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Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ problems]

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Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ problems]

Postby morphles » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:25 pm

Here is part of my thoughts on the problems of civ, lengthy so people might not be interested, but I hope you read it and find thoughts interesting, and hopefully thought and discussion provoking. I also have other negative outlooks about civ, but for now this will do :)

Lets first just agree that alliances, and duopoly (or maybe tripoly) is stable/attracting state of games with diplomacy. I'll try to convince you.

So you start a game, you are doing relatively good, better than all your neighbors in fact! They are not happy about it, and couple of them form an alliance, and in unity they are stronger than you. You have to find a way out of it, so you recruit some other player to your alliance, likely it is not hard to convince them, as you are quit strong, and they can expect some protection and cooperation with stronger player, there is little reason to not accept it. So the first alliance is now again at disadvantage, they go looking for more members. Until the world is divided into two more or less equal forces.

There are some problems with such scenario, but if allied victory is enabled, unless you are very very strong or have smaller alliance which is very strong, joining in is likely best for you. If you are that good, and do not want to share score, you (or your small elite alliance) can try to play on its own. But if you are doing great (not needed in fact, only perception that you are overly strong is enough), expect all guns to be targeted at you, as others might see no chance unless they band up. So you will still likely end up in two alliance state, maybe taking a bit longer. So such scenarios have examples in my previous experiences.

If allied victory is disabled, you would expect alliances to collapse some time. But even though I have no experience with complete game without allied victory, I have a strong suspicion that duopoly will exist for most of the time, as again being left alone when all the the forces are consolidate is not good place to be in.

I would call all this power concentration by accretion, power attracts new players, creates some opposition, which also attracts players, until merges are complete. And here is the most important part, and biggest problem with alliances in my eyes: once power is accreated there is very little incentive to leave the power camp. I would even dare to say that likely there is negative incentive to leaving. If you are not switching sides, you are not making friends, but leaving an alliance will most likely make you look like traitor, that you kinda are, and you can expect your alliance on your back, unless they are already in dire situation, but then why would you be leaving? If something is crushing alliance, surely you can't stand against it on your own.

But why there is no reason to leave alliances? Well first of if allied victory is enabled, there will never be such conditions in my opinion, so lets forged allied victory. The reason is simple in my eyes: victory condition. There is single victory condition, which is very very far most of the time, and it is risky to break of if there is that much time ahead as bad things surely will happen in such a long time! Now more observant of you might say wait wait, what single victory condition? There is spaceship victory, and other types of victories in other civ games! And I say they are bullshit and stupid, as they change nature of game little. Especially in freeciv; only alternative is spaceship, that come so far in a future that by the time it is reached you can expect one player or alliance to hold most of everything. That is for most of the game you can't scare nether your enemies nor friends with completion of ship. You can't count on wining that way, so you must stick to grand plan, the alliance.

This comes from the fact that civ is game of largeish scale, and takes ton of time, so the end of game is far, I would also say that this also promotes more passive play (not only diplomacy & alliances, some more specific rules contribute significantly too), at least it seems from my couple of multi-player games, sitting and "developing" everything until you build your "awesome army" (TM) and crush everything. Such style of play in other strategy games, namely rts'es is hallmark of noobines. Here it is more difficult to say that, as game almost actively promotes it. And I do not think it is a good thing, I'm starting to find this insanely depressing, especially on gt where turns take day, if you have to wait months for any real actions or progress, that seems just like a waste of time. And for those of you who think that his is more strategic and stuff, well I'll likely address it in future posts.

Now I will digress a bit. There is this board game, havannah(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havannah). It is abstract strategy game, like chess or go, and definitely a match for them in depth and in how interesting it is (well at least for me :P). The game is plaeyd on hexagon of hexagonal cells. Most of the games are won by having a chain of stones connecting three sides of hexagon. The important word in previous sentence is most. As such connection (called fork) is just one of three ways to win the game, also the one taking most stones, but it is the most common. (others are ring, surrounding any number of cells, even one; and fork connecting two corners). Even though other two ways in ideal case take much less stones than fork, they are rear, since they are mostly easy to foil. But the existence of those win conditions makes game insanely more rich, as they are often utilized as threats, making your opponent defend while providing you opportunities to extend your influence.

After introducing you to havannah, lets get back to civ. We (well I in this case) can try draw certain analogies between civ and havannah. You have a moderately lengthy game that is won by moderately complex goal. The difference is that havannah provides opportunities to threaten your opponent and use those threats to shape the game making it much more "alive" and interesting. And I think that civ lacks precisely that! You can't just break of alliance and complete some feat to quickly win and end the game, you know that you must drag yourself through all of it, fighting likely superior foes if you are left alone, so you stay, and help build the "awesome army" nothing that much happens in a meantime. But if there was something that you could reasonably expect to accomplish in secrecy from your alliance that would win you the game you might do it! Your allies will likely find out about it eventually and attack you, but if you get just enough time, you win, and fuck em'! So that could end game too soon... which wouldn't be all that good! But remember havannah, most (I think above 90% of times) games are won by completing most complicated objective! That is because goals interact so well. I would expect that something like that could be found and implemented in civ games, GT in particular for our interested.

Some possibilities for that could be: build certain number of special "win wonders" or maybe just improvements, have city of certain size, build one super win wonder, build special win "base"/fortress maybe combination of such stuff, or some other practical sillynes like that. The point is to have something that would keep your allies on their toes about your actions, and that you could reasonably expect to pull off so that you would try to do it, while still having some way to stop it.

Lets analyze some proposed conditions: suppose you can win by having wonder that cost lets say 1000 shields, quite hefty, but of course build-able in one turn with enough caravans, so you can try covering it up with trade route build, but your allies will not be happy if they see tons of caravans in your lands, expect them to eliminate such threat (but maybe you can hide it, route them in unclear ways, and leave just enough time, and backup gold to complete it!), if you disable vision sharing, expect even more suspicion! Alas alliance will start to destabilize at least somewhat (I would hope significantly). If your allies are not lame they should manage to prevent it, then you pack your caravans and probably go with your bushiness as your former (or even repeated) allies still have major threat of other alliance, to deal with.

Or say you can win by building "victory base", that needs something like 200 worker turns or similar, you have too much workers? well you'r a suspect of trying to pull it off! Same pattern like before. You again can expect to trick people with that, but if they are not blind they should catch you most of the time. And so on.

Well if you read this far, all I can say is thanks :)
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby monamipierrot » Wed Apr 16, 2014 10:40 pm

Getting phylosophical, uh? Good (if you could keep wording amount at about 1/10 of actual level) :)
I will reply to some stuff, but 1st let me quote'n reply on something EVERYONE couldn't but do:
morphles wrote:Some possibilities for that could be: build certain number of special "win wonders" or maybe just improvements, have city of certain size, build one super win wonder, build special win "base"/fortress maybe combination of such stuff, or some other practical sillynes like that. The point is to have something that would keep your allies on their toes about your actions, and that you could reasonably expect to pull off so that you would try to do it, while still having some way to stop it.

Why not something special, like a.... Spaceship? Yes, to leave this hostile planet and gain victory by settling on another star.... what about Alpha Centauri? And while other players are killing each other, you only have to keep borders safe and concentrate in building modules available with different technology, and maknig sure the Spaceship works and and and...
Bah, nevermind, a weird idea from a weird guy. :P
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby Corbeau » Wed Apr 16, 2014 11:17 pm

I have absolutely no problem with long posts. I usually make a lot of those myself ;)

About the topic, well, I'm afraid your problem is you're concentrated on the victory too much. I think I said it already, but Civilization is one of the rare games (possibly the only one) that gives me the pleasure during playing it, not necessarily winning. But being good, getting better, progressing, developing. It seems I have a very different playstyle to a lot of people here, but that's my position in all this.

Yes, nothing wrong with spaceship victory. Or diplomatic (although that one's a bit lame; simply get enough votes from other players? Seems more like a popularity contest than strategy.) Maybe do it with diplomats, "buy off" votes in some way. But still, whatever the method is, still need to keep a way to track score so that, if the victor is at 100%, we know who is at 99% and who is at 30%. For me, this is more important than being first or second or third.
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby monamipierrot » Thu Apr 17, 2014 12:08 am

More seriously: you are touching a critical aspect, namely "what WE do want from a game?"
It looks like most of us want - as we say in Italy - "the barrel, full - and the wife, drunk" which is simply impossible.
We want the game to be constantly challenging, but we want it to favour the best player (thus making less challenging for him).
We want it to be full of action and things that happens, but we want it to be also long (so things are of little importance).
We want the weak player to have always some chance, but we need that the game ends sooner or later (mate, you don't have chance, poor guy!).
We want everybody to master the game mechanics, but we also want that new original strategies could work as well (unbalancing things).
We want novelty, but we want it to be classic.
And remember, everybody wants to win. That's a issue, too!

If you didn't, please read "Design principles" of C-Evo in http://c-evo.org/text.html, expecially principles #2, #4, and #6
Althou I don't agree with some of the ideas of C-Evo author (better said, I think the opposite!), it is good to learn how he focused and DID KNOW exactly what he wanted - and achieved it.
This is what we need to do too, cause many times longturn and greatturn are quarrelling (as it happens frequently between you, Corbeau, Ifaesfu and myself in these pages) about minor details and it happens we don't understand each other because we give for granted too much.

A good starting point - I insist - is my old decalogue, in which you should take position (or not) on 10 general aspects of the game:

1 - Experiment vs. Stability
2 - Leveled Chances vs. Strongest Wins
3 - AI policy
4 - Strategy relevance (closed related with 7, 8 and 9)
5 - Simple vs. Complex
6 - Micromanagement policy
7 - Realism
8 - Involvement/atmosphere
9 - Determinism vs. Random Outcome
10 - Novelty vs. Fixed patterns


When you address the problem of the alliances, you're addressing some of the above points, expecially #2 and #8.
Yep, the problem of alliances is a tough one and should be addressed specifically, but not before knowing what we do want from a game.
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby morphles » Thu Apr 17, 2014 7:25 am

I said whats the problem with spaceship, diplomatic and cultural victories, they are mostly irrelevant. Spaceship comes so late and requires tons of resources, that ether you must be playing huge map for very long, or you can win by conquest probably faster, or your enemies are asleep. It does not do anything to make game more interesting, at least in my eyes.

We want the game to be constantly challenging, but we want it to favour the best player (thus making less challenging for him).

Game which does not favor best player? What kind of game it is? Lottery? Most likely some kind of bullshit ;)

We want it to be full of action and things that happens, but we want it to be also long (so things are of little importance).

Again, you maybe have not read my post? Having tons of action does not stop game from being long. And "things are of little importance" is precisely what you have now in game, because there are no important goals as described. If any player can pull of a quick win, stopping him becomes very important, even if you stop him, and stop others, and game takes as long as it currently takes, those stopings will still have been very very damn important! It won't be some minor thing, as the game could have ended right there and right now, which is important. But to have any of that players must have ability to credibly threaten quick victory, there is no such ability, so you get bunch of not important stuff. For what is worth you can be some minor player on global scale, wait though to major battles sieze the opportunity, of everyone being weaker and win! (yeah right not that likely) Making basically 80% of game not really important!

We want the weak player to have always some chance, but we need that the game ends sooner or later (mate, you don't have chance, poor guy!).

Weak players always have some chance, as every player has some chance, likely that chance is most equal at the start of game ;) Actually this sounds like nonstatment at all. Player is player, weak or not. If you want life easier for weaker players, come up with hadicap rules (say less corruption for certain nations, controller by those weaker players, or crap like that). But organising the game about poor weak players is incredibly bad idea.

Code: Select all
We want everybody to master the game mechanics, but we also want that new original strategies could work as well (unbalancing things).

Again what? If mechanics are designed well enough you'll get all of that. In fact without understanding mechanics well enough you can't really create reasonable new strategies, because well you don't understand the game! If you try some crap and it works that time it does not mean much if you were in a club of newbies, likely you just got lucky.

We want novelty, but we want it to be classic.

Fuzy words mostly standing for emergent properties. They come automatically from well designed game.

As for C-Evo, well I agree mostly with everything that guys has written in design principles. But from the sounds of it people here don't! Examples: I already said in other posts - more rules mean jack shit if they are not weighted agains other rules and game overall. Special treatment for some players is stupid, game is about strategy and wining! Game must be challanging and and have no needles grind and micromanagment (which I argue is all freeciv curently is, you drag your feet to the end game by camping and trying not to get attacked, again possibilities for quick victories would adress that considerably). Fun by noverly sucks! As does win by chance.

Overall when I saw that he prefers fun by challange, I was pretty sure that he is a guy I could agree on quite some points :)
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby monamipierrot » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:16 pm

Morphles, I think there's have be a misunderstanding.
When I pointed out the "we want... but we want..." things, I was talking in general, not about you (hence the plural!).
But I'm glad that you took positions on them. I was starting getting confused about what you wanted and liked, while now I start to see the light!
I'm going off-topic, but I don't mind.
About the "fun by challenge vs. fun by novelty" dichotomy, I don't agree it is a real dichotomy, so I'm not against novelty, whatever it is. I think the - pardon me - obsession of "fun by challenge vs. something else" (e.g. "simulation", "realism" etc.) is closely related to the determinism idea. It's clear that the author of C-Evo don't like non-determinism at all. I couldn't agree less. As you put in another thread: "If you can't handle a bit of non determinism play chess or Go or some other game."
I'm one of the few here who played the very first Civilization. I can say that it was BY FAR much more non-determinist than any other later game based on it. Luck was important, yes, but much more important was your ability to change plans on the go, which is one of the most important qualities of a real strategist.
On the other things: I almost agree with all other C-Evo principles, the most important being the Keep It Simple one, about which I'm quite radical: I think we should get rid of tons of patches/workarounds/special rules/etc. etc.
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby ifaesfu » Fri Apr 18, 2014 4:22 pm

Too much rumbling here. Settings, settings and only doable settings. The rest is a toast on the sun.

Maybe the only arguable thing:
morphles wrote:If allied victory is disabled, you would expect alliances to collapse some time. But even though I have no experience with complete game without allied victory, I have a strong suspicion that duopoly will exist for most of the time, as again being left alone when all the the forces are consolidate is not good place to be in.

This setting isn't effective because, as both of you are meaning, there are so many behaviours and preferences in this game as players. And I know from the practice, that there are a lot of players who don't give a damn to win. They only want to be alive to do their stuff.
See: http://forum.longturn.org/viewtopic.php?id=265 and http://forum.longturn.org/viewtopic.php?id=266
Even counting on alliance limits to claim a win, players form huge alliances and in the end of the game, they don't care if they are treated as losers, even though they have been in the huge winning alliance. In the middle of it, they have already spoilt the game, of course.
Well, that game wasn't so bad because there was techlost penalties so smaller groups of players could stand a bit more. That was the only fun of that game.
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby Corbeau » Fri Apr 18, 2014 5:56 pm

ifaesfu wrote:In the middle of it, they have already spoilt the game, of course.

Spoilt for you, maybe.

Like I said many time, a lot of this is a matter of personal preference. Don't treat stuff like this as universal law. The fact that you don't like something doesn't mean it shouldn't *be* like that.
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby morphles » Fri Apr 18, 2014 6:10 pm

Too much rumbling here. Settings, settings and only doable settings. The rest is a toast on the sun.

Well you mange to be as unclear in much more concise manner ;) I'm not sure what you mean, but additional victory conditions should be readily doable, some more complicated ones will need lua, but everything should work. Maybe I'll test them some time when I have time.

As I said the problem is that has only one win condition that is so far in a future that people do not even see a need to fight for it, it is also quite nebulous, as it is unlikely that you will play until no other nation remains, as all would be clear sooner.

Having non disputable, concrete reasonably reachable win condition that does not need to wait for hundreds of turns should address many issues. You build game winning super wonder, thats god damn it, you win. I can if and but, but the fact is you achieved win condition, you won, game is over. Second place becomes more difficult to access, but who gives a shit about second place? :) You win or you don't. And when goal is more reachable even less interested players might give more effort.

So again, I stand by my point of adding better/additional win conditions, even if they are just threats and never reached themselves, impact on the game will be huge. And as I said they are readily available. (super base, or super wonder should be doable in ruleset without no problems, in seconds, well wonder at least, a bit less sure about base; the one involving counts are a bit more complicated, but should be doable using lua, will test that)
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Re: Problems with alliances[& probably some other civ proble

Postby morphles » Fri Apr 18, 2014 6:11 pm

People who do not play to win get on my nerves. You wasting everyones time. At least thats my opinion. You might not expect to win due to your skill or some such, but to not try to win... is despicable.
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