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 Post subject: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:35 pm 
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Having played a couple of games on all difficulty settings and with both the "normal" and "classic" settings, I have some issues I would like to bring to the attention of the dev team. They have mostly to do with game balance, but part of it also seems to be issues with the basic design. First of all, I would like to mention that the game is decent. It's not great, but I did have some fun with it and I think it has potential to be truly fun. The points are in no particular order.

Research

I like the research design. The somewhat random nature of discovery is quite interesting, and probably my favourite feature of the game. Unfortunately, this is marred somewhat by a few smaller flaws: first, the techs all cost the same, despite being on significantly different power levels - I feel like making the more powerful techs more expensive would be a good balancing option. The way it is set up right now, you get some games where you draw several strong techs and others where you only get crap, which is somewhat frustrating if only based on the gods of the random generator. Some key techs like terraforming should be available in every game, like the universal translator. Second, the tech increase from level to level seems rather steep. It rarely makes sense to really focus on a certain tech and bring it more than two levels up compared to other techs, except for mutually exclusive techs like propulsion, armor and weapons - especially because it seems to me as if getting new techs seems to be possible whenever you research anything.

Expansion

While I realize that 4x games are about expansion, Horizon goes a little over the top. The investment for a new colony is negligible (about the same as a level 2 building), all one needs is a colonizer ship and 1b credits. If you also set up basic buildings, this increases to maybe 3b. On the flip side, the gains are huge, especially science will be very productive very quickly. Colonies are usually profitable after a very short time, with a return of investment of maybe 20-30 turns after they are built, and apart from your opponents being pissed there is really no downside to it. Since building speed is based only on resources and industry percentage (i.e. ships and buildings are made with industry base, not with goods produced), you can also produce far more ships if you go wide. As if that weren't enough, neglecting environment is based on the total number of goods, so you cannot even improve your production on large planets unless you're willing to take a lot of pain. Exacerbating the problem even further, building yield increases are linear while their cost increases somewhat exponentially. Level 3 buildings are too expensive and take too long to build.

Space Stations

While space stations are somewhat expensive, they seem to be too powerful. Not only do they provide a refitting station for your colonist ships (very powerful given how strong new colonies are), but they also provide excellent planet defense against everything but a medium-sized fleet and an all-important command point. I would probably remove the command point and put some more of those into technologies. This would help make expansion slightly less powerful because defending your territory becomes more difficult for wide empires. The slow fleet travel speeds make these even more important.

Morale
Morale is far and beyond the most important thing. Going from average to good increases your workforce from 30% to 47% or so, which increases most of your colony yields by 50%. This is by far stronger than anything else you can get.

Traits
The faction traits are similarly unbalanced. Immortal provides 100% workforce, which is just ridiculous. The starting surplus goes from about 100 MC to something like 1500 MC if you choose this trait. I realize that this is only available if you customize your faction, but since that option is given, traits like this should either be far more costly or have some significant drawbacks.

Starting Planet
I question the wisdom of how what you can colonize is a function of your starting planet. Allowing players who start on volcanic or metallic planets to colonize anything without pop penalty is simply unfair compared to starting on Oceanic where you can only colonize oceanic, arctic and terran without terraforming. This is an incredibly big advantage that doesn't even cost you points on the set-up screen. This wouldn't be so bad if every option had balanced sets of planets to colonize, for instance metallic could be able to only colonize metallic, barren and desert. Terran could colonize terran, oceanic and arctic. And so on.

AI
The biggest issue is the weak AI. Even on very hard and normal game mode, it is trivial to eclipse them in everything if you expand rapidly, while most AIs will contend themselves with 2 or 3 systems for a long time. Different facets include the AI giving too many freebies if you ask them often enough (it is also weird that their reaction is random, so you can often get something you ask for if you simply try again a turn later). I can usually get monetary help and/or tribute from at least 2 or 3 AIs in any game before they all start hating me, and they never cancel tribute agreements unless they declare war. Once they did declare war, they don't build ships and they don't usually destroy your colonies (they conquer them given the opportunity, but if they don't have a ground troop ship they will simply sit in orbit and wait). Other problems include the AI not signing peace treaties even though being completely outmatched and my only enemy, sending wave after wave of colonizer into a strategically placed small fleet, and the default ship models being weak. I'm also not sure if the AI ever takes advantage of the free space you get after some tech research. They also seem to be unable to muster a strong enough fleet to overcome even a single space station. It also sucks ball in battle, which is unrewarding anyways but becomes a snorefest due to the crappy AI.

Economy is everything
Since production is so slow compared to buying stuff, you rarely really get the feeling of having a production powerhouse. Except for motherships, you can rush buy everything wherever you need it, and even those just take too long to hard build, so it makes more sense to buy them. If production of ships were tied to total goods produced rather than industry base, it would be much better. Since science buildings are so expensive, you also need a strong economy to finance them.


I think that's it for now. I'm not sure if the devs are reading the forums actively, but they still seem to patch the game, so I thought I'd put this out here in case they see it. The game has potential in my opinion, but some areas are much too flawed right now to be truly fun.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2014 12:09 pm 
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Ziamat reads the forums pretty regularly.

I agree with the majority of your comments.


Would love to see the AI get better, that alone could change the entire feeling of the game.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:02 pm 
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Thanks alpaca for the detailed and well constructed feedback. It's very helpful and I much appreciate you taking the time to write. I presume your games were started after update 1.0.2.118 ? (visible on the load menu when selecting a game). We will certainly consider the points you brought up, especially where it concerns a more challenging AI at higher game difficulties. Game balance is a little more tricky because our players have widely differing views on what they consider fun, and we want to be more careful there but if we see something really wrong/out-of-balance we will rectify it.

A few comments:

Regarding race customization special abilities, they are not balanced with each other and those are not likely to change. It is up to players (and modders) to make races as they see fit whether overpowered or underpowered for role playing purposes. We think that much is for players to decide.

Regarding research, the level to level progress is linear until techs reach level 6 thereafter it becomes exponential. And yes, there is always a chance for a new discovery when a tech levels, it's one of the ways to find new techs.

Regarding Expansion, we had a much more slow new colony development during alpha but we found most players didn't like the slow progression. We may revisit the cost to build a colony (after colonization) though since it is pretty cheap.

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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 3:53 pm 
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Zaimat wrote:
Thanks alpaca for the detailed and well constructed feedback. It's very helpful and I much appreciate you taking the time to write. I presume your games were started after update 1.0.2.118 ? (visible on the load menu when selecting a game). We will certainly consider the points you brought up, especially where it concerns a more challenging AI at higher game difficulties. Game balance is a little more tricky because our players have widely differing views on what they consider fun, and we want to be more careful there but if we see something really wrong/out-of-balance we will rectify it.

A few comments:

Regarding race customization special abilities, they are not balanced with each other and those are not likely to change. It is up to players (and modders) to make races as they see fit whether overpowered or underpowered for role playing purposes. We think that much is for players to decide.

Regarding research, the level to level progress is linear until techs reach level 6 thereafter it becomes exponential. And yes, there is always a chance for a new discovery when a tech levels, it's one of the ways to find new techs.

Regarding Expansion, we had a much more slow new colony development during alpha but we found most players didn't like the slow progression. We may revisit the cost to build a colony (after colonization) though since it is pretty cheap.

Thanks for reading. I was playing with the latest patch, I think that was 1.0.2.119.

What is the rationale behind having a point system for the race traits if it's not meant to be balanced? Might as well just allow players to create super-races or whatever they like, then at least min-maxers like me won't feel they're deliberately making bad choices to make the game more challenging. I've seen similar things in other games in the past, and I've always felt it was odd to create a game system that provides a semblance of balance while being blatantly unbalanced. Anyways, this isn't very important to me.

I fully appreciate that a game is different things to different players, but for a strategy game, I think an attempt should be made to avoid making one particular set of strategies dominant. The main problem here is that there are many rewards to expansion at a very low cost and negligible risk. I would be fine with high rewards if the risks or cost balanced it. I also find it hard to believe that anyone seriously considers the current situation, where the optimal strategy is to settle every piece of habitable land you can find, more fun than one where choosing which planets to settle is actually a meaningful decision. Some possible changes I could think of that would help nerf expansion:

[*]Increase maintenance for colony buildings so they need a longer time before they become profitable
[*]Remove the colonizer once it finishes a colony or add a cost to refitting it
[*]Add something like pirates that attack undefended colonies
[*]Scale maintenance with the number of colonies
[*]Reduce morale if you found more colonies
[*]Tie production to goods produced instead of cap
[*]Reduce pop growth to more realistic levels and provide the option to transport people from developed planets using transport ships (colonies often have several % pop growth per year)
[*]Make rush buying more expensive, with the credit/production ratio becoming lower the more slow production you put in
[*]Reduce the cost of the higher-tier buildings and/or improve their return of investment
[*]Remove the fleet command point from starbases and shift command more to techs


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 8:34 pm 
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Compared to other 4x games Horizon seems to carry practically zero risk if financial insolvency for an empire. Unless you overshoot your Command points.

Some ideas:
Industries need to create more waste
Waste needs to cost more to clean up
High waste reduce max pop, and morale
Using credits to 'Buy it now' should instantly generate a large amount of waste
Buying food needs to cost more
Ability to increase funding going into research, to speed up results. Not buy it now, but extra oopmh
In general more maint cost around a colony.


Buy it now stuff should cost more, maybe even change from buy it now, to Throw X money to reduce Y turns that you can only do once and have some sort of scale based on the item in question how much you can speed up and how much it will cost. I know I routinely Buy it now on Motherships and crank that out in one year, or starbases at brand new colonies that are at the edge of my travel range. Stuff like that feels wrong to me.

For an easy-normal game the AI's are in a pretty decent state. But give us an option to make them harder. I don't mean cheat like some games do where they get 50% better everything. Actual better play.
Ideas:
Make use of Buy it now
ADjust Research to get certain key techs based on their race personality ( just like a player can)
Develop colonies more
Expand even more. I know I build a couple extra scouts and colony ships right away and push for the teraform tech. Then drop a colony on every planet I can get to. Usually in about 50 years, mostly due to volume of colonies, I am above all the other races on everything.
Build up and attach in force on weaker planets
Blockade home planets


right now all Trade routes go back to your home planet, this is very unrealistic, and un-evenly weights having a Huge Rich home planet, and building up to max on all the building types there. I know Distant Worlds handled trade routes very interestingly. The commerce of the planets and their neighbors adjusted the pathways of trade dynamically. So even poor planets, if they were in a strategic spot, got lots of trade routes passing through them. Now other race routes goto home planet, that makes sense. But the Minor and Local, those need to branch around etc.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2014 10:03 pm 
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alpaca wrote:
Space Stations

While space stations are somewhat expensive, they seem to be too powerful. Not only do they provide a refitting station for your colonist ships (very powerful given how strong new colonies are), but they also provide excellent planet defense against everything but a medium-sized fleet and an all-important command point. I would probably remove the command point and put some more of those into technologies. This would help make expansion slightly less powerful because defending your territory becomes more difficult for wide empires. The slow fleet travel speeds make these even more important.



Since the Discussion about the CP Points, i was wondering why the techs: Hailing Comunicator and Interstellar Communication, don't help towards the Comand Points in some way, for instance the hailing comunicator could give some percentage per level like 5 or 10 %, i think it will be good and for the other tech it can just give like 1 point each level or something like that, But the starbases could just give another point so you can gain many more points than a cap or limit i think that could be good in any case also :)


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 12:12 pm 
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Beam316 wrote:
Since the Discussion about the CP Points, i was wondering why the techs: Hailing Comunicator and Interstellar Communication, don't help towards the Comand Points in some way, for instance the hailing comunicator could give some percentage per level like 5 or 10 %, i think it will be good and for the other tech it can just give like 1 point each level or something like that, But the starbases could just give another point so you can gain many more points than a cap or limit i think that could be good in any case also :)


Too much/many command points = no need for command points at all.

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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:00 pm 
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Wenla wrote:
Beam316 wrote:
Since the Discussion about the CP Points, i was wondering why the techs: Hailing Comunicator and Interstellar Communication, don't help towards the Comand Points in some way, for instance the hailing comunicator could give some percentage per level like 5 or 10 %, i think it will be good and for the other tech it can just give like 1 point each level or something like that, But the starbases could just give another point so you can gain many more points than a cap or limit i think that could be good in any case also :)


Too much/many command points = no need for command points at all.


Well the thing is that I found really odd that those techs, that in a very realistic way are related with commanding fleets or even just a ship, don't do anything for that, also isn't that you can build like at least 10 starbases at early-mid game beacuse also, aside that you need 40 CPs for build a fleet of just motherships, let say that you need at least like 20-25 CPs, just to have a very good decent fleet with give or take something like 1 mosthership 3 cruisers and 6 transports/frigates, or whatever you like to name the medium ships, and is likely that you want at least 2 fleets like that 1 for attack and another 1 for mobile defense support and crush the attacking fleet, so thats why i said it, but sure is a thing of what you want attack or defend. thats in my honest opinion though cose i need more!! jejej well maybe i just disable them lol :) :wink:


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:14 am 
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Yes, I agree that it takes a long time to get buildt a good fleet. With my current game it took little over 300 rounds...

But it matches well with my (current) strategy with slow start (at bottom all the time before I'll get my first 10 mothersip fleet buildt), but after that...

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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2015 3:14 pm 
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jawstheshark wrote:
right now all Trade routes go back to your home planet, this is very unrealistic, and un-evenly weights having a Huge Rich home planet, and building up to max on all the building types there.
This is a UI limitation (we opted to show important trade routes and so on to not muddy the map) but trade and tourism is actually handled between each and every planet in the background and integrates to each planet's economy. Hopefully in the future we can represent this better but I understand it's not visible to the player in a manner that could be much more interesting.

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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:30 pm 
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Currently the trade routes (major, minor, local) are shown only for the player's capital system.
While it looks nice, it does not really help in deciding will this new colony be a trading hub or not and it definitely does not help with tourism.

I believe, the best way to show it transparently would be via heatmap-like overlays for tourism and trade.

I did a very crude mockup assuming major trade routes do share their influence too - http://i.imgur.com/AioM5bt.jpg

The hotter the place, the more traffic.
At the beginning you should do leaps of faith by heating up that map manually, but later you'll be able to just set up trading outposts near major trade routes.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:39 pm 
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True_poser wrote:
Currently the trade routes (major, minor, local) are shown only for the player's capital system.
While it looks nice, it does not really help in deciding will this new colony be a trading hub or not and it definitely does not help with tourism.

I believe, the best way to show it transparently would be via heatmap-like overlays for tourism and trade.

I did a very crude mockup assuming major trade routes do share their influence too - http://i.imgur.com/AioM5bt.jpg

The hotter the place, the more traffic.
At the beginning you should do leaps of faith by heating up that map manually, but later you'll be able to just set up trading outposts near major trade routes.


Its said that a picture says more than a thousand words.
That "mock-up" you made there gives a much better idea of what you are talking about than any words you could use.

It would be a great way to decide if its worth setting up a trade or tourism route or something else.
I'm assuming you want this to be something you can turn on and off as necessary, rather than always on?


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:15 am 
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Yes, on and off in the map legend menu.
Maybe turned on automatically if a fleet with a colony ship is selected.

Making it practical would require major economy changes though.
There should be a gap in finances in the mid-game to ensure you'll need trading and touristic colonies to make revenue and to ensure you'll need to keep good relations with most of your neighbors.

Looks like tech bonuses are hardcoded linearly, so, I guess, population tax should be adjusted to get colony tax minus colony maintenance to zero or negative at 6-7 billion pop.
Also, it'll make smaller worlds more lucrative, as a huge 19b planet will devour your finances.

In-game it can be explained by planetary logistics or stuff.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2015 7:09 pm 
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The heat map filter is a good idea for visual representation. Along with some indicator/icon per controlled system (on the map or system panel etc) to give more precise info that shows the trade/tourism potential would add that extra level of transparency.

Strategically: Location being a very big factor for trade/tourism as distance, relations and treaties all affect how much traffic you can receive. And while that determines how much you will benefit there are no big downsides to building high level buildings except the initial costs (which can still be considerable until mid-to-late game).

During early access initially there was high maintenance costs for buildings and it was detrimental to build and keep those that didn't produce enough to be of benefit. But we reduced these as you probably remember, since a lot of players did not like it or did not quite understand (in part because it wasn't transparent enough on our part).

Some of the economy details definitely could be much more accessible, specifically the buildings data breakdowns.

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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 8:31 am 
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I'm sorry, but I have to disagree.

Map overlays have to:
- show what locations are best suitable to establish a trading colony
- reward the player with color bump after they invest into trading/tourism buildings
- curb player's aggressiveness somewhat showing which colonies will suffer a blow when trade relations are disrupted (i.e., going to war)

Controlled systems do not really need additional indicators, because:
- prospects of establishing a new colony there are already shown by an overlay
- existing colonies do show the current traffic already


There are quite big downsides to build level 2+ buildings because of sunk costs.
Let's say going x2 on trade traffic gives you additional 150mc (I'm generous).

That means an 1,5bc bulding will break even either in:
- 40-50 turns on building it + 10 turns of operation
- 60 turns if you rush-buy it
meaning you sunk 1,5bc for 60 turns which is kinda big for an early game.

3-4 level buildings have even longer term to return investments.


Anyway, as the economy is hugely proficit, there has to be a financial gap to ensure the desirability of trading.
However, that means restricting a player somewhat.

I believe that:
1) adjusting colony maintenance (not the buildings maintenance, just the pop maintenance) to get bigger than colony pop taxes at 6-7 billion of pop
2) factor in the industry level in trade traffic
will lead to initial desirability of small trading worlds and even bigger desirability (but much bigger costs to develop) of huge industrial/science worlds in the late mid and end game.


Also, I believe that the best way to introduce any economy changes into the game would be by limiting them to the "very hard" difficulty level.
People, who play the game on very hard would not mind, and their adjusted feedback ("oh, it's easy" means "suitable for normal or hard") might be useful.


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 Post subject: Re: The good, the bad, and the terrible - feedback
PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2015 12:36 pm 
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When maintenance costs were high, building costs were cheaper (as they would have to be for balance) but yes I do agree now the initial investment is not to be taken lightly (as noted in my previous post). I do think the current system is better, it puts the decision-making up front and that's easier to grasp for new players as well.

As for desirability of trade/tourism for small colonies, there is a traffic cap for each (source) colony that's trading with a target (destination) colony. A small colony can easily have more traffic than a larger colony if it's in a sweet spot (trade hub).

True_poser wrote:
Also, I believe that the best way to introduce any economy changes into the game would be by limiting them to the "very hard" difficulty level.
People, who play the game on very hard would not mind, and their adjusted feedback ("oh, it's easy" means "suitable for normal or hard") might be useful.
Agreed!

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