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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 5:19 pm 
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Terri's is an example of a game that I wouldn't like oolite to emulate. They're very different games of course but I'm thinking in particular with regards to difficulty.

Suppose there are three different game states with regards to difficultly:

1. Easy with little or no practice beyond familiarisation with the controls
2. Challenging without practice but easy with sufficient practice
3. Challenging even with significant practice.

Many 'arcade ' games progress through these three stages with the boundaries of each depending on the player but the order bring very much 1, 2, 3.
Oolie by contrast goes something like: 2, 3 (first trip to a more dangerous system or with a sensitive cargo), 2 (half-decent equipment), 1 (iron-assed), 2 (missions), 1 (comfortable)

The up and down element of oolite's difficulty is something I quite like I just don't like that it 'finishes' with a '1'.

When difficulty drops there can be a sense of accomplishment "Done it!" that I don't get from tetris - where the only change of pace is for it to steadily increase.

At the risk of repeating myself I favour an approach where there is a sense of achievement that the player has some time to 'bask in' without there being nothing left to achieve. So rather than 'finishing' on a long, drawn-out 1 (or even a 3 a la Tetris) I think that a 'long 1' interspersed with the odd 2 or three might be the way to go.

"Commander we have a mission for you that many of my advisors tell me is impossible. Frankly we need it to be possible because our situation is desperate and being one of the few Elite pilots known to us we're all hoping you're the man/woman/lobster/thing for the job".

Randomised Elite missions? It's the best I've got :mrgreen:

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:19 pm 
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Tetris and Oolite are very different games indeed, so applying the simple concept of a difficulty that increases with the score (kills in Oolite) have the same result (you can't win and so the goal is to make a high score) but different effects.

For instance, currently when you finally acquire your military laser, the game becomes a lot easier. With a "self-adjusting" difficulty, the game is still easier at first but the advantage will be negated by the increase of difficulty eventually as your new shiny weapon lets you increase your rating. Unlike Tetris, the effect is delayed. So you can savour happy blasts for a while.
If that's not enough, the mention that the player can slow down the thargoids in the second phase strongly suggests that the OXP managing this has to let external factors influence it (just define an offset to be subtracted to the rating, and provide hooks for other OXPs to increase it). So you can have missions that decrease the difficulty - like a big thargoids vs Navy battle. "Difficulty" can be a currency too.

Besides, that simple scheme solves a lot of little problems.

One is the beginners problem, obviously.
An other one is that it sets a simple scenario (Thargoids will run over the galaxy eventually) without forcing a particular story on the players or the OXP makers, while giving both of them something to work with.
An other one is that überships are now not only "allowed", but even have a meaningful purpose: they let you survive longer. Same goes for equipment: ultra-super-boosted shields that cost more than your ship? No problem (tbh you may have to sell them back in the end in order to survive just a bit longer - because the maintenance costs are huge and you can't make enough money).
An other one is that making a lot of money fast is less of a problem (because you'll also kill faster); it just changes the general pace of the game. Start with 10K credits? No problem. You'll have a few dozens of easy kills before things get serious. From Harmless to Elite in one afternoon? Here, ridiculous market definitions that multiply your profits by 100 - see you in the Devils Triangle. You don't have yet a nice reward for your mission OXP so you just want to give 100K Cr? That's fine, just place it in the second phase because it's hard to make money there.

All this by "just" manipulating a bit the populator (and the map in the second phase). Randomized missions? I'd like to have them too. But that's not in my cost/benefits range, so I'll pick the low-hanging fruit.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 12:00 am 
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Terri's is an example of a game that I wouldn't like oolite to emulate.
Apologies for starting a post with a typo of such magnitude :lol:

Quote:
With a "self-adjusting" difficulty, the game is still easier at first but the advantage will be negated by the increase of difficulty eventually as your new shiny weapon lets you increase your rating. Unlike Tetris, the effect is delayed. So you can savour happy blasts for a while.
Good point.

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"Difficulty" can be a currency too.
Liking in principle.

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without forcing a particular story on the players or the OXP makers, while giving both of them something to work with.
Sounds good.

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An other one is that überships are now not only "allowed", but even have a meaningful purpose: they let you survive longer. Same goes for equipment: ultra-super-boosted shields that cost more than your ship? No problem (tbh you may have to sell them back in the end in order to survive just a bit longer - because the maintenance costs are huge and you can't make enough money).
This, I like less.

I think I get the reasoning but, speaking personally, the more times I upgrade a piece of equipment the less special it feels. "I've got shield boosters!" feels more special than "Of course I've got shield boosters: grade B6 don't you know". I'm aware that the game has always had upgradeable lasers but each has a clear character, not just story wise but also visualy and in operation rather than (for example) a pulse laser that simply does more damage with each upgrade.

I'd imagine there are ways to implement such a strategy well but my own prejudice is putting me off such an approach at this stage.

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Randomized missions? I'd like to have them too. But that's not in my cost/benefits range, so I'll pick the low-hanging fruit.
Fairly easy on paper of course but yeah, you've got a point.

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 6:19 pm 
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An other one is that überships are now not only "allowed", but even have a meaningful purpose: they let you survive longer. Same goes for equipment: ultra-super-boosted shields that cost more than your ship? No problem (tbh you may have to sell them back in the end in order to survive just a bit longer - because the maintenance costs are huge and you can't make enough money).
This, I like less.

I think I get the reasoning but, speaking personally, the more times I upgrade a piece of equipment the less special it feels. "I've got shield boosters!" feels more special than "Of course I've got shield boosters: grade B6 don't you know". I'm aware that the game has always had upgradeable lasers but each has a clear character, not just story wise but also visualy and in operation rather than (for example) a pulse laser that simply does more damage with each upgrade.

I'd imagine there are ways to implement such a strategy well but my own prejudice is putting me off such an approach at this stage.
The strategy is relatively simple: the OXP manager is an extension of the shipyard. So if you prefer a shield cycler over yet-another-shield-booster, just install the OXP that provides the one you want.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 8:13 pm 
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The strategy is relatively simple: the OXP manager is an extension of the shipyard. So if you prefer a shield cycler over yet-another-shield-booster, just install the OXP that provides the one you want.
Until the next one and then the one after that ad. infinitum.

If I understand correctly, you propose an 'end-game' of ever increasing difficulty until the player no longer has the skills to cope. Rather than escalation, I favour oscillation (as I attempted to describe above).

I've played games that get faster and faster and faster. If I start at a high level right away then it's game over but if I start at the low levels then my reflexes adjust and I can go past the same levels that thwarted me from a 'cold' start. If the speed were to slow for a while then a level that was easy a few minutes earlier can become challenging again (or at least more so than if I had remained at the faster speed). What's more it can be 'fresher' as not just the speed but the change in pace is dramatic.

The original Gauntlet was a game I liked very much but it became boring for me when I realised that after a while each level was just a slightly more difficult version of an earlier one. Not only that but the sense of futility soured the (otherwise great) experience a little.

A contract run in oolite can provide a very simple example of oscillating difficulty as the player passes through different systems with contrasting governments and neighbouring influences.

Oscillation is not as consistently exciting as escalation can be but it is also less tiresome and further from an exercise in futility (at least to my mind).

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 7:12 am 
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I know what you mean. If you take a break from a game you become rusty, and have to warm up.

However, Oolite is not a single, short session game like Tetris. It is more on the RPG side, in which you have to - and want to - pick up where you left. Currently the "constant" difficulty of Oolite is a double-edged sword: you don't need much to warm up, but when you are playing it on a regular basis it is not difficult enough unless you look for trouble.
It's true that if we increase the difficulty and you take a break from the game, when you return it can be brutal. I have no solution to that issue, except suggesting to start a new commander, either as a fresh start or to warm up.
Another point is that it will just raise the average difficulty, so we will retain the differences between safe and unsafe systems. Also, altering NPCs spawned by OXPs (like Random Hits) is likely to be problematic, so if you have mission OXPs we should preserve the difficulty "bump" they provide too.
Furthermore, I assume that the game is played in IronMan mode, mainly because one cannot count deaths in the game but one can count the number of times the escape pod was used. I plan to use that to adjust the difficulty too. So basically the average difficulty is a function of your Kill/Death ratio. This also means you can pay 1000Cr for an easier game :-D
Quote:
If I understand correctly, you propose an 'end-game' of ever increasing difficulty until the player no longer has the skills to cope. Rather than escalation, I favour oscillation (as I attempted to describe above).
No, it's worse than that! :-D Because fighting against 100 aimbots is not fun, there has to be a reasonable cap to both accuracy and numbers, so in a second phase the difficulty increases only by slowly killing the economy. So your profits should be like an inverse parabolic curve, ideally with the peak near the second phase. At this point you should have a "war treasure" that will slowly evaporate.

We can have oscillations but without escalation - well we are back to square one, to the game as it is now.

I've started to take a serious look at how I can do this and my initial plan is something like:

- modify Deep Space Pirates so that the size of the packs are a function of the difficulty level (currently it uses its own DSP kill count),
- add a custom populator function that spawn ships based on the difficulty level to complement DSP,
- modify "skilled NPCs" so that it uses our difficulty level rather than options. I also plan to use it in order to "unskill" NPCs for newcomers.

This should handle the first phase. The second phase kicks one a criteria I'm not sure about yet (Dangerous rating? maximum level? Both?). In this "thargoid" invasion phase, we will start to spawn more thargoids, and probably "take down" one system per in-game week (or something like that) by changing it to a tech level one, poor agricultural anarchy.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 6:29 pm 
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Placing the game on a forced escalation trajectory I think is antithetical to the spirit of the game: you choose your own place in the ooniverse, and the ooniverse keeps on keepin' on despite your doings. This is a major feature and attraction of the game.

Much better is to find ways to keep each profession fresh: trading, mining, pirating, bounty hunting, courier, naval reserve.

I wouldn't be against such things as a major Thargoid invasion *in a particular portion of a particular galaxy* that makes things very tough there. The player's choice is then: stay and fight (and maybe improve the situation), stay and trade (in a crisis there is much profit to be made at elevated risk!), avoid that sector, or just leave that galaxy, and the next time you enter that galaxy the problem's resolved. Player choice in a ooniverse that "doesn't care" is everything.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Thu Mar 02, 2017 8:52 pm 
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Quote:
Much better is to find ways to keep each profession fresh: trading, mining, pirating, bounty hunting, courier, naval reserve.
Ok, let's do that.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 12:36 am 
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I assume that the game is played in IronMan mode, mainly because one cannot count deaths in the game but one can count the number of times the escape pod was used. I plan to use that to adjust the difficulty too. So basically the average difficulty is a function of your Kill/Death ratio. This also means you can pay 1000Cr for an easier game :-D
Now that I understand your proposal a little better iron-man does seem to suit it and the escape pod trick is a good one.

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Quote:
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If I understand correctly, you propose an 'end-game' of ever increasing difficulty until the player no longer has the skills to cope. Rather than escalation, I favour oscillation (as I attempted to describe above).
No, it's worse than that! :-D
:shock: :lol:

Quote:
Because fighting against 100 aimbots is not fun, there has to be a reasonable cap to both accuracy and numbers, so in a second phase the difficulty increases only by slowly killing the economy. So your profits should be like an inverse parabolic curve, ideally with the peak near the second phase. At this point you should have a "war treasure" that will slowly evaporate.
'Killing the economy' is a nice idea. I'd suggest it happen to systems randomly rather than in any kind of encroaching frontier where the player can almost ignore it until the very end.

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We can have oscillations but without escalation - well we are back to square one, to the game as it is now.
I don't think that has to be the case. Inherent in oscillation is of course alternate escalation and de-escalation. Whilst I appreciate that is not what you mean when you mention escalation that is (I would argue) precisely what can make it work. Not by jumping from 1 to 2 perhaps (using my numbers above) but from 1 to 3.

Such a strategy is far from perfect in that it likely requires significant periods spent in 1 with short, far-apart bursts of 3. The game as it is now is either ending all 1 or oscillating between 1 and 2 (unless the player attempts something suicidal for no reward whether financial or story-wise). Missions can add variety in a number of ways, simply taking on a tougher pirate pack offers little.

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The second phase kicks one a criteria I'm not sure about yet (Dangerous rating? maximum level? Both?)
I do rather like the idea of the later player ratings (Dangerous etc.) signifying something. Once I got to dangerous in elite all I got was bored.

IIRC after competent there is dangerous, deadly and elite. It might be nice if each one heralded some sort of change in how the game treats you. I think some missions use rating as a criteria but I'm not sure how rationalised or consistent this is.

In a cut-throat galaxy by the time you were dangerous you'd probably have become known and feared/respected by some groups. By the time you were deadly you might be sought out by all sorts of groups looking to exploit your skills and, as a consequence, by those seeking to be rid of you. At elite you'd probably have enemies, assassins and even just challengers after you.

Missions could make more of special stipulations. No refueling (nova mission does somthing like this I think)/ no repairs (timeline too tight)/ no ecm (sensitive cargo)/ no hyperdrive (mustn't leave a trace)/ no rear laser(some other item or energy drain active)/ no fancy ship (posing as a trader or non-combatent) or even (really tough) no energy recharge :shock: (any insane reason you'd like to punish the player with).

Talk is cheap of course.

A 'second phase' as you put it does recognise that the early and later game experience different issues and I do like some of your ideas but it does all sound rather like a (very interesting) special scenario or game mode to me, rather than a game standard.

Quote:
I wouldn't be against such things as a major Thargoid invasion *in a particular portion of a particular galaxy* that makes things very tough there. The player's choice is then: stay and fight (and maybe improve the situation), stay and trade (in a crisis there is much profit to be made at elevated risk!), avoid that sector, or just leave that galaxy, and the next time you enter that galaxy the problem's resolved. Player choice in a ooniverse that "doesn't care" is everything.
Different 'end-games' in different galaxies? Perhaps one of them could even be the current game 'ending'?

It's not an easy 'problem' to fix, at least not in a way that is to the satisfaction of most players.

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 11:50 am 
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I think one can displease everyone equally with a system-local rating.
One counts the kills on a per-system basis, and then one computes a difficulty level in a given system from the average local ratings of the neighbour systems.
This provides a "local escalation", which kind of also provides "oscillations" while kind of preserving the players' freedom of choice.


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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 12:58 pm 
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Sid Meier's Pirates! approached the issue of the neverending sandbox game by allowing for player retirement. The player aged (and in-game events like wounding or imprisonment speeded this up, iirc), and there were opportunities in the game which amounted to a form of final rank or score: whether you ended up destitute, or running an inn, or managed to break into the nobility and become a Baron, Earl, or Duke (there was also how good-looking your wife was, if you managed to marry a Governor's daughter, which affected how happy your marriage was: not that video games today would treat women as mere objects, oh no …).

I don't think we should copy all of that - not least because Pirates! was quite deliberately channeling the swashbuckling fiction of Caribbean piracy - but the player's reputation scores and a bit of interaction between the player and, say, one particular adopted "home" system could allow a player-character to retire. This would provide a decent full-stop to a game and encourage players to start a new PC and see how that life-story might unfold. Could a text-file Ship's Log be produced by the game - recording cargoes and passengers carried, destinations reached, kills made, contracts and missions accomplished?

Pirates! also had a little quest embedded in there: Rescue Your Sister (and other members of your family, if necessary). Again, we don't need to copy this element directly - but some other sort of long-term challenge to overcome would be useful. This is where the idea of player debt would help: if the player began not only with a ship and Cr100, but also a great big interest-bearing overdraft which had to be paid off, over time; this would dog the player throughout the game. Clearing the debt would be a major lat(er)-game achievement, and building up a stash thereafter would allow the player to retire their Commander at some point, and an adopted Home System could, depending on its political type, economy, and wealth, award a suitable job, title or status to the retiree.

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 1:45 pm 
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Retirement is an interesting option. You could have a Pension scheme OXP which could be a useful money-drain throughout the game, and maybe even do equity release on your ship if 'Grandkids go to college' OXP is installed. And for those that just can't stay retired, Nigel Farage OXP.
Only kidding about that last one

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 10:33 pm 
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you choose your own place in the ooniverse
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"thargoid" invasion phase
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This is where the idea of player debt would help
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Retirement is an interesting option
Maybe there's room for a different kind of start choice. One were you choose not only your place but something of your story too.

Stories tend to have satisfying endings, perhaps that's the element that is missing.

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 10:34 am 
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Maybe there's room for a different kind of start choice. One were you choose not only your place but something of your story too.
A "character generation" system where you got to create a background could be interesting - even just some bare-bones stuff like being able to choose what species the player is, their gender, and what planet they come from.

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 Post subject: Re: Oolite 2.0 or II
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 12:17 pm 
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... like being able to choose what species the player is, their gender, and what planet they come from.
Hmmm, let me think. I'd go for something totally weird, like being a male Human from Earth or somesuch.

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