(Future) Era 4 Development Discussion Thread

General discussion for the game Anacreon
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Tue May 22, 2018 11:03 am

Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:
Mon May 21, 2018 8:50 pm
I have revised my personal master list for Era 3.9 and made it easier to read. Let me know if there are any bugs that I overlooked.
Excellent list, I think it sums up everything quite nicely.

With the different empire colors, if we had a separate color for "neutral" empires: yellow? (neutral meaning a player has never attacked them, or been attacked by them), which then turns red if either of those things occur, that might be an easier solution than what I originally proposed.

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Tue May 22, 2018 3:53 pm

Sounds like a system that would be easier to implement, but still an improvement over the current system. I don't like one-way systems, though - there would need to be a way for empires to go from hostile to neutral.

Now here is a question for everyone: how does having ground units currently enhance the game? As opposed to allowing ships to capture planets and suppress civil wars directly?

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Wed May 23, 2018 3:08 am

What about a button below "Send Msg" in the Capital -> Empire tab titled "Declare War"? This will set the empire's state and color to hostile correspondingly, and possibly also notify the target player than Empire X has declared war on them. For empires in a "war" state, replace that button with one titled "Negotiate Peace", which sets the state back to neutral. Of course, both of these would have reasonable cooldowns - 72 hours seems fair.

Initiating a surprise attack on an empire's worlds without first declaring war will also set the state to hostile immediately, and could even carry a penalty of sorts - a hit to social order justified by "our populace will not accept an attack on the Empire of Y, without a formal declaration of war"? Just a thought.
Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:
Tue May 22, 2018 3:53 pm
Now here is a question for everyone: how does having ground units currently enhance the game? As opposed to allowing ships to capture planets and suppress civil wars directly?
IMO ground units are essential, it adds a layer of tactical depth where fleet superiority is not the only measure of imperial might. An empire with a powerful fleet but weak infantry force should not be able to defeat another with a strong one. In Era 3 we observed this in Accelerando/Gospel of a New Century's failed attempt to destroy the Imperium with a superior jumpfleet, but could not land and invade my capital because their ground force was inferior.

Also, there is a post on Ministry indicating that planetary invasions could possibly take a full cycle to complete and transfer control of the world to the attacker, similar to how civil wars are conducted. Which is actually an excellent idea - it prevents the infamous blitz wars still common in Era 3 if an attacker has jumpbeacon access. So presumably ground units are intended to be preserved and will potentially play a greater role in the future (different infantry types speeding up the invasion process?)

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Wed May 23, 2018 6:27 pm

--Imperator-- wrote:
Wed May 23, 2018 3:08 am
What about a button below "Send Msg" in the Capital -> Empire tab titled "Declare War"? This will set the empire's state and color to hostile correspondingly, and possibly also notify the target player than Empire X has declared war on them. For empires in a "war" state, replace that button with one titled "Negotiate Peace", which sets the state back to neutral. Of course, both of these would have reasonable cooldowns - 72 hours seems fair.
Formal declarations of war sound very simple to implement. Even better, it would allow the game to notify the player that their citizens will not accept the aggression (due to imperial might differences) at the time of declaration, NOT when their invasion fleet is in orbit and poised to attack. It is important to communicate this mechanic to new players better.
Also, there is a post on Ministry indicating that planetary invasions could possibly take a full cycle to complete and transfer control of the world to the attacker, similar to how civil wars are conducted. Which is actually an excellent idea - it prevents the infamous blitz wars still common in Era 3 if an attacker has jumpbeacon access. So presumably ground units are intended to be preserved and will potentially play a greater role in the future (different infantry types speeding up the invasion process?)
Problems with the Proposed System of Protracted Combat

As proposed, empire-empire combat is a new combat system where the actual ground combat phase takes at least a cycle (24 hours) whenever a player lands ground units on another player's worlds. It is a great idea, but needs some refinement.

One issue is that players could use it to lock up a planet without actually being able to capture it, by just landing a couple troops even when it's not enough to win.

It also makes multi-way combat complicated. A long ground combat phase will result in all kinds of weird permutations of players fighting each other and the game has to be able to handle it.

Finally, having THREE different forms of ground combat- fast combat against independent planets, slow combat against other empires, and virtual civil war combat - is pretty complicated, and not very intuitive.

Here's What I Think

I think it makes sense to have ALL ground combat take a single consistent form, with two phases: assault and insurgency. Assault is fast and determines who occupies a planet. Insurgency is slow and determines who ultimately owns the planet. My proposed solution also addresses planetary combat involving multiple empires (read on!)

The TL;DR version (which is still kind of long)
  • Combat should have two phases, assault (like normal combat right now) and insurgency (civil war mechanics, but either rebels or the planet's original owner can be the insurgents).
  • Planets can be associated with two sovereigns, an occupier and a nominal owner. For normal planets not involved in a war, the occupier is the nominal owner.
  • Assault combat quickly determines who occupies a planet. Insurgency combat slowly determines who will own a planet.
  • When an invasion is performed, ground units engage in assault combat until one force has mostly overpowered the other. If the invader wins, the ground units occupy the planet. Surviving ground units from the defending sovereign become insurgents, who use civil war mechanics to fight the occupier's ground units. Units that are insurgents cannot be directly assaulted. During occupation, all of a planet's trade routes halt and nonessential structures stop functioning (both resume automatically if the occupation ends).
  • When independent worlds are invaded, the defenders become rebel insurgents but the occupier gets ownership of the planet immediately. There is no "occupation". Otherwise, early game expansion will be very slow and frustrating. Players MUST be able to capture and designate independent planets during their first game session.
  • If an occupier defeats player-owned insurgents according to civil war mechanics (which usually takes at least 1 cycle), the occupier becomes the owner and the planet becomes a normal world in the occupier's empire.
  • If there are no occupier units on a planet, the occupation ends immediately unless the insurgents are rebels. During rebel insurgencies, planets go independent according to existing civil war mechanics (this typically takes about a cycle).
  • Insurgents that are loyal to an empire convert into normal units the instant that their empire lands ground units on their planet. (This means if you land units on a planet that an enemy occupies, your insurgents stop being insurgents and join the assault combat. However, if you lose the assault, the surviving units go back to being insurgents and the timer for when the planet will get fully captured does NOT reset.)
  • Insurgents will also convert into normal units a few periods after an occupation ends via unit withdrawal or insurgency victory. There are good but complicated reasons that insurgents shouldn't convert instantly if an occupation is ended by means other than direct assault.
  • When a civil war starts, a rebel insurgency begins. Rebel units never engage in assault combat. Civil wars and independent planet conquests are the only cases where forces can become insurgents without nominally owning a planet.
  • Ground units of an occupier sovereign cannot become insurgents if other insurgents (either rebels or the loyalist forces of a planet's nominal owner) are already present. An occupier's units have to fight to the death when the planet they are occupying gets assaulted.
  • If a planet goes into civil war while being occupied, disaffected citizens join the loyalist insurgents instead of a rebel faction appearing.
  • The "Destroy Ships and Defenses" combat mission should be replaced with a "Destroy Units" mission when it is used against planets. "Destroy Units" allows a fleet to land units on a planet and engage in assault combat, but NOT to occupy the planet. "Destroy Units" is a hostile act against a planet's occupier. "Invade" is a hostile act against both the occupier and the nominal owner. "Desroy Units" could be logically further divided into "Raid" (destroy units on unoccupied planet) and "Liberate" (destroy units on occupied planet).
  • Under this system it is rare or impossible to conquer and retain a world without stationing troops on it for at least one cycle in order to defeat insurgents.
  • Under this system it is rare or impossible for a player to gain ground units through enemy surrenders. This is because defeated units either become insurgents or fight to the death, depending on the pre-existing conditions on the planet. The only possible way for ground units to surrended would be insurgents possibly surrendering after insurgency ends.
The long and thoughtful version

Assault is standard, fast ground combat, like what happens in an invasion. If an empire that is invading a planet loses during the assault phase their units are repulsed; they are killed or flee to transports. Combat does not enter the insurgency phase if invaders are successfully fought off.

If the invader wins, surviving ground units from the planet's defenders go underground, becoming insurgents. No units are captured. Combat now moves to the occupation/insurgency phase which is very similar to the current civil war combat mechanics; the insurgency is won or lost according to existing civil war mechanics. During an occupation, all structures except habitats and consumer goods autofacs stop operating and trade routes stop working. The big distinction is that during occupation, the planet is still owned by the defending empire. The occupying empire is allowed to move resources onto or off of the planet. If at any point an occupier does not have any ground units on the planet due to units either being removed or being defeated through civil war type combat, the occupation ends and the insurgents come out of hiding after one or two periods, converting back into normal units. Insurgents shouldn't convert back into normal units immediately or it will lead to some not-very-interesting but mechanically problematic exploits. If at any point all insurgents are dead (or surrender due to changes in public sentiment, I suppose), the insurgency ends and the occupier gets full ownership of the planet.

The rules are very slightly different for invading independent planets. If an independent planet is invaded, it joins the player empire immediately but with a rebel insurgency going on against the player. (There is no occupation, just an insurgency. This means trade routes and structures work as normal and can be established right away.)

Under this system, the existing "invade" and "destroy units" missions can BOTH involve landing ground units if ground unit and transports are present in the fleet. The distinction is now that the "destroy ships and defenses" mission can now also be used to destroy ground units without capturing a planet, while the "invade" mission attempts take over the planet and is a hostile act against all parties present on the planet.

Expanding the "destroy units" mission to encompass ground combat is an important part of the system; read on to understand why.

Civil wars under the new system

Civil war only has an insurgency phase. The player must occupy their own planet and has to put down a rebel insurgency. Civil wars do not break affect trade routes or shut down structures

Examples

My examples involve 4 players. Alice, Bob, and David are fighting one another, while Charlie wants to help Bob.

Invasion mission

Example 1: Invasion by a second party. Alice attacks Bob's BobWorld using the invade mission. She lands ground units in transports which initiates an assault. If Alice wins, her troops occupy the planet. Bob's survivors become insurgents. Bob will retain nominal ownership until his insurgent forces are eventually defeated in one cycle (or longer).

Example 2: Invasion of an occupied planet by a third party. Alice is already occupying BobWorld; Bob has nominal ownership and there is an ongoing insurgency. David attacks BobWorld using the invasion mission. David is committing a hostile act against both Alice and Bob in this scenario. If David wins the invasion, Alice's units fight to the death (there can only be one set of insurgents and they are not interested in allowing Alice's thugs to join them). Now David is occupying the planet and has to deal with the ongoing Bob insurgency. Bob is still the planet's nominal owner until his insurgents are defeated.

Destroy Units mission

Example 3: Raid by a second party.Alice attacks Bob's BobWorld using the destroy units mission. Ground units land in transports and engage in an assault. If Alice wins, her units still retreat to their transports and Bob retains BobWorld. His surviving forces became insurgents after Alice won and they come out of hiding after a couple periods.This is kind of a boring example (but see my Optional section at the bottom!). For clarity, the "destroy units" mission could be renamed "Raid" when it is used against another empire's planet that is not occupied by a third party.

Example 4: Raid of an occupied planet by a third party. Alice is again occupying BobWorld; Bob has nominal ownership and there is an ongoing Bob loyalist insurgency. Bob's pal Charlie attacks BobWorld using the destroy units mission. This is a hostile act against Alice, the occupier, but NOT against Bob, the owner. Charlie lands transports and engages in assault combat against Alice. If Charlie wins, the insurgency ends and the planet returns to Bob's full control. Charlie's ground units return to their transports and take off back into orbit. In short, the "Destroy Units" mission here allows a player to help another player whose planet is occupied, by attacking the occupier and returning it to the owner's full control. For clarity, the "destroy units" mission could be renamed "Liberate" when it is used against another empire's planet that is occupied by a third party. If Charlie is much stronger than Alice he should get a social order penalty for attacking her occupied world, but potentially one that is much reduced compared to if he had attacked a world that she fully owns.

Multi-way combat

If more than two players' ground units are present on a planet during assault combat, "who fights who" will depend on which combat missions are being performed. Players performing a "destroy" mission are always hostile to the occupying empire and to any empire performing an "invasion" mission. Players performing an "invasion" mission are hostile to everybody. Under this system there will only be one force of ground units left alive to occupy the planet at the end of any assault phase (since units will retreat to transports at the end of a "Destroy" mission no matter the outcome, and only one invader can succeed.) There will also only ever be one set of insurgents. Since the assault phase remains short in this system, multi-way assault combat will be rare in practice, but there are still logical rules for resolving it.

Example 5: Four-party combat at an occupied planet. Alice is still occupying BobWorld but things are looking bad. Alice, Bob, Charlie and David have ALL sent transport fleets and they are all trying to put boots on the ground. Alice is sending reinforcements, Bob is trying to take the planet back, Charlie is performing a liberation (destroy units mission), and David is invading. Everybody's transports have to land normally - even though Bob owns the planet and Alice occupies it, they don't get instant unit transfer to or from the surface. Bob and Charlie's units are not hostile to one another because Charlie is not attempting to occupy the planet AND Bob is not the current occupier. Everyone else is mutually hostile to one another and their units alternate firing at one another during combat cycles until only one party (or Bob and Charlie collectively) has surviving units. If it's Alice, the occupation continues. If it's Bob and Charlie, Bob gets control of the planet and Charlie's units return to their transports and leave. If it's David, David is now the new occupier.

Example 6: Three-party combat. Bob has full control of BobWorld, Alice is not occupying it. Alice sends transports to invade at the same time David sends transports to raid (destroy units mission). Charlie is AWOL (there is no provision in this system for sending units to a non-occupied planet to help the owner- he could still attack the fleets in orbit, though). Everybody is mutually hostile in the assault. If Bob's units are intelligently programmed, they will focus their attacks on Alice's units exclusively. This is because the consequences are worse if Alice wins an invasion than if David wins a raid.

What insurgents do during assaults

Under the proposed system, it will sometimes be desirable for insurgents to rejoin assault combat. Right now rebels appear to turn back into normal ground units when they win a civil war, so the bones for this system are already in place. Sometimes we will want this to happen while assault combat is taking place, but not always.

Example 7: First party lifts an occupation by invading. BobWorld is yet again occupied by Alice. Bob lost the ground combat and his surviving units are now insurgents. When Bob sends troops to invade his own world, the insurgents return to being normal units and participate in the assault alongside the newly-landed units. If Bob wins, all the surviving insurgents permanently return to being normal units. If Bob loses, any surviving units resume the insurgency.

Example 8: A third party lifts an occupation by raiding. BobWorld is still occupied by Alice- some things never change. As in example 4, Charlie performs a liberation (destroy units) attack. Bob's insurgents do NOT join the assault. This is because Alice and Charlie could hypothetically be colluding- Alice could have invited Charlie to raid BobWorld with a token force to entice Bob's insurgents out of hiding so they can be destroyed. However, if Charlie ends up winning the raid, the planet goes back to Bob's control and all the surviving insurgents permanently return to being normal units after 1 period. If Charlie loses, the insurgency continues completely unchanged.

Example 9: A second party invades a world experiencing rebel insurgency. BobWorld is undergoing rebel insurgency. Smelling weakness, Alice returns and invades for the millionth time. Alice and Bob's units engage in assault combat while the rebel units remain as insurgents (they do not join the assault). Bob's forces have to fight Alice to the death - they cannot go underground and become insurgents if they lose, since a hostile insurgency already exists. If Alice wins, she occupies the planet and rebels are still the insurgents - NOT Bob. Bob still has nominal ownership of the planet but will eventually lose it if he can't take it back. Potentially, the timeline for Alice getting nominal control is accelerated since Bob has no presence on the world. Alice still has to deal with the civil war and rebel insurgency, however.

Example 10: Conditions that would normally result in civil war occur on a planet undergoing occupation by a second party. For possibly the last time, Alice is occupying BobWorld. BobWorld was not in civil war when she invaded, but now it is undergoing massive shortages and reaches the revIndex threshold that would normally induce civil war. Instead of a normal civil war occurring, disaffected citizens and some of Alice's soldiers defect to the loyalist insurgents and the revIndex is reset. In this scenario, Bob's loyalists are likely to win without Bob ever sending reinforcements, as long as Alice does not reinforce too. To prevent something like this from happening, Alice should either be in the L&O doctrine (with scrupulously loyal Imperial Guards) or bring a bunch of trillum and consumer goods along with her invaders when she invades Bob's high-tech planets.

Snowballing

Incidentally, this new system will make ground units more important for conventional rapid expansion. Right now players can keep using the same units to blitzkrieg against independent planets. This is because once a player has assembled a critical mass of ground units, they actually gain ground forces via surrender in every invasion that they perform ("snowballing"). Under the new system players will need to commit infantry to deal with insurgencies on every single planet they capture, and will not gain infantry from surrenders (except possibly once insurgencies are quashed).

Optional

After a successful "destroy units" mission against a planet that is not being occupied, the attacker is allowed to transfer resources from the planet into transports for up to 10 watches. This allows pirate raids, where a player's goal is to disrupt economic function or enhance their own economy/Mesophon balance without increasing their empire size (better to shear than slaughter). You could even have a pirate doctrine that builds special jumptransports with high capacity but which cannot land units (allowed under current mechanics!) These would be used for hauling off the booty in conjunction with normal jumptransports that carry the ground troops.

Bring back planetary type defense bonuses. Different worlds could grant different bonuses to invader, defender, insurgency, and/or counterinsurgency. For example, an underground world could have a bonus to the defender in the assault phase (lots of fortifications) and to insurgents in the insurgency phase (lots of caves to hide in).

New Doctrine: Will and Control. Specializes in planetary occupation. Capitals' primary structures build transports and armored infantry. Ground units take reduced damage from insurgents. It is able to control planetary labor during occupations, building and operating defense structures like HELs and hypersonics for its own benefit (normally defenses will not get built by either party during an occupation).

New doctrine: Struggle and Liberation. Mostly for empires who are losing wars; specializes in insurgency. Capitals' primary structures build infantry and special inexpensive planetary defense units (there is precedent for this: the citadel complex builds jumpmissiles, which are technically a defense unit). Capitals have an increased control radius, 300 LY. Ground units deal increased damage when they are insurgents. Rebel insurgents always join forces with an empire of this doctrine if it is invading a planet that is undergoing civil war. Basic infantry change unit type to a stronger "guerilla infantry" when they win insurgent combat, with guerilla infantry getting anti-secession and anti-revolt bonuses similar to imperial guards.
Last edited by Watch TV, Do Nothing on Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:30 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Tue May 29, 2018 8:02 pm

Wayward Device wrote:
Thu May 10, 2018 10:05 pm
Starfrigates are, in my opinion, a little too fragile now but they are absolutely required if you want to defend anything using starships. Minotaurs are an ok defense if you are also making a ton of them as an offensive force (see the Era 3 Imperium) and their threat value adds some soft defense power too but it will always be a secondary role. For example, with the Imperium's massive Minotaur production they have about 2-3 million Minotaurs defending each exposed cap, and these can be easily used for a counterattack. But a fleet of 2-3 million Adamants would blow throw them with modest losses, and Adamants are cheap. I have a single cluster making them right now that has built a fleet of 5 million in about two weeks and should cap out at about 6 mil in 10 days or so (admittedly, it's pretty much 100% optimized and has the best world density/quality out of any of my clusters but still, that's a lot of good ships ). Anyway, in Era 3 if you want to defend a world against a determined player not afraid of a counterattack who has equivalent industrial capacity your only option is a mix of Gorgos and Megatheres. Megatheres are of course by far the better ship and are ridiculously hard to make, almost on par with Exotroops, with incredible offensive/defensive power. If there was no missile defense in Anacreon there would be no reason to ever build Gorgos. But an Eldritch fleet hard counters such a defense. It takes about ten minutes to do it but it does it. So starfrigates are basically an umbrella against Eldritch attacks that would otherwise hard counter your real Megathere defense. They also help out a little against Minotaur attacks, even though they will get shredded and their damage vs Minotaur armor is very much in the "I'm helping!" category.
Ok, so starfrigates are now an umbrella against Eldritches and get shredded by Minotaurs, and they are a static defense against starcruiser attack. I dig it. Numerically, starfrigates have issues filling this role; they are not gonna generate a large volume of fire.

Can we give individual starfrigates a higher attack count? Take the current Defiance stats:

Code: Select all

attack: { name:"positron lancer" count:1 damage:96 type:direct range:20.0 area:0.1 }
If it instead read:

Code: Select all

attack: { name:"positron lancer" count:3 damage:32 type:direct range:20.0 area:0.1 }
would the unit generate 3 beams per combat cycle? THAT would be an interesting and extremely useful unit, because it would be optimized for mopping up Eldritches and Helions really fast. A unit with low damage but high range and rate of fire would also address the existing Helion baiting issue.

I guess the obvious concern is that there is no unit that has count:>1 except the Partisan. Count:16 works on the Partisan, yielding 16 submunitions per missile, but the Partisan is a super weird unit in general and it's not clear to me that the game would a) actually respect count:>1 for a ship, and b) clearly communicate that starfrigates perform multiple attacks per turn.

Before beacons were implemented, I had a proposal where gunships would be given a high attack count. At the time, this was because gunships seemed to be primarily useful as a counter to the infamous Eldritch ball. Now that gunships and jumpcruisers are the primary attackers, it seems like starfrigates might be the logical units to give a high-rate-of-fire attack.
Last edited by Watch TV, Do Nothing on Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Thu May 31, 2018 2:56 am

What happens if BobWorld does not have a single ground force. If Alice invades BobWorld, would it still go into the insurgency phase, or would Alice conquer it immediately? Or does the number of insurgents have the potential of increasing, like rebels during a civil war?

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Thu May 31, 2018 3:32 am

AdmiralZo wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 2:56 am
What happens if BobWorld does not have a single ground force. If Alice invades BobWorld, would it still go into the insurgency phase, or would Alice conquer it immediately? Or does the number of insurgents have the potential of increasing, like rebels during a civil war?
Good question- that is something that happens frequently under the current system. I would say that BobWorld enters insurgency with a very small number of insurgents, but they are then recruited from the populace over the course of the next cycle according to existing rebel recruitment civil war mechanics exactly as you say. I believe these mechanics depend on social order; if the populace is relatively content, with no resource shortages, Alice has an "easy" occupation and her forces take almost no casualties from insurgent action until the world flips. Even so, it still takes about a cycle to defeat the insurgency, so that Bob has a chance to respond.

Another piece of the puzzle is making a,distinction between warp-backed invasions and jumpship-backed invasions. George indicated that he wants jumpships to be good at quickly taking planets but bad at holding them. I think the one possible way to achieve this is:

1) a slow warptransport unit
2) new ground unit types that can only be carried by warptransports (and possibly sent through trade routes, at a slow rate?)
3) higher social order penalties for occupied planets, leading to high insurgent recruitment
4) the new ground units are not necessarily better at assault combat, but they improve social order on occupied planets which reduces insurgent recruitment
5, optional) the invader can establish trade routes to planets that they are occupying within their own capital control ranges, which helps prevent shortages on these nearby worlds (and send new ground units at a slow rate?)

Maybe one or more of the existing ground units could be made warptransportable only.

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Thu May 31, 2018 4:23 am

With this new assault-insurgency system, could a weaker empire ever be able to cause any damage to a larger empire?


Let's say Bob has a mid-size empire ( ~200 worlds) and Alice has a strong empire (lots of forces and ~600 worlds).

Bob notices that Alice has an undefended sector capital. He decides to attack it, and some other nearby production worlds. Bob successfully occupies all those planets. Alice becomes active a few hours later. She lands a heap of ground forces on all occupied worlds, and defeats Bob's forces.

On the other hand, if Alice had decided to attack Bob, she could invade one of his sector capitals, and transfer her entire ground force on that world. Since Bob has a weaker empire, he would never be able to defeat Alice's forces. Alice could continue doing this to all of Bob's sector capitals, without Bob having the ability to fight back.

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Thu May 31, 2018 1:14 pm

AdmiralZo wrote:
Thu May 31, 2018 4:23 am
With this new assault-insurgency system, could a weaker empire ever be able to cause any damage to a larger empire?


Let's say Bob has a mid-size empire ( ~200 worlds) and Alice has a strong empire (lots of forces and ~600 worlds).

Bob notices that Alice has an undefended sector capital. He decides to attack it, and some other nearby production worlds. Bob successfully occupies all those planets. Alice becomes active a few hours later. She lands a heap of ground forces on all occupied worlds, and defeats Bob's forces.

On the other hand, if Alice had decided to attack Bob, she could invade one of his sector capitals, and transfer her entire ground force on that world. Since Bob has a weaker empire, he would never be able to defeat Alice's forces. Alice could continue doing this to all of Bob's sector capitals, without Bob having the ability to fight back.
Great question. In general, is it a good idea for a mid-size empire to always be able to hold its own against an active strong empire without external factors? If so, what is the point of building a strong empire? As for a strong empire attacking a midsize empire: in the current metagame there is supposed to be a mechanic to deter this, it is just not very effective.

That being said, clearly for the game to be interesting war cannot just be a numbers game. Right now, in Era 3, I see midsize empires as having four "weapons" that they can employ when attacking a large active empire to get an advantage:
  • A devastating first strike - for example, hitting sector capitals in order to trigger defections and break control; hitting jumpship yards to capture beacons; hitting unconsolidated fleets at yards to defeat them in detail; hitting planets with unconsolidated infantry to roll up a "ground unit snowball". A problem with Weapon 1 is that the large active empire can also use it against midsize empires to stay on top - there are plenty of examples of this happening, and it is something that the occupation system is intended to address.
  • Economic warfare - invading key economic planets and inciting civil wars within the larger empire's territory without ever coming to a decisive battle, with the goal of making the war so unprofitable for the other empire that they give up trying to attack you.
  • Allies - recruit other players into the war, or attack only when other empires are already engaging in war with the stronger empire. The trouble with attacking when other empires are fighting is that the game does not provide a lot of strong signals about other empires' wars; unless you are carefully tracking ownership of planets and fleet counts, you may be completely unaware that two empires have been fighting recently, especially if most of the combat involved fleet battles. It's also possible to mistake a "frozen conflict", where no actual invasions or fleet movements have taken place for a while, for an active war.
  • Terrain advantage - let's say a medium-sized empire has a big impassable nebula separating it from the stronger empire. If the strong empire starts colonizing the "wrong" side of the nebula, the medium empire can still win a limited war against them since the small empire can bring all their starships to bear whereas it would be a long or impossible trip for the strong empire to get starships. In this case a vigorous defense by the medium empire is likely to rebuff the strong empire, at least in the short term. Issues right now are that it's too eaay to reestablish jumpbeacon coverage near thr edge of your empire when you lose a beacon, that fleets can move outside the map (circumventing many nebular divisions), and that chokepoints are not especially easy to guard with citadels if ships achieve passage when the citadel's player is AFK .
So how does the occupation system affect the use of these weapons by the weak,against the strong?
  • First Strike: If you add a 24-hour occupation phase, this weapon is rendered much less effective - the strong empire can respond to the alpha strike and bring in more infantry than the attacking midsize empire can counter with. It also eliminates the possibility of ground unit snowballing.
  • Economic Warfare This weapon would still be viable under an occupation system, since occupation halts trade routes. The attacked player's path to recovery is a little clearer, since the occupations do not resolve immediately. If Struggle and Liberation were implemented as a doctrine, economic warfare would be even more effective for sovereigns using the doctrine- the idea behind S&L is that when you invade a planet in civil war the rebels join you, so an S&L player can first trigger civil wars by attacking hubs and CG autofacs, and then swooping in to gain free troops.
  • Allies: The occupation system strengthens this weapon (in theory). Allies can make contributions to ground combat, not just space battles. Making occupations get explicit icons on the galactic map will help, since it will make it clear where there is an active war being waged. It won't be possible to mistake a frozen conflict for an active one, since occupations have a more-or-less known duration. It would also be good if planets generated notifications to all players that have scanner coverage of them when a fleet battle occurrs at that location, with some basic info about the combatants and space forces involved
  • Terrain: Occupation somewhat affects this, although the 24-hour occupation counter gives gunship fleets more time to take a long path to re-secure something like a critical sector capital. Fixing outside-the-map pathing will help; so will jumpbeacon establishment delays. Citadel autofire orders could help empires to secure chokepoints or narrow nebular passages by using citadels.
What else can we do to help occupation combat not be completely lopsided in favor of the stronger party? Here are some half-thought-through ideas.

Here's a revision to my initial suggestions: occupying a jumpbeacon should flip the beacon to the occupier during the occupation, but the beacon starts an irreversible demolition countdown. If this were the case, in your first example Alice would have to bring forces in at warp speed after Bob attacks; this might take her more than 24 hours to accomplish. Meanwhile, Bob can reinforce with jumptransports. (This does require a revision of jumpbeacons so that they are scarcer and cannot be established/disestablished quickly - if Alice had to be careful with her beacon locations, she would not have a lot of overlapping beacons to bring forces in at jump speed.) If Bob was smart about where he attacked and had a terrain advantage from nebulas, etc. Alice may decide that it is not worth the risk or effort to try to retake immediately.

In your second example, perhaps when you heap together a ton of ground forces on an occupied planet, you should get a ton of attrition. Alice can commit a ton of ground forces to a single planet if she really wants to, but she has to be reconciled to the fact that by doing so she will lose a bunch if ground forces. Her better option is to commit her fleet - which is now on an expedition and far from her own worlds - to guarding the sector capital she is occupying, blocking Bob from landing troops until he deals with the fleet. Bob has time to respond, to strike with jumpmissiles, jumpships, do a Mesophon purchase, rally gunships from around the empire, etc.

Finally, we could prohibit transports from taking off during invasions and occupations: transports HAVE to remain in place until the occupation concludes. If Alice cancels the occupation to free up units she instantly loses 25% of ground unitsa and transports on BobWorld (they remain on BobWorld and defect to Bob) or gets a big social order hit on some of her home planets for this demoralizing act, or all insurgents against her get doubled forced and double recruitment for the next cycle due to her demonstrated weakness; maybe Alice can't even manually cancel an occupation at all without "declaring peace" with Bob somehow, although this would require explicit war/peace states). Now not only does Alice have to keep infantry in reserve to defend her empire, she also needs a reserve force of transports too or she won't be able respond to an invasion elsewhere because her transports are all tied up on worlds she is occupying. If Alice commits her entire transport arm and giant army to an occupation (trusting that Bob doesn't have enough ground forces to counterinvade), Bob has the option of initiating a few minor occupations elsewhere in her empire and Alice won't have the transport & ground unit "liquidity" to try to deal with them until she completes her mega-occupation.

I think it would help the game if getting perfect information about other empires' forces were a little harder to do. Right now scouting is essentially cost- and risk-free and if you put a fleet on an empire's capital you get perfect info about their entire forces. Very few 4x/RTS games offer this level of knowledge, even old Anacreon gave you a limited number of probes/explorers per turn and they were single-use. It might improve the game to remove explorers entirely (sacrilege!) and move the remote recon ability to disposable probes, gunship fleets, telescope structures and/or buildable, attackable space constructions, info that you buy from Mesophon...
Last edited by Watch TV, Do Nothing on Fri Jun 01, 2018 11:55 pm, edited 4 times in total.

AdmiralZo
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Fri Jun 01, 2018 6:59 am

Ahh. I forgot that all trade routes and non-essential structures stop working during an occupation. So Bob could still cause damage to Alice's empire. You have so many great ideas WatchTV!

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:42 am

My burning question for the occupation is this: would either side be able to bring reinforcements to a world that is being invaded?

If not would be ok, but a bit dull. IF SO... I see many many applications and troubles for everyone, meaning that world becomes a strategic POINT on the map--and that is interesting.
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Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:30 am

 Everyone look sharp over here. George released Transcendence 1.8b2 earlier today, so y’all have him for the next few weeks. I’ll make sure to point him at this thread come Thursday’s weekly Twitch stream.
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Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:38 am

TheBugKing wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 12:42 am
My burning question for the occupation is this: would either side be able to bring reinforcements to a world that is being invaded?

If not would be ok, but a bit dull. IF SO... I see many many applications and troubles for everyone, meaning that world becomes a strategic POINT on the map--and that is interesting.
I don't see a problem with reinforcements during occupation. It starts another assault phase (if it's the planet's nominal owner or a third party bringing forces) or bolsters the occupying forces (if it's the occupier). I think that any forces the occupier brings probably have to stay committed to the planet until occupation succeeds (or face some sort of penalty.) Concentrating a lot of ground forces to one world is a tradeoff- you win the assault phase with fewer casualties and it's harder for the nominal owner to retake the world, but those forces are tied down for a while and you can't use them for anything else for a while.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 11:55 am

Oh excellent, thanks AP. Yes, I saw the announcement, hopefully Part 2 is coming up on Steam soon.

As for Anacreon, WTV has an excellent Master List on Ministry that catalogues all the issues at present. It is perhaps TOO excellent in terms of detail, as I'd wager two weeks is not a lot of time to tick off all the points on it... However, everything with a [priority] tag is probably a good start.

If I massively compress the list into a short summary of what can most likely be done in 2 weeks (warning - not exhaustive at all! Refer to the Master List for a much better detail):


1. George wanted to create an alternate method of nebula generation, so that could take priority. With luck, it will fix 2 of the 3 major nebula bugs in the game (unable to path and moving between light/dark types). Clearspace-ramjets from Mesophon is a separate issue.

2. UI improvements & QOL:
a) Clear (button) or Suppress (checkbox) all messages.
b) New Mesophon trade window allowing purchasing any number of ships.
c) Merge All button to transfer all other orbiting fleets to this one.
d) Different empire colors for hostile/neutral/allied(?) sovereigns. At least hostile/neutral.
3. Bugfixes (mostly combat related):
a) Fleet capture bug - units flip sovereign to the one conquering the world they're orbiting.
b) Opportunity fire for wings - perform check every few ticks to (re)target the closest hostile wing.

c) Slow fleets can be killed for free a few minutes before arriving. They're displayed in the tactical zoomed-in world view, allowing them to be attacked, but their status is still "in transit", preventing them firing back. The easy "band-aid fix" is to increase starship movement speeds to 1 LY/min, which was an agreed change anyway.
4. Balance:
a) Starship speed -> 1 LY/min.
b) Citadel range -> 150 LY. Or even 200. They're weak enough as is.
b) Buff citadels properties (somehow - discussion ongoing)
c) Buff planetary defenses (somehow - as above)
d) Make timers for designating worlds, similar to sector capital mechanic, but 5-10 min.
e) Make wings selectable directly in tactical view as opposed to "control boxes" off to the side. Attach "control box" element to wing object?
5. Gameplay overhauls/grand ideas (maybe more intensive to implement):
a) New ground combat system.
b) Make the map revealed at start?
c) Rebalance doctrines/add new ones - Faith & Destiny, Industry & Growth.
d) Re-introduce R4021 legacy units: fighters, hunterkillers, penetrators, warptransports.

If I've missed anything critical please let me know so I can add it.


And finally ... yes, this new Anacreon has been in a "Beta" for years which actually plays more like an Alpha. So was Transcendence. I remember the buggy pre-Steam days when the Woflen's "lasers" were just red/green lines on the screen. Now it's become a fully fleshed out indie roguelike with 2 mini-DLCs to match, both of which I've happily purchased. I do believe Anacreon 3.0 has the same potential. Just my opinion on the current state of development.

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Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:50 pm

Imperator, in general this is a good summary. I am not convinced that we need to jump in and add R4021 units right away unless we also take away units elsewhere - there are 20 ship classes already, and what would really help would be better differentiation. Warptransports could be useful if ground combat is changing. I feel 1 LY/cycle may be too fast for starcruisers.

Can you elaborate on what you mean by a "timer for designating worlds"? The spite-redesignation problem definitely needs to be addressed, but it only affects two designations (jumpship yards and sector capitals). A 1-period timer for building the primary structure, with the efficiency penalty only imposed upon structure completion, could be good - it would effectively allow penalty-free redesignation within a short period of time if you pick the wrong designation.

A few things that I personally hope could be emphasized are:
  • More placeholder images in the game interface. Veteran players have gotten so used to the fact that the game is missing these, but look at how many grey boxes there are in every tab and dialogue the next time that you play. Placeholders do not have to be particularly sophisticated, simple symbols like the existing fleet icons would be totally fine.
  • I hope George and others will consider my proposed tweaks to jumpbeacons. Basically, I think the jumpbeacon property should be put on a structure buildable on any TL6 world, with a fairly long build time. Beacons would be subject to a spacing limit, similar to sector capitals. There will need to be a new "demolishTime" argument for structures, with this property applied to beacons. When a beacon structure is captured it begins to be demolished; the attacker can only use it for a short time. This allows transient exploitation of captured beacons, but no permanent capture of beacons that are outside sector capital range or too close to your own existing beacons. "demolishTime" could also be used on sector capital administration structure as a fix for spite-redesignation.
  • I expounded a general proposal for changing strategic warfare that ties together changes to beacons, planetary combat, etc.
  • I proposed specific mechanics and interactions for ground combat. The proposed insurgency system could also be used as a check on indiscriminate expansion - simple make insurgency take longer as world count or distance to the imperial capital increases.
  • Show range radii for selected planet when mousing over the designation button (right now people are using rulers)
  • There are big problems with missile pathing when used against wings orbiting close to planet surfaces.
  • More balancing needs to be done between high/low TL units. Low-TL units could stand to have lower cost and lower halfLife pretty much across the board. High-TL planetary defenses need to be more impressive. Capital starships could potentially stand to have lower halfLife. If starfrigates are now going to be the anti-jumpfleet unit, they should either be cheaper or get multiple count: attacks per turn.
  • The UI needs to be better at communicating labor production and effects that reduce labor production.
  • The social order system is uninteresting and possibly broken (building all defense structures and assigning 0 labor to them seems to solve social order issues)
  • rate of TL uplift from foundations/projects should be slower; for optimal synchronicity with structure completion, consider:
    1. <cannot uplift to TL1>
    2. 45
    3. 90
    4. 180
    5. 360
    6. 720
    7. 1440
    8. 2880
    9. 5760
    10. 11520
    (these times can potentially be affected by other uplift effects, e.g. the uplift provided by the core.imperialAdministration structure should substantially shorten uplift times for non-autonomous worlds below TL5).
  • show a timer for when planetary uplift will occur, similar to timer for when structures will complete.
  • New fleet icons for gunship- and explorer-speed fleets.

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