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Technology growth not proportional with empire growth

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larienna
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The title is not self explanatory, still I think it is the best I could do. What I want to talk about is a game concept that can be seen in many games that fit in a civilization expansion like of game.

I am currently following the development of a video game called Elemental (www.elementalgame.com) where the goal is to make a game like master of magic ( civilization with magic). While talking about how the magic system should work, many people suggested that smaller empire's wizard should still be powerful enough to compete with larger empire wizard. This concept can be transposed to any civlization or space conquest game, you just replace magic by technology.

What does this concept tries to do? It tries to make sure that the evolution of this magic/technology is not influenced in any way by the empire size of the players. In many video games like Civilization and Master of Orion, the amount of cities/colonies you have will increase the amount of research points produced each turn allowing to grow faster. To counter effect this growth, later technologies becomes more and more expensive, forcing the player to have larger empire and making it impossible for small empire to acquire these technologies. This has a spiral effect of: smaller empire => technology grow slower => become weaker than your opponent => your empire gets even smaller, etc.

The suggestion above tries to do the opposite. Even if your empire is smaller, you will not get late in technology and you will still be able to compete on the technology level, which does not set aside a weak player for the rest of the game if he has a small empire. I really like this idea and I found many benefits to it, here are a few:

1- The player stay in the game until the end, no player is set aside.
2- Limit the run away leader effect.
3- Technology cost is fixed, no need to set various price on technologies.
4- Act as a game clock, you know the game is going to end when everybody has all their technologies.

Now to use a system like this, it implies many things

1- the technology/magic system must be an independent system.
2- There cannot be anything on the map or related to the empire that can power up the magic/tech system
3- Players must be able to make various choice or have various path in this magic/tech system.

The last point lead to my next problem. If every body's technology evolves at the same time, then there is no way to have better technology than your opponent to increase your chances to win. Now there are various ways that this can be solved:

1- Variable technology selection: Everybody has the same amount of technologies, but not the same technology.

2- Broader tech/magic system concept with multiple path: Give multiple options to the players so that they do not evolve the same way. So players will have strength and weakness even if they evolve at the same speed.

For example, you could be allowed to do various things:

1- Research: acquire new technology
2- Refine: Upgrade the technologies you already have
3- Wonder: Build a unique wonder that requires tech research to build it.

This mean that players could follow different path, one player has various technologies, the other one has few but powerful technologies and the last one has a lot of wonders into play.

So what do you think?

Pastor_Mora
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It depends on the game objective

Well, if your game is about conquering the world, it is reasonable that a larger empire means a better relative position for you.

If your game is about revealing an ancient secret (or the tech to jump to Orion in a space opera), well, then the size of your empire may not be of consequence.

In RPGs, there are two positions about the role of wizards in society. Once is that they are fairly common, so they act like other heroes, just spitting magic missiles instead of hacking and slashing foes. The other is that they are rare and misterious, and their agenda usually is out of reach for the common folk. So, they may wander around an empire, or have an isolated kingdom on their own, but they mind "their bussiness", not paying much attention to ordinary matters.

If you give a single move towards advancement for each player each turn, and you allow some kind of knowledge trading, you may encourage a "cooperative" playing style. The most (earthly) powerfull leader will have no incentive to eliminate his fellow wizard/scientists researchers, because they can eventually provide him with a clue he has missed in his own way to the ultimate discovery.

The element you need to secure this is a deadline. A player without a time constraint may choose to wipe out all competition and then make his finding eventually. If you have the "everybody looses" deadline (like Armageddon, or SuperNova), then cooperation between players is a must, and survivability for the less powerfull is reasonably ensured.

But then, why are you building an empire in the first place??? This question goes back to where I started.

It depends on the game objective.

Keep thinking!

scifiantihero
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Sounds a lot like . . .

. . . the buildings in Endeavor. Each turn everyone gets a building. You can make choices in the game that will let you access higher tiers of buildings, and for some strategies you must do that. Other strategies might let you take the earlier buildings and be fine with just them. Some buildings allow actions and some boost scores in other areas. Everyone gets one every turn, though; No one ever misses out on getting a new building. Picking the right ones at the right times becomes a huge part of strategy.

Sounds pretty much like the mechanic you're describing.

:)

larienna
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The goal of the game would be

The goal of the game would be to make civ like games where the leader does not get exponentially powerful. Because if you think about it, that is not fun for the leader too. In these kind of games, there is always a point when you become strong enought and your opponents becomes weak enough to compete with you. So now you just want to expand and kick everything out. So it becomes boring for the leading player and the games becomes less interesting.

One thing I have realized in games like civ and master of orion is that you rarely have close match, it's either you wipe your opponent or you get wiped out by your opponent. With this new system, the competition would be more tense.

Another player suggested that larger empire wizard would have to spend more time managing their empire than doing spell research. Which makes sense. So for a civ game, that would mean that managing large empire requires so many actions that you do not have the time to research technology.

Yes it looks a bit like endeavor, but in that game, you culd end up with not enough construction level which prevent from building high level buildings.

scifiantihero
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Mhm

larienna wrote:

Yes it looks a bit like endeavor, but in that game, you culd end up with not enough construction level which prevent from building high level buildings.

But that would mean you chose buildings/ moves to advance other areas instead. Sort of like if we were playing a space technology game, and I spent the whole game upgrading my hyperdrive and my laser weapons, I wouldn't immediately get to just grab the highest level cultural monument, or something.

What you're talking about seems like a good goal for a game. What other games try to limit/modulate growth?

Twilight Imperium's technology ability seems sort of along those lines. Whenever someone gets a technology, everyone else (with planning) has the chance to also get one. Some races are better at it than other in that game, though. And everyone gets sort of nudged down a path with starting technology.

:)

Pe-ads
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Sounds cool

Sounds pretty cool, and a good way to mitigate/eradicate runaway leader syndrome. Perhaps if you had a system similar to Kingsburg, where it pays more to pursue 2 or 3 routes, instead of all of them, e.g. technologies/buildings get progressively better as you follow a certain route.

Also, first post!

larienna
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Quote: Twilight Imperium's

Quote:
Twilight Imperium's technology ability seems sort of along those lines.

Do it does not, because if you have more resources you can buy more technologies and a larger empire would mean more resources. The only thing that limit research production in the 3rd edition which makes a similar effect is the fact that you need the "technology role" to research and you can only research once. While in order version, you can research as long you have the cash.

OPM
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Quote:Perhaps if you had a

Quote:
Perhaps if you had a system similar to Kingsburg, where it pays more to pursue 2 or 3 routes, instead of all of them, e.g. technologies/buildings get progressively better as you follow a certain route.

I agree with this and it how I design most of my games to work. It has other merits then just being a good mechanic.

OP I think you are looking at this the wrong way.

Several Empire building games use the tech race as a feature that must be balanced out against expansion, so as not to make the simple act of expansion a boring process.

The problem I find with these designs is that the game victor is usually clear by the time the game is 3/4 done. This also ruins a game in my opinion.

Adding in the technology element is designed to have a short term goal for players to chase that distracts them from the boredom that comes of conquering an entire world.

Some technology systems are meant to actually help speed up the conquest cycle to make the expansion quicker and less cumbersome as the players civilization advances through the years. This speeding up help takes away the boredom as well.

Tedious repetition in any game system will kill its attraction to players.

scifiantihero
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o.O

larienna wrote:
Quote:
Twilight Imperium's technology ability seems sort of along those lines.

Do it does not, because if you have more resources you can buy more technologies and a larger empire would mean more resources. The only thing that limit research production in the 3rd edition which makes a similar effect is the fact that you need the "technology role" to research and you can only research once. While in order version, you can research as long you have the cash.

O.o

Yes, I was talking about the newest version of the game, where when anyone picks the technology card, anyone else gets a chance to buy technology.

larienna
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About the idea if using a

About the idea if using a limited set of action:

There are many games that I find this frustrating because as your empire expand, the number of things you need to do increase and you need more actions. Else, it makes most of your empire stand there because you do not have enough action to make it move. So If you need more actions, allowing these actions to do tech research will allow larger empires to make more tech research which mean making it easier for larger empires.

I came up yesterday with the following ideas for an action system for my game:

You have 2 types of actions: Empire related actions and magic/tech related actions.

- Empire size gives you more empire actions. You start with 1
- Covenant size gives you more magic/tech related action. (note that the covenant is off board, so it does requires map space). You start with 1.
- Wizard gives you 2 action that can be either empire or magic/tech actions. It can also be used to engage battles and for questing.
- Heroes gives you 1 action but their skills determine which action they can perform (which can be in either category empire or tech/magic). They can also be used in battle and for questing.

With a system like this, having a large empire only means that you get more empire actions. Even if you have a small kingdom, you can have a powerful covenant of followers and you can have many heroes which also gives you many actions. Finally, the wizard is like a wild card. If your wizard does too much empire actions, you will end up not doing any magic. So this would be the small threshold that could make players focus more on magic or on empire building.

Pe-ads
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larienna wrote: With a system

larienna wrote:

With a system like this, having a large empire only means that you get more empire actions. Even if you have a small kingdom, you can have a powerful covenant of followers and you can have many heroes which also gives you many actions. Finally, the wizard is like a wild card. If your wizard does too much empire actions, you will end up not doing any magic. So this would be the small threshold that could make players focus more on magic or on empire building.

This sounds like an awesome way to mitigate it. I never though of having 2 different tech trees.

MarkKreitler
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On a related note

A few years back, I worked on a design that separated the size of the empire from its resource base. I had hoped to avoid runaway leader problems. Tech development figured in prominently as well. This thread reminded me of the experiment.

Because the empire-building didn't impact your resource base, the game felt very flat. Expansion didn't equate to progress beyond acquisition of victory points. That didn't feel tangible, nor did it feel realistic. The truth is that larger empires *should* have more resources to draw from, including great minds to solve technological problems.

Since then, I've meant to test a different model that could solve both the "intangible progress" and "not realistic" problems while still addressing the "runaway leader" issue:

The larger your empire grows, the harder it is to maintain.

You can model this a number of ways:

a) proportionately fewer action points per territory controlled.
b) more negative events to handle as territory increases (insurgencies, political infighting, etc).
c) less ability to control dissemination of technology as territory increases (e.g., small empires can keep exclusive technologies for 4 turns before other players automatically get them; larger empires 3 turns; still larger, 2 turns, etc.).

That's just off the top of my head. No doubt there are limitless possibilities.

I especially like option 'b' because it scales the action with empire size, which feels "right" -- having more stuff means you get to do more stuff -- but the additional stuff has increasingly more to do with maintenance instead of advancement.

Pe-ads
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Perfect

Quote:
The larger your empire grows, the harder it is to maintain.

Now that is the perfect way to do this. I never thought of having negative increasing as well as positive. It solves the problem, and even makes it more realistic!

larienna
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I might not limit resources,

I might not limit resources, because you want players to have a good reason to capture some key areas on the board. One of the way to generally do this it to have special resources on the map.

I like the idea that more problems can occur if you have a large empire. Still, If I had special event, I would allow players to choose their target which indirectly targets the player with the largest empire.

More people = faster tech development is not entirely true. You can have a few great minds that make important discoveries. Still, having more people could increase the chances that you have some great minds in your empire.

I was thinking that larger empire would give your more special resource and empire action. It might also allow you to maintain more upgrades, units types and armies.

In this case, the smaller empire would still have access to the same level of upgrades and units, but might maintain less of them (they have less choice). Having a smaller empire does not require you to need as many armies than a larger one.

The larger empire would have an advantage, but not an absolute advantage, It won't be a rifflemens vs legionaires kind of confrontation.

OPM
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MarkKreitler wrote:The larger

MarkKreitler wrote:
The larger your empire grows, the harder it is to maintain.

You can model this a number of ways:

a) proportionately fewer action points per territory controlled.
b) more negative events to handle as territory increases (insurgencies, political infighting, etc).
c) less ability to control dissemination of technology as territory increases (e.g., small empires can keep exclusive technologies for 4 turns before other players automatically get them; larger empires 3 turns; still larger, 2 turns, etc.).

Are you talking card game, boardgame, or computer game here?

Having "Maintenance" rules works ok with computers that handle the paperwork, but adding the bookkeeping to boardgames or cardgames can make it a tedious slog.

Plus what mechanic to you support for players who want to cull the empire they currently have and then the effects on that. For example some cities, or territories should be able to be abandoned. Most empire games rely on you only getting bigger and bigger. Card decks can get problematic when too large as well. People want ways to get rid of negative cards.

Real economics of scale is otherwise. But not everyone likes that reality in a game. However having areas to abandon leaves new opportunities for other players in the game to move in and do things there better.

The ability to shrink territories and holdings to reduce resource demand so that resources can be used for better purposes is something that smart players want. This is something I build into all my card and computer games. For skill teaching games this is an essential feature.

Pastor_Mora
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On game objective

Well, I think Mark has something valuable here: experience. Nice add.

I've played Master of Orion myself, not as much as Eric (I haven't design a board version of it). But even though I agree that games never ended close, I think that's a good thing. It fastens up things, and MoO, like many global wargames, tend to get too long. You got the right gear and the right muscle, just get going and wipe us all out! You deserve it.

Six players game never end close for more than two of them, so the other four (supposing they are still around) will bore to death anyway. If the objective is just conquest, someone eventually will have to gain 80% of the board! Retarding that will only make your game longer, not more fun.

On the other hand, in Master of Orion you got the hideous brain guys that were just impossible to wipe out of their last planet. They researched shields, missiles, fighters and lasers that were automatically upgraded into their Battlestation defenses. If you took 20 turns to build a flagship and 4 more turns to depoy it there, you ended up 24 turns of research behind! And that ment that they had cached up on the latest flagship destroying devices discovered. On the other hand, as building a flagship could cost them 40 turns instead, they could never attack your positions. So its a stalemate. They survive, and you go about your business as usual... No the best way to resolve this IMO.

My advice is to focus on game objectives. If you split the game objective in two (conquering everyone or finding how to start a supernova) you add up a way to win without wiping everyone out. In Civilization you could win by conquest or colonizing the moon, so thats the idea.

As for slowing research time for the big guy, two things: either 1) You make techs automatic (don't make techs that require building to be usefull), or 2) keep techs away from combat (don't make techs to help the big guy expand, or make them really expensive).

To be realistic, throughout the ages technology was painfully slow to get from discovery to application. So, you could emphasize in discoveries that have nothing to do with normal life (like the Seven Seals of Hell, in a fantasy setup). If every player has the same chance of making a discovery every turn, you could end up with a fighter style player conquering, but a wizard type player having six out of seven seals and about to win! That would be a close match!

Keep thinking!

MarkKreitler
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OPM wrote: Are you talking

OPM wrote:

Are you talking card game, boardgame, or computer game here?

Having "Maintenance" rules works ok with computers that handle the paperwork, but adding the bookkeeping to boardgames or cardgames can make it a tedious slog.

I'm talking board games, here. And I agree -- requiring maintenance is tedious, and not the way I would go.

The trick is to simulate the cost of maintaining your empire without actually requiring players to do the micromanagement. That's what I had in mind with the suggestion to make action points grow at a proportionally slower rate than the number of territories you control.

For example: if I have a small empire -- say, 5 or fewer territories -- I have 4 action points per turn. When I expand from 5-10 territories, I get 6; 10-15, 8 action points, and so on. This is simple and easy to tune, but it's not interesting.

Someone above suggested events, which was what I had in mind for point #2. If, each turn, you have a chance for an event that's proportional to your empire size -- and most events are bad -- larger empires will have to spend more action points dealing with random trouble (in this model, action points scale directly with territory size). For this to work, most events have to scale with the size of your empire -- think of those cards in Monopoly that made you pay a fee for each hotel you owned.

A system like this can provide a mechanic to shrink your empire, which, as you pointed out, some players may want. Has a Plague Event lain waste to Outer Mesponia? Maybe it's time to cut those barbarians loose -- they're not worth the action points it would cost to save them.

Finally, scaling costs to develop tech -- or any infrastructure -- can effectively, and simply, reduce the benefits of constant expansion. For example, suppose you develop the "Paved Roads" technology. That's well and good, but doesn't help your empire until you disseminate the tech to all your territories. So, to "unlock" the victory points associated with the tech, you need to spend 3 gold per territory you control. Oops! You've spread throughout central Europe? That's gonna cost ya...

As far as I can tell, none of these methods increases the "fiddlyness" of the rules, and all of them have been used before. And there are more....many more. It's not so much a question of "is there a solution" as which solution best matches your design goals.

larienna
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There are many ways to manage

There are many ways to manage maintenance easily in a board game. 2 ideas that comes to my mind:

A- The number of cities you have = the number of upgrades you can have in play.

B- the supply mechanics of "game of thrones". All territories ca maintain 1 units, if you have extra supplies, a few territory can hold a bit more units.

pansapiens
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Improvements

larienna wrote:
If every body's technology evolves at the same time, then there is no way to have better technology than your opponent to increase your chances to win.

What if a player's research rate is based on the average research production of their cities/planets/whatever? This would still let players choose how much to focus on research by building improvements, without tying research to empire size.

So, building universities (or something) in half of your cities gives you half as much research as building them in all your cities. Players with larger empires would be able to build more, but it would cost them more to increase their research rate, and expanding too fast without developing the new territories would reduce your research.

larienna
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Or Even Better

Quote:
So, building universities (or something) in half of your cities gives you half as much research as building them in all your cities. Players with larger empires would be able to build more, but it would cost them more to increase their research rate, and expanding too fast without developing the new territories would reduce your research.

Since a board game cannot hold as many information, generally you want to make as much things possible centralised. For example keeping track of universities built in each city is hard to do in a board game (especially if you have many more buildings). So the solution is that once you build your university, your whole empire gains it's benifits.

Which mean that in this case, your empire size has no influence on the bonus given by the upgrade. So if universities gives +2 research, it will give +2 what ever your empire size. This is great, I did not see it this way at the beginning.

So far, I wanted to make sure that empire size could influence the number of upgrades your could have. For example, a larger empire could make you have a library, a university, and a super computer. Cumulatively, they gain more bonus than the smaller empire. But maybe I could just make sure that the buildings available does not create this situation. Maybe there is only 1 tech boost building, that could get upgraded (ex: libraries upgrade to universities), but that will always have the same maintenance cost ( cost 1 to maintain 1 building).

Piqsid
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Two other options

I too am working on a CIV game right now, and I think it is balanced enough that it will tough to become a run away leader, but I understand the dilemma of a smaller empire having less of a chance at Techs. Let me offer two other ideas.

In the game Antike, the first person to buy the tech pays a premium, but once they have it, everyone else can buy the tech at a discount. This can allow people with smaller empires a chance to sit back and get all the same techs as the leader a turn or two later but not have to have the same access to resources. Of course, in Antike, the first person to discover a tech gets a victory point, so if you are never the first one to buy, you will lose, but that doesn’t have to be a victory mechanism in your game.

The other idea is what I am using in my game. Each of the cities produces growth points or growth potential based on the size of the cities. These growth points can be used to build the city, build units, build wonders, or invest in technology. While a bigger empire will have more growth points, they will also have many more things to spend their growth points on. To defend a big empire, you need to build a lot of units, eating up a lot of your growth points. It is similar to the maintenance idea, but easier to keep track of as the penalty for having a big empire is self imposed, and therefore easier to grasp. You can choose to spend nothing on defense, city growth, or wonders, and spend all of your growth on technology, but you will be extremely vulnerable.

larienna
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Quote:In the game Antike, the

Quote:
In the game Antike, the first person to buy the tech pays a premium, but once they have it, everyone else can buy the tech at a discount.

This is only possible if all the players have the same tech tree. When each player has a different tech tree, it becomes impossible.

Jpwoo
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Another option is to let the

Another option is to let the bigger empires develop more techs, but after a number of turns say 2-3, they become available to everyone. This gives the big empire their edge, but keeps the little guy from getting steamrolled.

If you wanted to get really fancy with it, you could have each new tech developed in one particular city. And from there it spreads outward to all connected cities every turn.

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