How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, etc)

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huckc
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How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, etc)

Post by huckc » Tue Aug 08, 2017 1:42 pm

The better a player plays the more he will grow in strength exponentially each scenario as it builds on itself. This, being untreated, makes the game less fun due to less of a challenge.

One way to counteract this is by means of a soft cap of which we are all well aware of. One advantage of the soft cap is it's very reliable and simple.

Another idea is enemy scaling, which kind of makes sense since the enemy knows you're strong so they know they need to commit more forces to engage with you. The game would need to detect this somehow in a reliable fashion which can be tricky I imagine, also testing.

What about alternatives? Preferably historically logical.

JaM2013
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by JaM2013 » Tue Aug 08, 2017 2:39 pm

i think the best way would be to make unit only replenishable between major campaigns.. So player would have to keep his units as they are, unable to restore to full strength while in battle.. then he would have to use larger force to accomodate the possible battle damage.. this way there would be no need for a soft cap - player would be allowed to buy as many units as he can, but will gain experience a lot slower, therefore his strength would not grow exponentially. Also, maybe killing the Elite reinforcements would be a good idea, with standard reinforcements reducing the overall experience a bit less dramatically..

hugh2711
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by hugh2711 » Wed Aug 09, 2017 1:11 pm

I actullay quite like the softcap. I think it forces you to be more creative and economical and makes the game more interesting, without it the game turns into a repetative slugfest

captainjack
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by captainjack » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:35 am

huckc wrote:One advantage of the soft cap is it's very reliable and simple.
I'd have to disagree with your view that the soft cap is simple and reliable.

Soft cap is based on a complex formula that isn't possible to follow during deployment and force selection, so you are left guessing whether it will affect you or not. It also changes during the game as you take casualties. This doesn't sound simple to me, at least not in the way that clicking a difficulty button or selecting the prestige slider is simple.

As for reliable, there's a lot of room for debate there. The actual mechanism doesn't quite work as intended and it penalises beginners at Lieutenant as much as experts on Field Marshall and above. Because it is influenced by cost of units and by the number of core units that could be deployed (not those actually deployed) it can penalise receiving reward units and prestige dumps in game Also, as Hugh2711's comment notes, it makes all SE units except the most expensive tanks completely irrelevant. It may do so reliably and consistently, this if this isn't the intended outcome I think that reliable is very much open to question.

The real objections to soft cap are not that it makes the game more challenging, but that it's very difficult to understand its workings, has a range of unexpected and unwanted side effects, and penalises less experienced players, and until the tooltip was introduced, you couldn't even see if it was working or not.

By all means like the soft cap and enjoy the particular challenges it poses, but similar and more personalised challenges can be achieved more simply and more reliably through existing and (importantly) optional controls on the start screen and between scenarios.

RVallant
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by RVallant » Sun Aug 13, 2017 8:44 pm

Army points cost maybe?

Or a hard cap on certain units. I'd rather not have to deal with the thousand tanks of death that the USSR can throw at the end of the GC to counter-act strong core armies. :P

JaM2013
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by JaM2013 » Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:56 pm

i think rarity number would be better, so player wont be able to use full army of Tigers.. another option would be to introduce reliability rating, which would take care of things same way but indirectly.

captainjack
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by captainjack » Tue Aug 15, 2017 9:00 am

I'd like something like a limit on total prestige deployed and total number of units (maybe using an army list approach). This would be relatively easy to understand and to relate to difficulty level and slider settings and could be varied by scenario as and when needed.

Narwhal
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by Narwhal » Fri Aug 25, 2017 12:17 pm

Panzer General 3 SE had a double layer :
- Limit in the number of units of a given type you could have, eg only 1 Tiger, after that you fall back on the 2 Panther, and if you need more tanks it will be the Panzer IV.
- In addition, the "max strenght" of units depended on the unit itself. Typically, Tiger would have max health 8, while Panzer 3 by mid-war would have max health 12 or even 15.

DesertSloth
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by DesertSloth » Fri Aug 25, 2017 6:36 pm

I think the accumulation and "stockpiling" of prestige is actually a pretty good reflection of how resources were allocated and allows another layer of strategy. Do you really need to replenish that Infantry Division or can you just pull it off the line and wait for the scenario to end? Do you really need to upgrade those Czech tanks to Mark III/IVs or can you wait for better tanks and just upgrade your Mark II's? Is buying that Stat Bomber for anti-ship in Narvik necessary or should you just roll with your Tac Bombers? Etc. Being frugal with prestige is a huge part of winning. I like that I have to make hard choices in 1940, knowing that the result will affect me in 1944.

The issue is that 100 prestige points in 1939 buys you the exact same thing as in 1945 and there is no limit to volume of purchases, which is not reflective of reality and can cause game balance issues. The simplest solution is to add some parts of what has already been mentioned several times in different places into a hybrid system with a sliding scale of cost:

1.) Certain high value, limited production units have a soft/hard cap. Up to the soft cap units cost their base value. Every purchase thereafter progressively increases the cost until the hard cap, which is the absolute limit available for that scenario/campaign. No more armies full of jet planes, Fireflys and Tigers, there just aren't enough. Force players to decide how bad they really need that shiny new gear.

2.) Modest experience cost for upgrading "out of platform." This reflects the modified tactics and learning curve of new gear. This encourages the upgrading of units to newer models of older platforms.

3.) Not all units cost the same amount at all times. Brand new units should cost more, with their price going down over time, represented as an easily visible "new equipment" modifier to the base price. Nobody gets three whole divisions of Hummels a month after the assembly line starts production. This factors with the cap.

4.) Charge prestige for resupply; fuel and ammo are not free. Make smart choices about balance of forces. Do you really need those gas guzzling Tigers or can you save and hang with the up gunned Mark III's? Do you really need to mindlessly bombard that nearly dead unit with all that Arty?

5.) Create a more nuanced approach to allocation of prestige in the first place. Factor time to complete, enemy casualties, and friendly losses. Award certain penalties and bonuses for "side objectives" such as "destroy all ships" or "occupy all cities" or "take less than X number of Y losses."

6.) Reward or penalize how good of a team player you are. No General ever got his "own" Army, units moved around all the time. At the start of some scenarios have "requests for reinforcement" from High Command. If you can give up a couple of fighters for a couple of scenarios you get a bonus, if not, a penalty. This is reflective of how Generals were actually valued. Those who could do more with less and helped out other fronts were highly regarded.

7.) Include "attachments." Sometimes a Heavy Panzer Brigade being attached to a division totally set it apart from it's fellows. Additionally, allow the swapping of attachments and platforms between units. When you upgrade trucks you should be able to send your old trucks to a leg Division. Why should you have to repurchase what you already have allocated? When you upgrade a veteran unit from B109s to Fw190's why should you have to buy new B109s for a new unit? This promotes a more varied force TO and insures that purchases are planned in the long term.

8.) Finally, have a dynamically limited amount of "Elite Reinforcements" and sharply reduce the amount available during missions. There just aren't that many vets coming off convalescent leave or being redirected from other fronts, and certainly not on demand. The cap for Germany should be low early and late in the war and highest in 41/42. The United States should start low and only start to go down toward 44/45. The Italians should be totally hosed from about 1940 :)

econ21
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Re: How to deal with exponential player growth? (soft cap, e

Post by econ21 » Mon Aug 28, 2017 10:46 pm

I don't think this was much of a problem in the original Panzer Corps campaign. It certainly was in the original Panzer General: that game became a snooze after about the third scenario, but later iterations by SSI - Panzer General 2 but also games such as Fantasy General - more or less avoided it by more carefully balancing campaign scenarios. In fact my impression of the original Panzer Corps was that the main improvement it brought over PG was that the main campaign was challenging throughout. Perhaps unit experience effects were less important or just scenario design more careful. It was an issue in the Grand Campaign DLC 1939-45, because that campaign had so many linked scenarios and was generous with prestige. It seemed in the GC, which I have played the most and is where PC arguably shines, the problem mainly comes with the Tigers - which in PG type games are close to god mode. The GC was balanced for a mixed player core and much of the beta feedback seems to have been panther/tiger heavy armies crushing the AI. In PC main campaign, I don't recall it being an issue - the campaign is pretty swift and skips a lot of the PzIV years, so IIRC there was a pretty expensive upgrade at the end to get end war gear to invade the US.

I'm not sure the soft cap was effective in Panzer Corps - I've only played the GCs with it on and you are uncapped up to around 1943, so can accumulate enough prestige to see you through the later years, when you will probably not get 100% prestige. However, I admired what it was trying to do and it did nudge me stick to a more historical core, and not over-strength as much as I might have done. So it may have had some mild effect that the designers hoped for.

If the problem is just a few uber units - Tigers, King Tigers, Me262, Sturmpanzer etc - then the solution is probably just to cap them. As you have an SE unit cap in PC, make it a "rare unit" cap in PG2. You can have one Tiger unit in 1943, maybe one more a year. It would make the game easier to balance. I like the GC game design, as ultimately its the historical battles that interest me and want to see historically composed opponents. The problem with historical battles, as the GC designer Kerensky observed, is that you are likely to get historical outcomes. However, this may mainly be a challenge for late game German scenarios. Typically, PG type games focus on the player as the attacker (eg German blitzkrieg, Allies from 1942 etc), as the AI struggles on the offensive and anyway winning is more fun.

The tougher issue is when there's a choice between good (not uber) units and inferior ones. Say PzI or PzII vs PzIII or PzIV, PzIV vs Panther, T-34 vs T-28, towed arty/AT vs self-propelled, medium artillery (155mm) vs light (105mm) etc. You could try to rely on a price mechanism - don't limit scenario slots, but let the player buy more (or bigger, 15 str vs 10 str) of the cheaper stuff. But that would be hard to balance - it's likely going to have one optimum, either fewer good stuff is better or more mediocre stuff is, and players will soon figure it out, so you'll either see all Panthers or all PzIVs (likely the former). Alternatively, cap it like the elites - no more than 1/2 (or whatever proportion) of your core should be "good" units. Warhammer Tabletop had a system of common, specials and rares. You weren't limited in what you spent on common units but were in the higher class. The good units could be the "specials". What is special could vary by country and year, so a T-34 is special in 1941 common in 1943, a Panther rare in 1943, special in 1944 and common in 1945 etc. Half-tracks could be special for Germany, common for the US etc.

One issue with soft caps or hard caps is whether they should be the default and/or optional. I have no problem with them being a toggle if players want to go mad. But scenario designers have to balance their scenarios around a certain kind of player core, and I'd much prefer this is to feel moderately authentic rather than just be all King Tigers or whatever.

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