scrap OS, but then instead the player will upgrade all his core to Tiger IIs as soon as they become available, and this is no smaller a problem than OS. In this game "unlimited prestige" is equal to "overpowered army". Breaking this link between game currency and core strength will require gameplay changes too drastic to consider. Easier to put prestige back under control.
Currently with OS, the player is already upgrading all his core to Tiger IIs already! For evidence of this, there are plenty of strategy threads advocating getting only the best equipment, with only elite reinforcements. One of the first suggestions to new players is to buy lots of artillery and overstrength them. There are no strategy threads suggesting how to use units like the StuG IIIG. I freely admit reducing OS dice rolls does not solve the snowball effect, but it should at least reduce it somewhat, by increasing player damage taken.
We could as well attack experience instead. Why not change the rules so that initiative is not increased with experience? It is a very simple change, it will not make any existing mechanics thrown out of the window, and it might well have the desired effect.
This change would also work quite well in increasing player damage taken. I've already tested this, as it is a parameter in the gamerules file. Damage taken for units like the Panther, Tiger II is somewhat higher. So in this way, it is actually a very good change. However, artillery/bombers with overstrength are still super effective. Furthermore, IN heroes become by far the best type. I thought about suggesting something like this, but I wanted to have some other options to test and compare. And given that the current game engine supports only a maximum of 20 die per battle, I thought, why not try out a system where the maximum die is only 10 per battle, and see if that works?

I want to reemphasize that I'm not saying my suggestion is the best, or the only method. There are many excellent ideas in this thread. Rather, I would like to see the ideas that are easily coded and implemented for player testing. It may turn out that in practice, limiting OS die roll is a terrible idea! Or perhaps, it may turn out to be surprisingly effective and even fun. I also really liked the propose for eliminating all OS points after a battle. That would truly constitute a massive prestige sink for OS. And so on and so forth for many of the ideas suggested here.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:35 pm

deducter wrote: This logic is completely inconsistent with your previous suggestions, such as removing all overstrength points after a scenario. This is automatically a massive nerf to overstrength, since overstrength will no longer be the economical option in that case.
There is a big difference between nerfing down stuff and making it more rare. And you know it very well yourself. If you make something nerfed down, it will never ever be cool and fun to use, by definition. If you make something rare, it is even more cool and fun to use it when you do get it. When all of your core is routinely OS, it is not cool/fun any more. When only some units in some scens are OS, you start to appreciate them. Hence my suggestion. It was just an example though, how to make OS rare enough without increasing its price further (which does not work well enough anyway).
deducter wrote: I dislike this current trend in game design to never nerf anything, only to buff. This logic simply does not work. According to this logic, and your previous statement that you dislike game mechanics that are meaningless or too weak, then why not just get rid of the normal reinforcement button, and bring back all units to max experience and overstrength after a battle automatically? To take this to the extreme, I also propose you immediately remove all units except Tiger II and Me 262, plus the new units like the Ar 234B, since all of the rest of those units are underpowered and worthless anyway, and we don't want weak units in this game, do we?
Once again, you are juggling with facts and you know it. Unit strength mechanic (in broad sense) works and has profound effect on gameplay, and that happens exactly because there are weak and strong units. If all units were equally weak, or equally strong, the end result would be the same - this mechanics would not work. Same is true for experience. The difference between green and elite units is substantial, so it is an example of good mechanics.

OS used as mobile reserve makes it close to useless. Yes, in such a form, it is a bad mechanics which must be scrapped. You still see contradiction in my words? Well I don't. :)

About this: "I dislike this current trend in game design to never nerf anything, only to buff."
- Nobody is suggesting to buff up anything yet?
- Yes, in an existing game nerfing down is an especially painful process, because people are already used to their cool toys. For this reason nerfing stuff down must be absolutely justified.
- There is a big difference between nerfing stuff down slightly and making it useless. OSed units must be more effective in combat than non-OSed ones, period. Maybe not as much more effective as now - ok, fine with me. But still, there must be some noticeable effect.
deducter wrote: My point is that options need to have strengths and weaknesses! The system would be fine if normal reinforcements are cheap, and elite reinforcements expensive, not just in the short run, but also in the long run. And this needs to apply for all units. For instance, infantry don't benefit much from experience, so in that case, elite reinforcements is often not necessary. So in this case, some sort of buff to experienced infantry is needed.
So, let us finally hear your suggestions how to make elite replacements more expensive in the long run. :) By definition, a unit with better stats, better experience and more strength fights better. This is common sense I don't think it should change. We can tweak combat mechanics so that Tiger II is not so overwhelmingly more powerful than most allied equipment, but it will remain stronger still, and so will take less losses. So, how do we make such better units more expensive in the long run? One suggestion was already mentioned - maintenance costs. What else do you propose?
deducter wrote: I want to reemphasize that I'm not saying my suggestion is the best, or the only method. There are many excellent ideas in this thread. Rather, I would like to see the ideas that are easily coded and implemented for player testing. It may turn out that in practice, limiting OS die roll is a terrible idea! Or perhaps, it may turn out to be surprisingly effective and even fun. I also really liked the propose for eliminating all OS points after a battle. That would truly constitute a massive prestige sink for OS. And so on and so forth for many of the ideas suggested here.
Well in case I was not clear enough on this, I can reiterate that I don't like your suggestion for OS. Even if it miraculously makes game balance perfect, I still don't like it. :) And for this reason implementing and testing it does not make any sense whatsoever, as far as I'm concerned, even if it only takes one minute to implement. There is no logical explanation why unit's performance is proportional to its strength (and this is true for all units, including conscripts with their 15 base strength), but units OSed to 15 suddenly don't benefit from this. In fact, with unit strength and max strength freely customizable for individual units in the editor, such mechanics would create a huge mess in game rules: a number on unit's strength plate suddenly does not indicate its combat effectiveness. I also object to nerfing OS down beyond all recognition because it is such an established game mechanics. I've given the reasons for this above.

Your second suggestion is fine with me though, and while I don't believe it will ultimately resolve the issue, it does not have any problems with common sense, and I don't object to implementing and testing it in practice. In fact, I think that elite replacements in general should be progressively more expensive with each star.

PS. I still think that we are trying to discuss too many different problems in this single thread. ;)

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