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Author Topic: Combat Bonus XP improvements  (Read 3099 times)

intrinsic_parity

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Combat Bonus XP improvements
« on: March 27, 2022, 08:07:53 PM »

I've seen quite a bit of discussion about how the bonus xp system can be min-maxed, and it's leading me to believe that the system has perhaps incentivized some unintended and undesirable gameplay.

IIRC, the idea of increased bonus xp for harder battles was to encourage the player to take harder fights. I fully support that goal, and I do think the system is achieving that to some degree, but it seems like what it has also done is encourage the player to do weird niche strategies like soloing everything or avoid using officers or using very particular builds, which doesn't necessarily seem like the sort of gameplay that should be incentivized over everything else. Particularly, I think building officers and designing ships to go with those officers is really fun, and being incentivized to completely ignore officers (because of the large DP cost of officers in the bonus XP calculation) feels pretty bad. Not that those edge cases are necessarily bad ways of playing the game, but they really don't feel like the sort of play styles that you should get forced into if you want to min-max bonus XP and story points.

Solution 1: just balance better 4head
In some ways, the system is incentivizing the player to find the strategies whose true power level is furthest from the power level assumed by the bonus XP calculations. The obvious thing to do is to just identify these edge case builds and either improve the calculations to account for them, or nerf them. In particular, I think the current system might over-value officers, but it's such a situation and fleet specific balance that I'm not sure if a good balance can really be struck. To me just trying to balance everything seems like it will result in an endless whack-a-mole of new edge cases, but maybe a good balance can be struck eventually. I think more balancing is always necessary to some degree anyway though so maybe this approach can work.

Solution 2: cap bonus xp %
If you add in a cap on bonus XP, then any fleet composition that can reach that cap in a given fight and win is equally good (from a bonus xp perspective), so that leaves a lot more room for balance. It doesn't necessarily push the player to fight the most difficult possible fights, but at least it still pushes the player to not fight the safest possible fight and take some risks without the incentive towards niche strats. Hopefully the cap can be high enough that reaching it is interesting while there are still a wide variety of strats that work well.
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Amoebka

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2022, 09:05:30 PM »

I think you misinterpret the problem somewhat.

Regardless of how the system is implemented, it will be possible to minmax it. The question is, WHY do players feel compelled to minmax instead of playing in the way that's fun? Can it be that the base rate of XP / story point gain is unacceptably slow, leading to the desire to cheese? I know for myself at least, that if one story point at max level didn't take 30 minutes and 3 battles, I wouldn't bother cheesing ordos for +300%.

That said, the officer contribution to the current formula is wrong in an obvious way. Officer level should be a multiplier for the DP value of the ship they are on, not a flat bonus added to it.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2022, 09:53:20 PM »

Regardless of how the system is implemented, it will be possible to minmax it.
I don't agree that the problem is just that min-maxing is bad (I enjoy some good min-maxing actually). I think the problem is that the specific solutions that the system is pushing the player towards are unbalanced, and more specifically are unbalanced because they circumvent core aspects of the game that are fun. Stuff like not using officers, or spamming SO ships or soloing everything in a zig all circumvent core game mechanics. I want to use those mechanics to their fullest extent, not circumvent them. I've already complained ad-nauseam about SO for the same reasons lol.

I also think that the suggestion of caping bonus XP% does prevent minmaxing to some extent since you cannot improve beyond the cap and thus cannot optimize further than that. The idea is to allow there to be multiple 'best' solutions (that achieve the cap) which represent a diverse set of strategies that can appeal to many, rather than a very small number of best solutions which might not be fun for many people.

The question is, WHY do players feel compelled to minmax instead of playing in the way that's fun? Can it be that the base rate of XP / story point gain is unacceptably slow, leading to the desire to cheese? I know for myself at least, that if one story point at max level didn't take 30 minutes and 3 battles, I wouldn't bother cheesing ordos for +300%.
I think as long as story points are valuable, grinding them will be a focus of optimization for many people. Making them so numerous that they are not as valuable doesn't seem like a good solution to me. You also don't really want to make the player too powerful with a floor of story points either.

Personally, I have not bothered to cheese much because I have had enough story points to have an upgraded fleet and good officers in the early-mid game, and then I lost interest in the campaign and stopped playing/started a new campaign when I got to the point where I would want tons of story points. I am not big on super late game though. That aspect of the game is not very enjoyable to me  right now, and I am looking forward to whatever real end game Alex eventually implements. I am hoping to address these issues now before they start affecting that new end-game content.

That said, the officer contribution to the current formula is wrong in an obvious way. Officer level should be a multiplier for the DP value of the ship they are on, not a flat bonus added to it.
I agree this would be a good immediate change that might help. I still think it will be a major balance headache to actually get the bonus XP calculation to not incentivize some weird edge cases though.
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Amoebka

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2022, 12:10:52 AM »

"Minmaxing" pretty much by definition refers to bad design. It comes from tabletop RPGs, where leaving certain stats at minimum to raise the other to maximum could be seen as optimal. When it's good it's not minmaxing, it's intended gameplay. Finding balance between multiple options is what games like Starsector are about, pretty much. It only becomes a problem when outright ignoring certain systems is optimal.

Bonus XP is already capped at 600%. I'm guessing you want to lower the cap? This would to an extent increase the diversity of fleets that can achieve the max multiplier, but you would have to lower it very significantly. Even for cheesiest fleets seeing over 300% in the endgame is rare. On the other hand, lowering it too much would remove some of the joy of getting huge level boosts in the early game.

My issue with story point grind is that the amount you need is very fleet dependent. If you spam capitals/cruisers, you can fully s-mod your fleet using just the "easy" story points you gain from leveling. If you are like me and want to meme with 30 enforcers, grinding is pain. Theoretically s-mods on destroyers cost less because of the bonus XP, but in practice you still need to grind more, because each next story point is harder than the one before (until it plateaus at level 15 with no bonus XP).
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Megas

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2022, 04:26:04 AM »

The bonus xp not only affects story point gain, but officer leveling too.  (And player character leveling too, but he may not get all of the best cheese ships, weapons, and mods before reaching max level.)  It takes (I guess) 560k xp for officers to reach level 5.  I remember leveling officers was slow, but I used a random large fleet that rarely got more than +50% bonus xp.

After playing around with ships to get more bonus XP and solve the story point problem, from now on, I will probably solo every non-Ordos fight away from Core Worlds with Ziggurat to maximize bonus xp (for near +400% and get close to a million xp per fight).  Normal xp gain (without any green bonus xp) for both player and officers, and story point gain are too slow without massive bonus xp, and unless I can grind double Ordos, I get the most from soloing fleets with Ziggurat.  If I cannot use Ziggurat (because attacking non-hostile faction assets), maybe double Onslaught or something else similarly lean.

Because I solo human fleets with Ziggurat, skills that rely on a large fleet (like Electronic Warfare) or officers (like Wolfpack Tactics) are useless.

This reminds me of the 0.6 and 0.7 releases when the most resource efficient strategy in combat was to solo everything to minimize deployment costs.  (That was possible with much stronger combat skills and less cowardly enemy AI of the day.)  During the 0.7a releases.  Player can bring a fleet, but they were a toolbox of ships, and officers (in 0.7) were benchwarmers.  Mildly large pirate fleet?  Deploy a Lasher.  Single defense fleet?  Deploy a Dominator.  Several defense fleets with as many ships as the simulator?  Deploy an Onslaught.

As for a solution, here are my suggestions:
* At least triple or quadruple the base xp gain for player and officers.  Leveling and story point gain are too slow at normal or double (+100%) rate.
* Remove or greatly lower the bonus xp cap (no more than +50%).
* Remove officer mentoring as it is and make mentoring benefits the default (bigger skill selection).  Mentoring as-is is a no-brainer.

P.S.  Another problem with maximizing bonus xp is civilians add to bonus xp (relatively small, but enough to be noticeable), so player cannot bring extra to haul loot, only enough so the player does not die from running out of supplies or fuel.  That feels bad because a fundamental trope of RPGs is looting.  Also, player may dump tugs for more bonus xp, and tugs are campaign QoL.

If more xp for leveling up is not desired, then add more story point breakpoints for each level, like ten or sixteen per level instead of four.

I don't agree that the problem is just that min-maxing is bad (I enjoy some good min-maxing actually). I think the problem is that the specific solutions that the system is pushing the player towards are unbalanced, and more specifically are unbalanced because they circumvent core aspects of the game that are fun. Stuff like not using officers, or spamming SO ships or soloing everything in a zig all circumvent core game mechanics. I want to use those mechanics to their fullest extent, not circumvent them. I've already complained ad-nauseam about SO for the same reasons lol.
Worst circumvention ever was autoresolve during the later 0.5 releases.  Much faster combat resolution, taking seconds instead of minutes.  Only problem was it circumvented the combat engine entirely.  Still, autoresolve was the only fast way of getting 10-10-10 aptitudes and skills back then.

Another old fun one:  Losing ships gave you xp.  With that in mind, I shot at and destroyed my own ships when convenient for more xp, if I did not send them off to die.  If you did not need to recover a ship, do it anyway just to send it off to die and get more xp from its loss.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2022, 05:51:35 AM by Megas »
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Amoebka

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2022, 06:19:55 AM »

I don't think just increasing the story point gain rate is going to solve the issue, at least not for me. Some playstyles simply require less story points than others, and bonus XP returns are not an adequate compensation mechanism. It only works on the assumption the player is already at level 15 and gaining points at a fixed rate, but in practice the game starts at level 1 and most story points come from leveling.

For example, consider two extreme situations:

1) My 240 dp fleet is 4 paragons. I want full s-mods, so I need 8 story points. I level from 1 to 3 in 10 minutes, and have a "fully s-modded fleet".

2) My 240 dp fleet is 30 tempests. I want full s-mods, so I need 60 story points. I level from 1 to 15 in 8 hours or so. I do so at double speed because of the bonus XP returns from frigate hullmods, but it still takes ages, and by the end of it I still have millions of uncashed bonus XP. If I keep playing for another 10 hours I might break even, but I'm probably going to quit long before that.

This discrepancy has nothing to with the overall rate, it comes from the fact that the rate is fastest at level 1 and slows down later. If you make leveling 4 times faster, or award 4 times more story points per level, the first player is still at a huge advantage. He gets his story points now, while the seconds one gets them later, when they are harder to grind.

Imo the only solution is to outright convert green XP into story points at certain thresholds before level 15. You accumulate 1 million bonus XP - it gets burned immediately and you get a story point.
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Megas

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2022, 07:30:59 AM »

I want to get at least four colony improvements per colony on all five non-AI colonies, so that is 30 (2+4+8+16) points per colony (and there is the temptation to add just one more improvement).  So far, I have hoarded most of my story points for the eventual splurge on colonies.

If I want to respec my character because I do not want to be locked into the same fleet or skill configuration for the rest of the late-game, I burn story points fixing that, which get in the way of accumulating story points for s-mods, skills, and colonies.  Then again, unless I build a double Ordos grinder, options for high story point gain with lesser fleet configurations against human targets are limited too.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2022, 10:59:28 AM »

I want to get at least four colony improvements per colony on all five non-AI colonies, so that is 30 (2+4+8+16) points per colony (and there is the temptation to add just one more improvement).  So far, I have hoarded most of my story points for the eventual splurge on colonies.
That's a completely arbitrary and unnecessary goal though. It's fine to want to do that, but the system shouldn't be designed around it by any means. I think the system is actually designed to prevent that to some extent lol.

Bonus XP is already capped at 600%. I'm guessing you want to lower the cap? This would to an extent increase the diversity of fleets that can achieve the max multiplier, but you would have to lower it very significantly. Even for cheesiest fleets seeing over 300% in the endgame is rare. On the other hand, lowering it too much would remove some of the joy of getting huge level boosts in the early game.
I wasn't even aware of the 600% percent cap, but that is so high that it's pretty much irrelevant. Something like 200% would be better, although that might still be too high. The important part IMO, is that the cap is achievable without having to resort to excessive cheese.

As for a solution, here are my suggestions:
* At least triple or quadruple the base xp gain for player and officers.  Leveling and story point gain are too slow at normal or double (+100%) rate.
* Remove or greatly lower the bonus xp cap (no more than +50%).
* Remove officer mentoring as it is and make mentoring benefits the default (bigger skill selection).  Mentoring as-is is a no-brainer.

If more xp for leveling up is not desired, then add more story point breakpoints for each level, like ten or sixteen per level instead of four.
I don't think flooding the player with XP and story points will improve the game, just make it easier. Story points being a limited resource makes decisions about them interesting. If you just had as many as you wanted, you would just stack every ship with them and there would be no choices.
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Megas

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2022, 11:16:27 AM »

That's a completely arbitrary and unnecessary goal though. It's fine to want to do that, but the system shouldn't be designed around it by any means. I think the system is actually designed to prevent that to some extent lol.
It already is designed around it.  Not unlike grinding for uniques and other rare items in Diablo II.  Just grind for hours, days, maybe weeks to get more story points just for yet another improvement.

Kind of like a rare and best-in-class item with perfect stats trade much higher than the same type with only -1% off from perfect.  Never underestimate the crazy lengths players will go to obtain the best stuff.  Although, in case of Starsector, player would probably outright alter the game to do it.

I wasn't even aware of the 600% percent cap, but that is so high that it's pretty much irrelevant. Something like 200% would be better, although that might still be too high. The important part IMO, is that the cap is achievable without having to resort to excessive cheese.
I think he totals base xp plus five times the base from +500%, so six times normal experience from +500%.

A cap of +100% would be double, which is a large jump from base.  That was why I suggested higher base and +50% bonus.

I don't think flooding the player with XP and story points will improve the game, just make it easier. Story points being a limited resource makes decisions about them interesting. If you just had as many as you wanted, you would just stack every ship with them and there would be no choices.
By endgame, player can probably double s-mod all ships in his current fleet and skills.  If that is not enough, time to do magic-find story point runs in StarDiablo: AI of Destruction.

If the player had as many as he wanted, then undoing mistakes or changing skill/ship/officer configurations would not hurt, and the 2^n costs that dwarf everything else that costs story points would not be crazy.

I still think 2^n costs on colony improvements (and historian transactions) are a blight on the game, worse than level soft cap in earlier releases.  Should have a different limit, like a hard cap used by character levels and maximum s-mods per ship.

If story points were limited to actual story events and avoiding encounters, the current point gain would be fine.  But story points are mostly rare currency to buy upgrades and fix various fleet configurations.  Many story point uses should have been handled by credits, the designated in-game currency.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2022, 11:33:30 AM by Megas »
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Vanshilar

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2022, 02:04:18 AM »

I think the bonus XP system should be tweaked, but I also think you need to be careful about how much of the discussion is actually an over-reaction to finding out how the bonus XP system actually works.

I think the core concept is sound: it compares your fleet's power with that of the opponent, and if the opponent's power is stronger, then it gives you a bonus XP multiplier which is the ratio between your fleet's power and the opponent's power. So if the opponent is twice as strong, then you get a +100% XP bonus, etc.

The bonus XP also determines each fleet's power based on summing each fleet's DP, which is pretty sound. After all, DP is basically a rough estimate of how powerful a ship is, or how much it contributes to the fight, or how effective it is in combat, etc.

The problems with it, however, are:

1. The bonus XP system severely over-values the contribution of officers. Each officer counts as 7.5 DP + 3.75 DP for each level they have, so a level 6 officer counts as 30 DP. I can see a level 6 officer increasing the combat effectiveness of large ships by that much, but there is no way an officer is going to increase the effectiveness of small ships by the same amount. So the bonus XP system severely nerfs Wolfpack Tactics except if the player character is piloting a small ship, or special cases like Hyperions.

However, I can sympathize with difficulties in making this balanced. You cannot simply make the officer DP contribution based on the ship the officer is currently controlling, because then the player will simply game the system by switching officers back and forth depending on the current fleet(s) that they're up against (i.e. if they're up against an easier fleet, they'll just put the officers on smaller ships or civilian ships to increase the bonus XP, etc.). In fact the code specifically runs another loop to check for idle officers, with the comment specifically saying it's so that the player doesn't try to game the bonus XP system by removing officers from use just before combat to game the bonus XP calculation.

So I think it'd be more fruitful to consider just how much does the "typical" officer increase a "typical" ship's effectiveness, and set the officer's DP contribution based on that. With the caveat that yes, it sort of encourages putting officers on larger ships and less on smaller ships, but smaller ships get a boost from officers due to Wolfpack Tactics anyway. So for example, maybe a level 6 officer should count as 15 DP or 20 DP or whatever, but not the current 30 DP. Keep in mind that putting an officer on a ship is essentially letting you put more DP (in terms of ship power) on the battlefield beyond the 240-DP limit, which itself is an advantage of having an officer rather than another ship.

2. As a corollary, players should have a way to store unused officers. If you find a level 7 officer while exploring, for example, you basically have to either junk it or have it decrease your XP from there on out, even if it's not something that you want to use right now. The game already lets you basically store unused admins (i.e. you only pay 10% of their upkeep when they're not being used). It'd be nice if officers can be put shore-side on some planet, maybe put them onto the comm board at the planet so that you can always just return to them and say "hey I'd like to use you now".

3. As a further corollary, officer contribution to enemy DP for bonus XP calculations should also be adjusted. Currently, enemy officers count double, so a level 6 officer in the enemy fleet counts as 60 DP, an alpha core (i.e. level 8 ) counts as 75 DP, etc. So right now, XP farming basically just comes down to how many officers the enemy has. Level 10 deserter bounties seem to have about 600 DP's worth of officers and 400 DP's worth of ships. Ordos fleets seem to have about 1400 DP's worth of officers and 400 DP's worth of ships. (These DP values are then multiplied by 0.67 to arrive at the enemy fleet DP used for comparing your fleet's DP against.) People complain about Ordos fleets having too many officers but I actually see enemy officers as easy XP farming; I would much rather face a Lumen with an Beta Core than a Lumen plus another Radiant, for example, but in terms of the bonus DP calculation, those two give the same reward.

To take an example: let's say your fleet currently uses 240 DP of combat ships, and 25 DP's worth of support ships (which becomes 6.25 for bonus XP), to make it a nice round number. Add on your player character (level 15) which contributes 63.75 DP, and this fleet comes out to a total of 310 DP for bonus XP calculations.

If you now add 8 level 6 officers, this counts out to 240 DP, for a total of 550 DP. Your fleet now levels at the rate of 56% (310/550) of its original rate, so those officers had better make your fleet +77% (240/310) more powerful, or they're not really worth it.

If the weight of officers were halved, then your fleet would now be worth 278.125 DP (noting that the player character now counts for 31.875 DP), and adding 8 level 6 officers would be adding an additional 120 DP. This means your fleet will now level at 70% of its original rate, so if the officers make the fleet more powerful by +43% (120/278.125), then they're worthwhile. I think that's closer to how much officers affect the fleet's power.

If enemy officer DP were also cut in half, then deserter bounties (currently ~600 DP of officers, ~400 DP of ships, then *0.67 so around 670 DP) would get dropped to around 469 DP, or 70% of previous. Ordos fleets (currently ~1400 DP of officers, ~400 DP of ships, then *0.67 so around 1206 DP) would get dropped to around 737 DP, or 61% of previous. But since your fleet's DP (assuming 8 level 6 officers, etc.) also got dropped to around 72% of previous, then this leaves the bonus XP for deserter bounties essentially unchanged, while that of Ordos fleets becomes 84% of what it was previously. So perhaps the *0.67 in the code (for weighting enemy fleet DP) could be increased to compensate. For example, increasing it from 0.67 to 0.80 would mean deserter bounties would give 15% more XP while leaving Ordos fleet XP essentially unchanged.

If you add in a cap on bonus XP, then any fleet composition that can reach that cap in a given fight and win is equally good (from a bonus xp perspective), so that leaves a lot more room for balance. It doesn't necessarily push the player to fight the most difficult possible fights, but at least it still pushes the player to not fight the safest possible fight and take some risks without the incentive towards niche strats. Hopefully the cap can be high enough that reaching it is interesting while there are still a wide variety of strats that work well.

I don't think that's really necessary. There are already plenty of disincentives to trying for too high of an XP bonus, such as fights becoming more difficult the more outnumbered you are, and eventually your fleet runs out of PPT/CR, without introducing an artificial cap. An artificial cap is basically similar to saying "no matter how many colonies you make or how productive they are, you are limited to a total of 500k credits per month from them". Right now the cap is +500%. The DP for bonus XP purposes of an Ordos fleet is around 1200 DP. So this means that (under the current system):

* If you're aiming to farm single Ordos fleets, then you have around 200 DP to work with. After your player character of 63.75 DP and assuming 6.25 DP of support ships, this means around 130 DP of ships and/or officers. A pretty small fleet.
* If you're aiming to farm double Ordos fleets, then you have around 400 DP to work with. So this means around 330 DP of ships and/or officers -- so perhaps 240 DP of ships and 3 level 6 officers, along with your player. That seems like a pretty good mix.
* If you're aiming to farm triple Ordos fleets, then you have around 600 DP to work with. So this means around 530 DP of ships and/or officers, which allow you to have big fleets and about 10 level 6 officers, or multiple cores, or whatever.

Basically I think a decent-sized fleet being able to handle double Ordos, or a big fleet being able to handle triple Ordos, is about the right balance for an "endgame fleet" where there are a large variety of fleet setups that the player can use to fulfill them (to make it interesting for replayability without limiting the player to too few selections), and yet not so many that it becomes too easy to achieve. So it seems to be about right. Making the cap be below this would just have the effect of slowing down XP gain for many players, making it more of a grind.

I actually think trying to farm single Ordos fleets by using a very small fleet isn't actually that efficient, even if the bonus XP looks high. For XP farming, the goal isn't actually to maximize the bonus XP multiplier, the goal is to maximize the player's overall XP gain per hour of play. A small fleet simply has too few DP on the battlefield killing enemy ships -- the overall rate of fleet damage per unit time is low.

Somewhat related to this, a small or solo fleet means that the player is doing most (or all) the work of killing the enemy fleet. Whereas a larger fleet means that there are more ships "off-screen" killing enemy ships and thus gaining XP for the player for free without the player having to put manual labor into it. For example my current Brawler (LP) fleet makes use of this. Since my flagship is the only one with Cryoblasters, I spend my time killing the bigger ships, letting the Brawlers deal with the trash, so that I don't have to spend my playing time chasing down every last frigate. I do about 20% of the overall damage, meaning the rest of my fleet is doing about 80% of the work; I only have to put in 20% of the effort to get 100% of the XP.

There's also the fixed DP cost of your character and of support ships to contend with. In other words, to cut your fleet DP in half, you have to more than halve your combat fleet. In the above example, going from double Ordos to single Ordos means you get 130 DP instead of 330 DP of ships and officers to play with.

So I suspect that the most efficient (highest XP/hour) fleets for XP farming are actually double Ordos or triple Ordos fleets, not minimize-size or solo fleets.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2022, 02:27:38 AM by Vanshilar »
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #10 on: March 30, 2022, 10:28:24 AM »

I don't think that's really necessary. There are already plenty of disincentives to trying for too high of an XP bonus, such as fights becoming more difficult the more outnumbered you are, and eventually your fleet runs out of PPT/CR, without introducing an artificial cap. An artificial cap is basically similar to saying "no matter how many colonies you make or how productive they are, you are limited to a total of 500k credits per month from them".
I think you're missing my point. My problem isn't that the player gets too much XP with an optimized fleet, it's that the direction you're pushed in when optimizing for XP is bad (IMO). If capping bonus XP would slow down XP gain too much, then just increase base XP gain. My goal isn't to slow down XP gain, it's to avoid overly incentivizing unenjoyable gameplay (of course that is subjective, but I'm still going to voice my opinion on it).

For instance, I really enjoy the gameplay of coming up with interesting officer skill and loadout combinations, and finding ways to take advantage of officer skills, but I'm apparently heavily disincentive from using officers unless I'm fighting double ordo fleets... I just think it incentivizes the wrong things.

Also, the idea of just coming up with a 'typical power' contribution of an officer or ship seems flawed to me. The value of a ship is hugely dependent on the specific loadout and even the specific interactions of skills with that loadout (arguably even officer aggression level can make a huge difference too). A ship with a level 6 officer can have massively different value depending on how it is outfitted and what skills the officer has. There's way too many unaccounted for variables, so you end up with a system that just incentivizes poorly IMO.

I agree that in theory, the idea of 'give player more XP if they are fighting a harder fight' is good, but I think that actually getting good numerical representations of the difficulty of a fight is not practical. I also think that the gameplay of artificially making a fight harder by making yourself weaker is not very fun, but it is incentivized quite heavily.
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Megas

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2022, 11:44:00 AM »

For instance, I really enjoy the gameplay of coming up with interesting officer skill and loadout combinations, and finding ways to take advantage of officer skills, but I'm apparently heavily disincentive from using officers unless I'm fighting double ordo fleets... I just think it incentivizes the wrong things.
I agree.  I can easily solo any human bounty with Ziggurat.  Even with double human bounties, the only hard part is not running out of PPT.  If I cannot use Ziggurat because of auto-id, double (dragon) Onslaughts Billy & Lee can do the job with more difficulty, although I might need Neural Link to have both Onslaughts buffed enough.  Unless I want to fight Tesseracts or double Ordos, I do not need a proper fleet.  I would like to use a fleet, but the story point gain is too slow unless the enemy is double Ordos.

I considered getting new officers, but now, I feel like I can fire them all if I do not care to fight double Ordos.  That way, I get more bonus XP if I want to fight human bounties or raiders (expeditions or pirate raids).  If I want more ships, I should one of the Tech 5 skills.

I agree that in theory, the idea of 'give player more XP if they are fighting a harder fight' is good, but I think that actually getting good numerical representations of the difficulty of a fight is not practical. I also think that the gameplay of artificially making a fight harder by making yourself weaker is not very fun, but it is incentivized quite heavily.
Agreed.  I do not like using less stuff just to get more loot that matters (i.e., story points).  This is like soloing every fight during a pre-0.8a release because I expend the least resources and enemy drops are more than enough to support my toolbox fleet.
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Vanshilar

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2022, 09:06:05 PM »

I think you're missing my point. My problem isn't that the player gets too much XP with an optimized fleet, it's that the direction you're pushed in when optimizing for XP is bad (IMO).

Not necessarily. The system should reward "better" fleets, with whatever metric is used to measure what is "better". It encourages the player to learn more about the game and keeps the challenge of the game interesting. It's a problem only if it pushes the player toward unappealing gameplay methods, or in whatever direction Alex feels isn't good. The fact that it pushes the player in a particular direction (i.e. to be better, to build better fleets, etc.) isn't a bad thing in and of itself.

As I said, right now the +500% bonus XP means single Ordos with a small fleet, double Ordos with a decent fleet, triple Ordos with a large fleet, all of which I think is plenty doable with a large variety of fleets, i.e. does not force the player to use a single type of "one fleet to rule them all" to reach the max bonus but can be achieved with a lot of different fleet setups. So that cap feels about right.

For instance, I really enjoy the gameplay of coming up with interesting officer skill and loadout combinations, and finding ways to take advantage of officer skills, but I'm apparently heavily disincentive from using officers unless I'm fighting double ordo fleets... I just think it incentivizes the wrong things.

And I spent 2/3 of my post discussing officers and that their DP contribution to the fleet's DP score should be decreased, including sample numbers of the current game and after possible changes.

Also, the idea of just coming up with a 'typical power' contribution of an officer or ship seems flawed to me. The value of a ship is hugely dependent on the specific loadout and even the specific interactions of skills with that loadout (arguably even officer aggression level can make a huge difference too).

And yet we already have a "typical power" rating of each ship, namely its deployment cost (DP). That's what DP is supposed to represent, i.e. a Paragon costs more than a Tempest because it is more powerful. There's also another measure, fleet points (FP), which is used internally by the game to quickly evaluate the estimated strength of each fleet, to generate fleets, etc., along with giving the base XP the player gets (which the XP bonus is then multiplied with).

And of course one of the goals or challenges of the game is to play around with and figure out different fleet compositions and weapon loadouts that can greatly outperform what that "typical power" might be, coupled with the player getting better at controlling his flagship than the AI. That's the whole point. Otherwise it would just be a 240 DP fleet clashing with another 240 DP fleet resulting in mutual annihilation. And that's what the XP system rewards essentially, coming up with a good fleet setup.

I agree that in theory, the idea of 'give player more XP if they are fighting a harder fight' is good, but I think that actually getting good numerical representations of the difficulty of a fight is not practical.

Unfortunately Alex can't sit over each player's shoulder and say "hmm that fight was pretty hard, I'm going to give you more XP" or "that fight was too easy, I'm not going to give you a lot of XP". Thus it boils down to some sort of numerical representation. I don't know how you can claim it's not a practical thing to do, when giving different amounts of experience points for different baddies has been done in games since at least the tabletop D&D era, if not earlier.

I also think that the gameplay of artificially making a fight harder by making yourself weaker is not very fun, but it is incentivized quite heavily.

No. The XP system incentivizes efficient and effective fleets, fleets which are much more powerful than what their DP suggests. Almost by definition that means removing weaker ships (and/or putting stronger ships in their place), which makes the fleet stronger. It actually rewards strong fleets, not weak fleets.

You might be confusing "weak" with "small". As I mentioned, small fleets don't actually lead to good overall XP gain per hour, even if they have a good XP bonus. There are simply too few ships killing the enemy fleet. For a small fleet to be as effective as a large fleet that's able to take on triple Ordos, the small fleet needs to kill each individual Ordos fleet in 1/3 the time as the large fleet killing all of them at once. This means the small fleet would need to do as much damage per unit time as the large fleet (since they both need to chew through the same amount of total hull), and I don't see that happening.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2022, 12:34:12 AM »

It's a problem only if it pushes the player toward unappealing gameplay methods, or in whatever direction Alex feels isn't good. The fact that it pushes the player in a particular direction (i.e. to be better, to build better fleets, etc.) isn't a bad thing in and of itself.
I never said I think rewarding the player for making a 'better' fleet is generally bad, I specifically said that I think the direction it is currently pushing the player is bad, exactly what you are saying is a problem. I am specifically saying that I think what the system is rewarding ('i.e. what it is saying is 'better') is not enjoyable for me, and I am not convinced that the game can be perfectly balanced so that what is 'better' is reliably fun. The bonus XP system serves to increase the importance of what the DP/FP/officer calculations deem to be 'better', and thus magnifies all the balance issues. Maybe all balance issues can be resolved, but lowering the bonus XP cap helps to make sure that the player is not forced to abuse balance issues (which are inevitable IMO) to avoid being punished with much slower progression. At least that's what I think.

This has been an issue for a long time, and the entire CR system pretty much exists just to make soloing artificially worse because a lot of people find it tedious and unfun, even though it is objectively the most efficient way to kill enemies in terms of in-game resources.

Thus it boils down to some sort of numerical representation. I don't know how you can claim it's not a practical thing to do, when giving different amounts of experience points for different baddies has been done in games since at least the tabletop D&D era, if not earlier.
I worded that poorly, I didn't mean to suggest that it is fundamentally impossible to represent difficulty numerically. What I am saying is that the variation in actual combat power of a fleet due to the specifics of loadouts and skills is too large so that attempts to represent combat power based only on ship hull and officer levels produces inaccurate results. Basically the game is trying to judge difficulty without enough information to accurately represent the difficulty. This has always been an issue with fleet generation, but it has been pretty easy to circumvent due to the open world nature of the game e.g. sometimes the bounty generator makes fleets that are much stronger or weaker than what the payout suggests but you can choose what bounties you do, so it didn't really matter.

Also, I think you are mixing 'strong/weak' and 'efficient/inefficient'. For me: Strength is just about what you can defeat, efficiency is strength/DP. You can have fleets that are strong but inefficient, or weak but very efficient. The strongest fleet in an absolute sense would use every DP, every fleet slot and every officer (in the most efficient way) to be as powerful as possible. So yes, you are incentivized to be efficient (which is good), but given a particular enemy, you are incentivized to be as weak as possible while still defeating them. In other words, you get more XP for using a 'weaker' fleet against the same enemy. Technically, the optimal play is to go stash as much of your fleet as possible without losing before every fight to minimize your DP and thus maximize your XP gain, but the actually gameplay of doing that (constantly flying back and forth to bench ships or grab more ships as well as not using officers) is just tedious and annoying IMO. The extreme of this is soloing which is also incentivized. Also, just to be clear, this is in the context of trying to get the most XP while doing other things (like exploring or doing quests).
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Vanshilar

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Re: Combat Bonus XP improvements
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2022, 02:33:51 AM »

I never said I think rewarding the player for making a 'better' fleet is generally bad, I specifically said that I think the direction it is currently pushing the player is bad, exactly what you are saying is a problem. I am specifically saying that I think what the system is rewarding ('i.e. what it is saying is 'better') is not enjoyable for me, and I am not convinced that the game can be perfectly balanced so that what is 'better' is reliably fun.

Other than the system over-valuing officers, which we seem to be in agreement on, what other specific way do you feel the XP system pushes the player in a bad direction?

I worded that poorly, I didn't mean to suggest that it is fundamentally impossible to represent difficulty numerically. What I am saying is that the variation in actual combat power of a fleet due to the specifics of loadouts and skills is too large so that attempts to represent combat power based only on ship hull and officer levels produces inaccurate results. Basically the game is trying to judge difficulty without enough information to accurately represent the difficulty.

The game should not try to represent the difficulty of each battle perfectly accurately. It just needs to put it within the ballpark, and then it's up to the player to figure out how to equip their character (in this case, the fleet) the best for the battle. Otherwise, it encourages the player to not get better at all. Nobody would bother to get that +5 Long Sword of Dragon Slayer if the game says "oh you can kill dragons much more easily now, I'm going to decrease your XP against them then". It just needs to say "well a dragon is harder to kill than a kobold, so I'll give you more XP for that". And the whole point is to give the player a lot of possible ways to do each fight, and part of the fun is to try out different combinations and figure out which seems to work better, which fights they prefer more depending on their build, etc.

Also, I think you are mixing 'strong/weak' and 'efficient/inefficient'. For me: Strength is just about what you can defeat, efficiency is strength/DP. You can have fleets that are strong but inefficient, or weak but very efficient. The strongest fleet in an absolute sense would use every DP, every fleet slot and every officer (in the most efficient way) to be as powerful as possible.

Then by lowering the XP cap, you're actually arguing for having weaker fleets and having less efficient fleets. For example, large fleets being able to handle triple Ordos seems to be where the cap is currently set. If the XP cap were lowered so that large fleets reached the cap at double Ordos, then there's no incentive to making a large fleet that could handle triple Ordos, so the fleet's strength is lower. Each ship in the fleet also only needs to handle fewer ships as well, and so the fleet is less efficient.

A lower XP cap actually shortens the life of the game, because once the player reaches the point where the fleet can fight capably at that cap, there's no incentive to get better. It needs to be high so that the player can continue to improve, yet achievable so that the player can reach that level eventually. As I mentioned, I think a small fleet able to take on single Ordos, a medium fleet able to take on double Ordos, and a large fleet able to take on triple Ordos feels about right. (All are achievable with many different types of fleets and playstyles, but are not too easy to achieve.)

So yes, you are incentivized to be efficient (which is good), but given a particular enemy, you are incentivized to be as weak as possible while still defeating them. In other words, you get more XP for using a 'weaker' fleet against the same enemy.

If the player is trying to go for XP, the goal is not to maximize XP per battle, it's to maximize XP per hour. Yes you should only take what you need, because the fleet is incentivized to be efficient. Again, rewarding good understanding of the game. Supplies is another such gameplay mechanic that rewards efficiency, both in terms of deploying only as many ships as you need for each fight, and in terms of the cost of lugging a huge fleet around. The scenario you're hypothesizing is if the player is trying to maximize XP per battle, but that doesn't makes sense since that's not what the player is going for if they're trying to maximize XP gain. It's XP per hour which is important. That's also ultimately the reason why small fleets -- despite being fun to mess around with since you can rack up big XP numbers with smaller enemy fleets -- ultimately isn't as productive, since you lose out on the killing potential of having a larger fleet.
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