The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

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deducter
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:05 pm

Here's a quote from Delta66 about playing GC42East:
Delta66 wrote: "For the Stalingrad scenarios, I deployed 37+5 units, for a total around 580 steps. Maybe with more 10 stength units you are under 500 steps, which make a big diffeence in firepower. And as I mentioned the AI will often not attack supported 4 stars units, so it also leads to less casualties. Moreover it exacerbates the difference between my strong units and the auxilliary Italians. And the AI will most of the time target the weaker auxiliary units. In the end I finished the scenarios with something around 10 losses to my core units. 10 Losses was an average for Stalingrad were there is a lot of auxilliary units. But I also had 20 losses in other scenarios."
He ended the scenario with 10 step losses, not 10 unit losses! 10 total strength losses, out of 580. And this is in an urban warfare map, where losses should be higher due to all the close terrain, and before the Germans get super units like Tigers. The main reason is exactly as he described, that the AI will almost never attack 4-star overstrength units. The other reason is that artillery completely suppresses AI units in a single salvo or at most two, so there’s never any risk of losing strength points when attacking.

There is no simple solution to snowball effect, which is a common phenomena of many strategy games and RPGs. In fact, the early/mid maps of this type of game are almost always the most challenging. However, the player’s core strength grows far in excess of the preplaced AI units’ strength for each map. Thus, by the late maps, the gameplay is trivialized. For instance, if anyone plays Fire Emblem on the hard difficulties, the hardest battles as always the early ones, but once the player gets his strong heroes leveled up, the game is easy again.
Rudankort wrote: Second, fundamental cause of snowballing is that different people take different number of losses. Even if we remove the factor of earning prestige altogether (no bonus for capturing cities, same bonus for all scenario outcomes, all people get exactly the same amount of prestige), they will take different number of losses. Players who take more losses will spend more prestige on replacements and won't invest it into overstrength/upgrades/elite replacements, so their core will be progressively weaker. The weaker the core, the more losses it will take in the next scenario.

For this reason I believe that attacking any separate aspect of the gameplay will not solve the issue, until we find how to counter the effect of different losses people take.
I agree that any single change will almost certainly not be enough to challenge the snowball effect. But it is worthwhile to think about possible solutions. I believe it will require numerous changes**, all working in harmony, to effect a reasonable solution. The goal is not to completely eliminate the snowball effect, but rather to mitigate it while keeping the game mechanics interesting and fun.

I am not proposing that limiting combat to a max of 10 dice rolls will solve the snowball effect completely. Yes, cores with extra experience, heroes, and/or better equipment will still do better, but the difference between would at least be less stark.
Rudankort wrote:Regarding the suggestion to use overstrength as a mere reserve: if we do this, what will be people's motivation to pay for overstrength? Even if its cost is reduced from 200% to normal 100%, why pay in advance when replacements can be purchased "on demand"? And especially when "reform units" is promoted to official game mechanics, and so even losing a unit is not such a big deal any more?
In the current system, what is the motivation for players to not overstrength their high initiative high attack units? It is a far more efficient use of prestige to have 1 5-star 15-strength Panther than 2 5-star 10-strength Panther , since the 15-strength Panther will almost never take damage against most units, while the 10-strength Panthers could actually be damaged.

Under my proposal, there is still a strong value to overstrength a unit even if the extra strength does not count as extra dice rolls above 10. The extra strength points allow the unit to fight longer with maximum die without having to reinforce. This difference will definitely be noticeable. For instance, A 10-strength Panther might have to fight several Allied tanks over 4-5 turns, by the end of which it is reduced to 5 strength. This Panther is now quite weak and needs to be withdrawn off the line to reinforce. On the other hand, a 15-strength Panther would do the same and also lose 5 strength points, but it would still be at 10-strength and is still fit to press on. This is as opposed to the current system, where the 15-strength Panther has a high chance of not taking any damage, while the 10-strength Panther would still be down to 5 strength.

In essence, overstrength is transformed into a tactical reserve system as opposed to the all-powerful, no brainer option that it is now. This also adds the added advantage of simplicity, as opposed to adding entirely new, complicated features.

The overtrength change seems like it should be easy to implement from a technical standpoint, as an option in gamerules.pzdat, for players to test and give feedback on. Something like an enhanced reform units option, however, would be far more time-consuming to implement, and would require a lot of careful thought of specific gameplay mechanics beforehand.
nikivdd wrote:For the mod we are currently working on, we also had our little prestige brainstorm. We came up with the idea to remove all prestige at turn 2 at every scenario.
Resetting the player’s prestige after each battle is also an interesting method of limiting the snowball effect. This method slows down the rate of the growth of the player’s core. There would still be a strong (arguably stronger) incentive for the player to win DV and get as many flags as possible. However, there needs to be safeguards to prevent the player from circumventing the system by buying/disbanding units as a method of storing prestige. Also, this doesn’t in any way address combat mechanics that allow for invincible super units.

*Speaking of reinforcements, as another potential option that hopefully is also easy to code, is to limit the speed at which a unit can reinforce. Right now, assuming no enemy interdiction, going from 9 to 10 strength takes exactly the same time as going from 1 to 10 strength. Interestingly enough, overstrength during scenarios can still only occur one point at a time. It could be enlightening to test another parameter in the gamerules file that specifies the average speed at which a unit can reinforce, so an entry of 2 means all units can reinforce 2 steps at once, etc. This could be even better if there is a line in the equipment file that specifies exactly how fast a unit can reinforce, and can add a very interesting dimension to gameplay. For instance, a Tiger might only be able to reinforce 2 steps a turn, mid-scenario, but a Panzer IV might be able to reinforce 4 steps a turn, and T-34 6 steps, and a conscript all steps at once. Of course, this option is pointless if the combat mechanics prevent damage to overstrength strong core, as the example of Delta66 shows.

**For instance, combining limits to overstrength, a linear progression to overstrength costs, and a more gradual mid-scenario reinforcement system could do much to limit the snowball effect while keeping strategic choices interesting and fun.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by robman » Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:53 pm

macattack wrote:What you are describing is a game wherein you are rewarded for playing poorly and losing, while penalized for playing well and winning.
That's not what I meant to describe. Rather, what I had in mind was a set of branching paths. Poor performance will lead along one branch, better performance will lead along others. This would allow the player to learn without having to replay the same blasted scenarios over and over again. For veteran players, the challenge of tackling the most difficult path(s) would be sufficient reward for getting to and staying on them. This idea has always been present in the PG/PzC system, but it really drops out in the Grand Campaign. The alternative paths do not necessarily need to be historical and counterhistorical (though I've nothing against that); that they could also be separate historical paths. After all, it was a big war fought across a lot of territory. And if we throw in differences in base difficulty, then more veteran players could make the "easier" paths challenging by ratcheting up the difficulty.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by boredatwork » Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:29 pm

deducter wrote:Wall of text

I agree that any single change will almost certainly not be enough to challenge the snowball effect. But it is worthwhile to think about possible solutions. I believe it will require numerous changes**, all working in harmony, to effect a reasonable solution.
The main issue I see with your OS proposal is having to re-overstrength 24 units per scenario 1 step at a time because they now suffer higher turnover could get tedious relatively quickly.

Similarly your notion of having different reinforcement rates has the potential flaw that having click reinforce 5 turns to bring a 1 str Tiger back up to 10 str and then have to get that unit caught up with the rest of the advance would also bog down the overall flow of the game IMO.


A better approach might be to consider OS itself as a *permanent* adjustment to base container size/reinforcement rate in a similar fashion to providing a unit with transport is a permanent alteration of their abilities/cost. Using your example the 10 and 15 strength Panther would both fight at max 10 and thus suffer identical casualties in identical situations. The 10 step Panther might last for 2-3 turns before being knocked down to say 5 steps and requiring a refit - the 15 step Panther might survive 3-5 turns before similarly requiring a refit.

When the replacement button is pushed they would both be built up to the strength they began the scenario with. The cost of replacements on a per point basis could then be adjusted based on the degree to which they've been overstrengthed - ie if the base Panther Elite replacement cost is 33(?) pts per step, then the cost to repair a 15 step panther is 40(?) pts per step reflecting the value of being able to keep the unit in combat proportionately more often (and possibly have a cushion against artillery bombardment.)


Ultimately though you're still relying on the campaign designer to give you just enough prestige so that choice between "more effective and more economical" is actually a *choice* that requires real decision making.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Sat Mar 30, 2013 8:26 pm

Overstrength is powerful, no doubt. That's the reason why many people like it. However, I don't like the idea to nerf it down beyond recognition. I don't like useless or close to useless concepts in gameplay. Game mechanics must affect gameplay in a significant way, or they should not be introduced in the first place. From two options - make it less powerful or make it more rare - I would pick the latter one. In fact, overstrength is already quite expensive, but apparently this is not enough.

An alternative idea could be to make OS temporary. So, it becomes a strategic decision (in what scenarios and on what units to use OS) and a huge prestige sink. But even if you OS all units to maximum, this is lost after next battle. (Yes I know this could cause UI problems in existing implementation, but we are throwing ideas around here, so we can ignore this atm.). Or for example there could simply be a limit on how many units/OS points/whatever the player can assign in every battle or in total.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Rudankort » Sat Mar 30, 2013 8:37 pm

boredatwork wrote:*************************************
For those for whom the following is "Too long, not going to read:"

- An effective fix is IMO impossible without a major deviation from the existing prestige system
- A poor man's solution would be give the players even more control over customizing difficulty and allow them to do so during a campaign so they can balance on the fly based upon their actual performance.
- An alternative poor man's solution is to implement a cosmetic scoring system of some sort that would factor in core quality, losses, achievements, frequency of replacement to encourage some measure of self handicapping to improve score without actually "forcing" a player to play any differently then he does now.

- I love the idea of making the game challenging *in a good way* by reducing the death penalty but greatly increasing the average number of core deaths a player would experience over an average campaign.
********************************************
We often disagree, but in this particular case your thoughts are similar to my own conclusions. Allies will allow to switch difficulty mid-way, and I'm thinking about a scoring system too. I wonder what is your current idea of an "effective fix".

deducter
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:29 pm

Rudankort wrote:Overstrength is powerful, no doubt. That's the reason why many people like it. However, I don't like the idea to nerf it down beyond recognition. I don't like useless or close to useless concepts in gameplay. Game mechanics must affect gameplay in a significant way, or they should not be introduced in the first place. From two options - make it less powerful or make it more rare - I would pick the latter one. In fact, overstrength is already quite expensive, but apparently this is not enough.
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.

Making overstrength more rare could also work, especially if it is tied to difficulty levels.
An alternative idea could be to make OS temporary. So, it becomes a strategic decision (in what scenarios and on what units to use OS) and a huge prestige sink. But even if you OS all units to maximum, this is lost after next battle.
This idea could work, assuming prestige is actually a limitation like in the vanilla campaign.
Or for example there could simply be a limit on how many units/OS points/whatever the player can assign in every battle or in total.
Limits on overstrength could also work, but does not address the issue of super units. A 15-strength Panther is still nearly invulnerable.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Anfield » Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:39 pm

Rudankort wrote:Overstrength is powerful, no doubt. That's the reason why many people like it. However, I don't like the idea to nerf it down beyond recognition. I don't like useless or close to useless concepts in gameplay. Game mechanics must affect gameplay in a significant way, or they should not be introduced in the first place. From two options - make it less powerful or make it more rare - I would pick the latter one. In fact, overstrength is already quite expensive, but apparently this is not enough.

An alternative idea could be to make OS temporary. So, it becomes a strategic decision (in what scenarios and on what units to use OS) and a huge prestige sink. But even if you OS all units to maximum, this is lost after next battle. (Yes I know this could cause UI problems in existing implementation, but we are throwing ideas around here, so we can ignore this atm.). Or for example there could simply be a limit on how many units/OS points/whatever the player can assign in every battle or in total.
I like your idea of making OS a temp issue. If in between battles all OS units went back to a strenght of 10, assuming they were at 11 or up when the battle ended. Really increasing the prestige to OS a unit would help. As would your idea about limited it to X amount of units can be OS.

Maybe a prestige limit would work too. Take the DLC's, as I said in a post im finishing 43East with little under 40K, and having so much is taking the challenge out of the game. What about setting limits on the Prestige you can have per year in the game? So for the DLC's, say for 39 its 5k, 40 8k etc. So you max out in 43 with 12k limit then in 44 and 45 you limits drop to reflect how the war is going for the Germans etc. Again all these idea would have to be an option the player pics before the start of a campaign.

One more option I would like to see is a limit option to pick on units you can have in your core. How this would work not sure, maybe historical OOB might help, so you dont see 50 unit cores with only 5 infantry and 10 TigerII. So a 50 unit core would have to have a min of 9 infantry and a max of 3 TigerII's for example. Again this would be an option to play, to make the game a little harder.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by boredatwork » Sat Mar 30, 2013 10:17 pm

Rudankort wrote:We often disagree, but in this particular case your thoughts are similar to my own conclusions. Allies will allow to switch difficulty mid-way, and I'm thinking about a scoring system too. I wonder what is your current idea of an "effective fix".
I don't really have a road map to perfection - any approach would require a degree of trial and error to overcome difficulties - some foreseeable, others not. I do however think that some approaches would be easier than others.

Ultimately the problem is the pre-made scenario is a round hole while the players have a variety of different shaped peg cores. You can either redesign the peg hole to redesign itself to accommodate a multitude of peg shapes OR you can restrict players to only using round pegs.

While the former would be technologically impressive, the later would be IMO the easiest to implement. The trick is doing so while retaining a reasonable degree of customization as well as cosmetic "personality" so that even though players are restricted to using round shape pegs, the game still fosters a reasonable degree of attachment to your force making carrying it through the campaign meaningful.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Zhivago » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:39 am

Rudankort wrote:
boredatwork wrote:*************************************
For those for whom the following is "Too long, not going to read:"

- An effective fix is IMO impossible without a major deviation from the existing prestige system
- A poor man's solution would be give the players even more control over customizing difficulty and allow them to do so during a campaign so they can balance on the fly based upon their actual performance.
- An alternative poor man's solution is to implement a cosmetic scoring system of some sort that would factor in core quality, losses, achievements, frequency of replacement to encourage some measure of self handicapping to improve score without actually "forcing" a player to play any differently then he does now.

- I love the idea of making the game challenging *in a good way* by reducing the death penalty but greatly increasing the average number of core deaths a player would experience over an average campaign.
********************************************
We often disagree, but in this particular case your thoughts are similar to my own conclusions. Allies will allow to switch difficulty mid-way, and I'm thinking about a scoring system too. I wonder what is your current idea of an "effective fix".
Again, I still think the system is fine as is, but as a possible overstrength balancing OPTION, perhaps overstrengthing a German unit could be made to be more expensive from some point forward (Moscow 41?, Stalingrad 42, or Kursk 43). To completely overstrengthen a German unit to its maximum five-star capability by 1945 would be very expensive. This could be a nod to the historical fact that the German army fighting in 1944 and 1945 was not of the same high quality of the German forces that went to war in 1940/1941.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Tarrak » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:52 am

I just had on idea how to maybe really simply solve the snowballing problem. Why not introduce a prestige cap? At any given point in a campaign you can only have a certain amount of prestige. If you you reach it all excess is just disappearing. This would work similar to the experience cap we already have.

As prestige is kind of abstract currency it can easily be explained by the fact that you already reached your highest influence with the High Command and they are fulfilling you every wish but there are simply limitations in availability of equipment. After all they can not pull more units then available out of thin air.

The in game effect still will lead to a difference in core between a player struggling to keep his core going and one having every core slot filled with best and toped out units and still sitting at prestige cap but it will at least prevent the highest extremes. If the cap is set quite low it may even allow to hand out more prestige as reward to help the less experienced players while not affecting the good ones sitting at cap anyway. Obviously the cap can be set differently in different difficulty settings allowing for more reserves in lower levels and keeping it really tight at harder ones.

This won't be able to solve the problem tho that building an ahistorical core out of only strongest units and overstrengthing it to the maximum is the economically best choice saving most prestiges in the long run except maybe by setting the prestige cap so low that this won't be possible at all but i think it an easy way to circumvent the most extreme cases of snowballing.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Dragoon. » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:21 am

Snowballing is not so much the problem instead the game should help the less experienced players to get snowballing too. The reform unit cheat should be automatically enabled on all difficulties below general. After all repeatedly losing units is what prevents snowballing.
After that it's just a question what difficulty level you play. Playing on General with full AI and no reform unit cheat, still snowballing and have a problem with that? Continue to raise difficultly level until you're satisfied or hit Manstein. Once Rudankort code in difficulty chances on the fly this will be easier done than said.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by cns93ma » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:27 am

I think part of the appeal of the game is having elite units in my core so I wouldn't be in favour of making overstrength less powerful, less common yes. How to do this?
I see the snowballing in simple terms, either remove prestige from the good players or add it to the not so good ones. I prefer the former if it can be done so you are not punishing the player for playing well.
I'm not sure there is neccessarily anything wrong with overstrength being the most efficient use of prestige if it can be limited though I haven't fully thought that through, please point out any error in this thought. Having said that I wouldn't be dead set against an increase in cost.
An idea for removing prestige from good players without punishing them is for them to effectively buy a bonus scenario. This could be done a few different ways. Say bonus scenario is escaping from stalingrad or attacking dunkirk, you have disobeyed orders, high command is upset with you, you lose x prestige. The prestige you lose would have to be worked out to balance the game, it could be a set amount, or half your prestige or just reset your prestige to an appropriate amount. Just some thoughts

Col

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:23 pm

The issue is the AI will not attack overstrength units. If you aren't' going to deal with the inability of the AI to deal damage to overstrength units you aren't seriously tackling the issue.

Secondly nerfing overstrength to the point of uselessness and / or capriciously taking away peoples prestige would make the game an unattractive mess. Panzer General and its predecessors, one of which is Panzer Corps, are built around the idea of prestige and overstrength units. If you nerf either idea to the point of uselessness why would fans of Panzer General (and even more fans of Panzer Corps!!!!!) want to play the game? Don't go down that road. It is important for everyone to realize this is a 5-star game.

I think GC45 West was a pretty good step towards fixing this problem. Scenario Design should go back towards a better balance of speed versus the need to not take losses. I think for the most part this was missing from the Eastern Front DLCs which could pretty much be easily completed without the need to rush. This needs to change as given enough time anyone can easily take apart the computer.

What about dynamic enemy setup / forces? Is it possible to do this currently? What I mean but his is can the enemy force composition be tailored to your CORE composition. If you have lots of fighters in your CORE then the opposing forces will take more airplanes. Something along those lines would be helpful though it might take a lot of work.

Unit costing could be changed to be high when it first comes out and then slowly decrease over time. So for instance when the Panther first comes out it would cost a relatively high amount but this cost would decrease a small amount for every day of the year to some baseline cost which then doesn't change anymore. If this could be made not to apply to upgrades that would be a way to benefit players who stay within a single upgrade path.

Perhaps experience penalties should apply to any unit upgraded out of their current upgrade path. Say 100 points if you go from a Pz-III to a Pz-IV? No penalty to upgrading within the current upgrade path though.

Can the initiative system be tweaked to not give such a huge benefit to high initiative units? Perhaps some portion of a unit always gets to attack or defend.

Enemy units need to be able to have their own heroes as well as keep pace with the players CORE experience progression. I don't mean every unit but there should be some heavy hitters with good experience and overstrength themselves.

Lastly I think most changes should be limited to the higher play levels like General and Field Marshall. My guess, from reading a lot of posts, is that most people don't have that easy of a time.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 12:36 pm

cns93ma wrote: An idea for removing prestige from good players without punishing them is for them to effectively buy a bonus scenario. This could be done a few different ways. Say bonus scenario is escaping from stalingrad or attacking dunkirk, you have disobeyed orders, high command is upset with you, you lose x prestige. The prestige you lose would have to be worked out to balance the game, it could be a set amount, or half your prestige or just reset your prestige to an appropriate amount. Just some thoughts

Col
This is an interesting idea. Using prestige for other things aside from unit purchase. Perhaps one-time bonuses that can only be used for the current scenario. I really like the idea of being able to change what the next scenario will be.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by macattack » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:02 pm

cns93ma wrote: An idea for removing prestige from good players without punishing them is for them to effectively buy a bonus scenario. This could be done a few different ways. Say bonus scenario is escaping from stalingrad or attacking dunkirk, you have disobeyed orders, high command is upset with you, you lose x prestige. The prestige you lose would have to be worked out to balance the game, it could be a set amount, or half your prestige or just reset your prestige to an appropriate amount. Just some thoughts
Col
That's not bad. How about including a purchase with prestige feature that would let me move a hero from one unit to another? That way I can make sure my pioneer infantry gets a +1 move, and my artillery gets a +1 range.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by robman » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:06 pm

I like deducter's idea of differential reinforcement rates. Imagine that unit stats included a "rate of repair/reinforce" equivalent to "rate of fire." Some units, by virtue of composition and newness of technology, cannot be brought up to strength as quickly as others. For example, a Tiger unit in early 1943 consists of fewer tanks than a PzIII or PzIV unit; the technology is still buggy; spare parts and spare crewmen are hard to come by; and battlefield recovery is a major challenge. The Tiger's ROR would be less than one. If it were, say, 7, then hitting the "+" button mid-scenario would fill 70% of the steps between its current strength and 10. The Tiger's ROR might rise as the war progresses as bugs are worked out, spare parts become more available, and battlefield recovery systems improve.

Would this mean that a badly mauled Tiger in 1943 could slow up the entire advance? You betcha, just like in real life. It would be nice to have some PzIVs around to hedge against that prospect.

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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by ThvN » Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:21 pm

The TLDR is at the bottom...

I agree with the idea that the OS system is too economical, I like playing with a little bit of an historical core but for the beta-tests this mostly goes out of the window if I want to chew through the scenarios quickly enough without having to replay due to excessive losses.

I’m not good with numbers, but I can say that the best way to tackle this sort of ‘snowballing’ problem is usually with a simple law: the law of diminishing returns. Every extra bit will cost relatively more, until it becomes simply uneconomical yet still possible if you are very rich, but at that point it is no longer efficient.

A well designed self-limiting system can help control unwanted excesses, but the current system doesn’t lend itself very well for implementing something simple without penalizing ‘green’ players I think, and most suggestions would merely postpone the ‘snowball crest’, although some are very good.
If I was asked to provide a quick and simple nerf for the current system, using the existing tools (like for a mod), than I would suggest to up the cost for high performance units, I was amazed at how cheap the jet fighters are for example.

Another quick fix could be to reduce the stat boost from experience. This way experienced units will still perform better but not a lot. And it will help green units to perform relatively better vs. an experienced opponent in combat, taking less losses and being able to inflict more. Of course, units with low stats will start lagging behind more in peformance even when experienced.

Overstrength costs could be increased as well, but I would not raise the cost of ‘basic’ elite reinforcements as that would make building up an experienced core more expensive without preventing the snowballing once you reach the peak. That is the price for a quick fix. But fiddling with the equipment file or the gamerules.pzdat settings will not change the basic underlaying problem. It would only postpone this moment, where the snowball crests the hill and starts picking up momentum.

I see some really nice suggestions, I would really like some form of increasing the cost of overstrength, with each step getting progressively more expensive. and I’ve seen mentioned prestige caps, and I have two more variations to add to the mix (not personal favourites of mine, to be honest), to muddle things further and provide some food for the discussion:

First of all, a prestige spending cap per turn, depended on difficulty level. So, for example, you have a maximum allowance to spend each turn on reinforcing, unlimited at low level, let’s say 500 per turn but for higer levels and a lot less, say 100-250 for the top level. This would not prevent the snowballing, because those cores take virtually no losses, but it could slow things down a bit.

Secondly, another wild idea would be a cap the max prestige cost of the core force that you could deploy. This would lead to a lot of ‘gamey’ min-maxing, but it might make for an interesting variation. You can still field your 15-str Tiger II, but for the same price you could field 3 overstrengthed Panzer IV H with 2-3 stars. This would still run into the core slot cap, off course, and would be difficult in terms of scenario design.


OK, so much for some quick fixes. Now for some more armchair philosophy, to see if I can think of a mechanism that will provide the ‘diminishing returns’.

It should be logical that an experienced Tiger would perform better than a green Panzer IV, but how much better? That question is open for a lot of debate, but I would like to ask a different question: how much should the difference in performance cost, and how should it be paid?

Under the current system, you ‘buy’ a tank, and replace losses, and that’s all in terms of expenses. So it’s very simple to say: the cost for the better performance is only in the purchase and reinforcement. But there are not any costs involved in using it, apart from replacing losses. But in reality, one of the biggest drawbacks of expensive hardware is that not only are they more expensive to buy, but they are also a lot more expensive to maintain and use (operate).

An easy example are cars. I recently helped friends of mine to buy a cheap second-hand car, and they had little money because they just moved in with each other. They found some nice cheap cars, and I told them what it would cost to run/fix them. This proved to be quite an eye-opener for them.
Yes, they could buy a nice-looking car with a decent engine and some luxury items, and it would bankrupt them if it broke or needed a big maintenance job, which for some strange reason most of the cheapies seemed to need within the next few thousand km 8) . Funny that, it is almost as if people got a quote from their garage and immediately dumped it :roll: .

I would really like this to be represented a bit better in Panzer Corps 2, apart from the haggling with the dealers and finding out your Panzer’s warranty/insurance doesn’t cover combat damage (those small words really matter).

It should take a lot of effort and expense to keep the things running, let alone combat-worthy. So, why not introduce operating costs (or running costs)? Those Panthers may have been relatively cheap to build compared to the more old-fashioned Panzer IV, but the final drives had to be replaced with alarming regularity, and those had to be made from expensive steel and transported over great distances to the field units. Those high-velocity gun barrels wore out rather fast as well, and the bigger ones weren’t cheap.

Generals would also have to watch out that units weren’t re-assigned (GC ’42-’43 West), which adds another argument to support having to spend prestige to keep all those nice units under your command.

This sort of system could self-limit the number of high-cost units a player could afford to operate, while giving more interesting long-term strategic choices. But it would require a big rethink of the core/prestige system. A simple variation of this idea could be to have the player spending a certain fraction of the purchase cost of a unit on maintenance with a certain regularity. And besides that, using those tanks should come at a price, too. So why not pay for fuel/ammo consumption? ( -ducks incoming chorus of naysayers- :mrgreen: )

Yeah, I said it, pay to fill up those tanks. The prestige system is a representation of lobbying for resources, well the fuel was just as fiercely competed for. Rommel in Afrika, Patton in France, they had to lobby hard to get even a fraction of the fuel and supplies that they wanted.

A quick thought experiment for a practical application: If the current fuel consumption system is used, it would not be a price-per-fuel unit, but a price to fill it up, in proportion to what’s left. For example a complete fill for any tank would cost 5 prestige, regardless of wether it has 30 or 60 fuel. To make topping-off small amounts more expensive (logistical overhead), replenishing half a tank would cost 3. Something similar for ammo.

These are just examples, please don’t take them to literally. Anyway, you can also increase all these costs on higher levels, and this would make operating a fleet of the latest and greatest require massive prestige, and with some overall tuning it could make a nice, adjustable & moddable, self-limiting system which provides more strategic challenges as well, without having to micro-manage all kinds of settings or complicate scenario design.


Oh, and to open another off-topic can of worms. After the whole debate on dice rolls and deviation I started paying more attention to the combat log, and I think I may have found something that might help cause some of the often complained about, rage-inducing wayward combat results: the initial extra dice roll for initiative (from +0 to +2) can really swing some combats around if the initiatives are closely matched. So maybe a switch to disable it would help appease the masses without altering the combat dice roll variation? Or a setting to adjust it’s range of values?


TLDR:
To prevent snowballing, it would help to have a 'law of diminishing returns'. My idea is to introduce maintenance and operating costs for the units under your command, to make owning and using a core with expensive hardware more costly.

brettz123
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by brettz123 » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:33 pm

ThvN wrote: TLDR:
To prevent snowballing, it would help to have a 'law of diminishing returns'. My idea is to introduce maintenance and operating costs for the units under your command, to make owning and using a core with expensive hardware more costly.
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. Things like paying for "maintenance" or paying to keep a CORE unit from being transferred to another front.

This needs to be fixed without taking prestige from players in a punitive manner. 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? Paying anything but a token amount for supply is essentially the same as paying a per turn prestige penalty. 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.

I don't mind rewarding efficient CORE construction but punishing one style of CORE construction over another is not a good idea. The 5-star games are about allowing you to build your forces anyway you want and we shouldn't be changing that philosophy. 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.

Longasc
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by Longasc » Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:39 pm

Lots of good thoughts in this thread!

Please keep the AVERAGE player in mind. In general I don't lose 10 units per scenario, but I also don't lose only 10 strength points. And somewhere in this spectrum are most players, those who lose every unit or not a single strength point are outliers.

I also don't want scenarios to be balanced against people who don't take a "bad luck -> unfair, let's reload" approach to Panzer Corps. That's how I try to get through Panzer Corps, and tbh DLC 1942+ broke my core so much that I was struggling to recover and continue.

The crux is indeed to find a solution that works for the best players and the average players as well. But the focus should be on the average player, I doubt there is a good solution for every end of the skill spectrum.


I support the idea to make "reform units" a default function of Panzer Corps. It's well beloved by many players and deducter's idea are sound.

"The second is to increase the cost of each point of overstrength as a mathematical function of current unit strength. In essence, going from 11 -> 12 strength costs more than going from 10 -> 11 strength."

I also like this.

-> The problem is indeed those 15 Strength Fighters/Tiger II who are no longer attacked at all by the AI. I don't know how to correct this without effectively reducing the fighting power of the unit in ways like the one suggested by deducter, which would vastly reduce the use of overstrengthening units.

On the other hand, I feel overstrength units are more damaging to gameplay in general than promoting planning and combined arms strategy, so that might not be a loss?

deducter
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Re: The Snowball Effect and Possible Solutions

Post by deducter » Sun Mar 31, 2013 8:10 pm

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.

Most critically is that some units have no weaknesses of any type compared with others. A Tiger is superior to a Panzer IV in every way, including economics. So in essence, players are currently punished for using a Panzer IV. Again, there already exist gameplay mechanics that punishes a certain playstyle.

If we take this thought experiment to the extreme, then there should be functionally no difference between a player who wants to use nothing but Panzer IVs and a player who wants to use nothing but Tigers. Achieving this is extremely simple, just give the Panzer IVs the same combat stats as a Tiger. You'd immediately solve the problem of medium tanks being useless, but I'd say this solution is worse than the problem.

In my opinion, gameplay mechanics should be designed to encourage a variety of distinct playstyles, each with strengths and weaknesses, not to promote the one right answer that is clearly the most efficient. This can be done by making sure each units has its strengths and weaknesses. Strategy games typically use a type of rock paper scissors scheme, but it would be detrimental to strategy if rock always beats everything. To quote the Simpsons:

Lisa: "Poor predictable Bart, always chooses rock."

Bart: "Good old rock, nothing beats that!"

Interestingly enough, in multiplayer there is a lot more flexibility in terms of selecting forces, since the strengths of weaknesses of the unit types is a lot more evident. I'd love have more of the strategic choices involved in mp unit selection to single player. The exact method of accomplishing this is not necessarily obvious. But I think it's a good idea to experiment, using many of the excellent suggestions here. This is what I think a beta test should involve.

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