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Good UB – Bad UB #11: Unique Buildings

March 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Finale

Finalizing the “Good UB – Bad UB” series with those unique buildings that have some effect, but either no real scenario to use them or other drawbacks that make another pick better for a specific strategy. Some have potential uses in very specific scenarios, but aren´t the best option for those strategies. It´s interesting to know though what you can do with them if you get their civ shuffled to you in a random civ/leader ffa game for example.

Madrassa

Unique building for the Arabian; Replaces Library
+25% science; +4 culture; Can turn 2 citizens into priests and 2 into scientists;
Required to build University, National Epic, Great Library
Available for free on Modern and later starts

The Madrasa is a library that gives a city +4 culture instead of +2 culture and that let´s you work 2 additional Prophet to the usual two potential Scientist Specialists. I can think of two ways of using this, each in a different setup.

In an ancient 5v5 teamer where you get a civ shuffled to you randomly (probably the most played setup in common day-to-day multiplayer games), you can use the Madrasa as a small culture bomb in a front city – it´s probably only worth it, if you´re creative and thus get it build much cheaper.

In an Ironman/ffa game a Madrasa could support a GP economy, making it possible to work Scientist and Prophet specialists easily and early. If you get Arabia in an ffa game shuffled to you – especially if you additionally are Philosophical – the way to go is the GP eco. If you can pick freely, you can probably pull this kind of strategy with a different pick just as good or even better. Egypt with its Obelisk comes to mind…

Read more…

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concepts #3: mapdesign for multiplayer civ

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Types of “fair” maps for Multiplayer

The current pool of available maps for multiplayer is not very rich. Keeping in mind that the game and with it multiplayer gaming is four and half years old it can be assumed that a lot that is possible has been tried. The CCCAC (the clan council that organizes the biggest multiplayer tournament, the CCC) is always on the search for new and exciting settings. The condition though is and has to be that a setup provides equal or at least pretty similar chances to all players, be it a team or a solo game. Maps like Pangae, Archipelago or Continents to name just three are all fine to have a fun game, but they are not suited well for a competetive match. Currently the maps suited for multiplayer can be counted on one hand. Inland_Sea, (Green)Wheel, (Green)Ring, probably Team_Battleground, some of the “Equal”-maps (like Equal_Islands) and Grid is basically a complete list and even among those a 100% fair setup is not guaranteed, especially on Inland_Sea and Team_Battleground.

A map for such a setup needs to be balanced enough in all significant aspects to not put one side ahead from turn zero on due to land quality, land mass, civ position or placement of strategic ressources. There are four kinds of potential maps that can provide this.

1. mirrored map

An entirely mirrored map (including mirrored starting positions, also in team games) comparable to what is used in Warcraft3 or Starcraft is one way of providing a fair setup for a game with two parties in it. It´s not automatically an interesting setup, that provides for different progress of a game with room for creative ways of attacking and interacting with an opponent every time, but it can be, in any case, it´s at least fair.

Mirroring a map “just” gives opposing sides exactly same land – not more, not less – that doesn´t say anything about the quality and possibilities of the setup. In what way are strategic, food, luxury or wonder production enhancing ressources distributed? What “ways” are there to reach the opponent – is it just two narrow fronts or an open area? Any map could be mirrored, any land/sea shape could be generated as a mirrored setup.

On a mirrored map everyone still has to handle and micromanage his land just like on any other map. The game basically looks the same as on a non-mirrored map, just isn´t pushed in favour of one side havign a start with a 6-food (grass pig for example) and the other with a 3-food (plains cow for example). Two aspects can be problematic and require consideration during map script creation.  The first being how the “middle” on a flat (not cylindrical or toroidal) map is created. The middle can´t be too “good” in relation to the rest of the map, because otherwise planting the ressources mirrored there (basically “stealing” ressources from the opponent while using the same own ressources) is too strong and pushes every game towards a race who gets the middle first. From this logic it becomes clear that if a map provides in not too far distance from the starting position an overall of 5 or 6 food ressources and 2 of those are in the middle, that´s not good for a fair game. This can be avoided by programming the map script in a way, that prevents a too big accumulation of ressources in the centre. Even more important is that the rest of the map is balanced enough that it cannot happen that a city that got culture bombed gets a significant part of the map´s ressources into its cultural borders.

2. equal map

An equal map is pretty similar to a mirrored map in the way that it provides the same starting position to each player, also in 1v1v1vvX game like a CTON or Ironman. The difference is that only a certain part of the map is the same, surrounding land from a certain distance on different though. Equal_Islands for example is (bugs taken aside) equal for everyone in all aspects since it´s sea beyond a certain point anyway. Equal_Inland_Sea though differs once you go away from the starting position more then a radius of around 5 tiles. Since the initial part of the game (especially in earlier eras) is the one that most is affected by land differenes, an equal map can prevent an unfair setup pretty well.

3. preset map

A preset map would be one where every tile, every ressource and every starting position of a civ is known beforehand – just like in Warcraft3, Starcraft and similar games. This ca be a mirrored map, but doesn´t have to be. Such a map can be planned, constructed and balanced in tests before being released. It would allow for preparations by teams (including what to pick), involving own strategy, but also counter strategy to whatever the opponent might be doing. Quite similar to for example knowing that on a certain Warcarft3 map this or that (getting a certain creep; developing a certain technology etc.) plays a bigger role. Constructing a map that doesn´t lead to one strategy being ultimately the only way to go would be very challenging, but could provide yet another layer of strategy to the game – making very specific pregame preparations possible.

Such a map wouldn´t necessarily have to be mirrored. In a teamer each team might have to play each side once or it could be that one team choses the map, the other choses the side to play on.

A preset map just would have to – like any other map for competetive play – keep up to certain standards of balancing unlike for example current Earth maps, which are preset, but far from balanced.

4. balanced map

A “just” balanced (though not mirrored, not equal, not preset) map would look like maps look today, though being programmed in a way that it doesn´t create a land mass that favours one side heavily.

Factors for balancing a map

ressources

  • food ressources
  • luxury ressources
  • wonder production enhancing ressources
  • strategic ressources (metal, horse, ivory, oil, aluminium, (uranium))

land quality and quantity

  • relation of grassland vs. plains vs. hill vs. flood plains vs. desert vs. peak vs. forest tiles
  • rivered tiles (commerce and fresh water) and other fresh water ressources
  • overall land mass

positioning

  • starting positions
  • distances between team mates, between opponents and distance of starting position in relation to the “back”/”front”

Ways of balancing those factors

ressources

Each food ressource gets a value depending on how “good” it is, taking into account that the value has to be different depending on the era. For example Grass pig (6-food) gets the best possile value for an ancient or classical game since you cannot have any tile make more then that. Unirrigated Rice (4-food) gets a low value in an ancient start, but a higher one in Renaissance for example since you can irrigate it there (5-food) from the start. There are games like Ironman where you go from ancient to modern and beyond, but the start is ancient – the fact that you get more food later on, 6 with Biology and having irrigated the rice for example is nothing that would unbalance the concept though could be taken into consideration. Main point being, each food (food is everything that produces 4 food at least after being improved, flood plains being treated separately) gets a value. The overall value should be equal for each player – not team to avoid having all food accumulating at one player. What that value is can either be preset in the mapscript or maybe even be an option while hosting the game.

Strategic ressources are already dealth with pretty well nowadays with the “balanced ressources” option that many maps have. This option only balances those ressources, nothing else. It puts all of them into a certain radius of each players starting position, that usually being up to 5 tiles. Each map script should have this option, best the possibility to have the host set a a radius in staging.

There could be a set number of Luxury Ressources for each player/team. In team games some ressources can appear more often then once, it´s only important that those are ressources that can be used. An ancient teamer that will never see Calender researched can´t have one side with dye, silk and sugar and the other side with gold, ivory and dear. Same is true for wonder production enhancing ressources – here though it´s especially crucial that some ressources are either available to all or none, especially marble.

All categories of ressources can overlap – ivory can count twice, once as a luxury and once as a strategical ressource, same for copper, gold (lux+wonder) etc.

land quality and quantity

As for the rest of the land, you should have a pretty equal amount of plains, grassland etc. tiles. It´s not fair for an ironman game if one has 50% rivered grass tiles, while the other has 50% plains tiles.  Each map can be split into as many equally sized parts as there are teams (players in a solo game). Each tile should have an equal amount of each tile – still of course can produce very different quality of land, but never worse then potentially now. Also this way land mass isn´t distributed unequally like right now on Inland_Sea for example, where you can have significantly less land to potentially plant from turn zero on.

positioning

After the map has been theoretically (by the map script) split into equally sized parts, the starting positions of each player should be in a way that the distances to the back, to the front, to team mates etc. are equal or close enough to being so.

Other map options

Some other options that could be interesting when setting up a game in staging room:

  • possibility to set positions of players; for example on flat Inland_Sea or cylindrical Green_Wheel setting which player is in the “back”.
  • Setting that oil is land based and cannot be on the sea.
  • Setting the value for food/luxury/wonder/strategical ressources
  • Setting the number of forests each player gets into “his” part of the map

Land Shape

Last but definitely not least a factor which has less to do with balancing, but a lot with what a game will look like, whether it´ll be one with lots of fighting or rather one with a focus on buildup, the shape distribution of land and sea mass, basically the shape of the map.

How many ways are there to reach the opponent, how far do fronts stretch? For example flat medium sea Inland_Sea has two rather narrow fronts. Each team puts a city on each side and knows that every attack has to go through that city or at least past it. On the other hand flat Green_Wheel has two pretty similar fronts, but a big middle part as well. Units can come from multiple directions and even move through to the back player without having to pass the front cities. Cylindrical Green_Wheel adds the aspects of boating – you can boat from back player to back (or other) player. Creating maps that balance having various and interesting options of attacking (or not havoing those if you want a more builderish game) is a challenge, but one of the most important once if you want to create good multiplayer maps. Making a map too “open” can result in a bloodbath with research playing a small role (that´s fun!). Making a closed map with clear fronts can result in a reseach heavy game, players building up while controlling their one front (that´s fun!).

Whatever the map script generates, it has to be able to “split” up the map into equal parts between players as described above in order to do the balancing (as describe above as well ^^), especially also when the map is played cylindrical or toroidal.

Last thoughts

All the types of maps described above can be used for competetive games – it´s not necessary to chose one, coexistence is very benefitional here. All of them have their setups where they can shine – just like “unbalanced” maps have nowadays for a fun game of civ. Just if you want to wage a clanwar or setup a tournament, you´d probably most of the time want to provide equal chances to the participants.

Good UB – Bad UB #6: Unique Buildings in civilization multiplayer

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

There are no just good or just bad unique buildings

Even though the title suggests different, there are basically no just good or just bad unique buildings (and units). Every UB and UU has to be evaluated in the context of the game settings and overall strategy it´s supposed to be used in. A (fictional) unique unit archer that gets +100% against melee units is useless in an game played on Islands, where you have no (military) contact with your opponents until Astronomy is researched and archers are long obsolete. A unique building is good if it significantly supports a (playable) strategy.

Bad

Assembly Plant
Unique building for Germany; Replaces Factory
+1 unhealthiness; +2 unhealthiness from Oil and Coal
Can turn 4 citizens into Engineers
+25% hammer (+50% hammer with Power)
+50% hammer with Coal

The Assembly Plant is a factory that receives a 50% production bonus from coal and that lets a player work four Engineer specialists instead of two. The main reason to want to be able to work Engineers is the wish of getting a Great Engineer which can be used in order to build one of the corporations Mining Inc. / Creative Constructions. Those are gone in any slightly competetive game once Assembly Line, the prerequisite for Factories, is researched. In any case you cannot research Assembly Line and only then go for the corporations if you want to have a chance of getting them.

It is very rarely a good idea (or sign of a not optimal buildup) to work additional engineer specialists instead of tiles if the goal is increasing production of a city. Those very few instances don´t justify picking for the Assembly Plant.

Finally there is the additional +50% hammer with Coal. At the point in a game where you build factories, city production is already high and numerous other bonuses are available. In an Ironman you have the forge, you have an additional hammer from Universal Suffrage on your towns, potential levees, maybe a Golden Age increasing all those hammers from towns by 100% from 1 to 2 (a Golden Age at this point is very common in an Ironman), railrods on mines, corporations, you might even be Organized (double production for factories) etc. In a modern or future start game, you run a workshop economy anyway, having vast production with Caste System and State Property – so a factory is done in a turn or two anyway, not mentioning that in such a scenario you even have the option of putting a chop into it as well.

In any case, the additional 50% hammer with coal doesn´t do much, at best safe you a few turns in an Ironman like game (2-3 might already be optimistic). Such a gain is meaningless seeing how late this building occurs in the game.

Good

Mausoleum
Unique building for the Indians; Replaces Jail
+4 Espionage; +50% Espionage
+2
-25% War
Can turn 2 citizens into spy

Hammam

Unique building for Ottomans; Replaces Aqueduct
+2 health
+2

Ball Court
Unique building for the Maya; Replaces Colosseum
+3
+1 per 20% culture rate

These are a colloseum, an aqueduct and a jail that additionaly to what they usually do provide an extra +2 . This makes their three civs belong to the absolute top of picks in an Ironman / ffa game (click here for an article on game types in civ multiplayer). The reason being that while running a Cottage Economy (which is basically always, though not necessary solely)  and in later game changing to civics “Universal Suffrage” + “Free Speech” + “Emancipation” etc. confronts you with a happines cap (max amount of population you can have till you get unhappy citizens) that is the main limiting factor of how big your cities can become. Those three buildings increase that cap by two, resulting in 20 or so cities being able to grow two population further each – that´s a lot of additional production, commerce and points.

The main differences between the three lie in the nature of the buildings they are replacing – though the main argument for which you pick in an Ironman rather being the starting techs of the civ and additionaly which Unique Unit they provide.

The Mausoleum (jail) comes rather late and is not a must have in every city, but in another way of argumenting you get +2 and potentially some advantage on spy points you´d otherwise not have seem worth getting for the needed investment.

The Ball Court requires Construction, which in many (most…) Ironman games is a technology with low priority you avoid for a very long time and start to want only if you have to defend against an attack and require catapults or finally want to attack your opponent, sometimes never. Since Ironman games though are in their nature games where you most of the time have to build up your empire first (till around guilds the first big attack waves come), you don´t want to tech Construction too soon. Not a big argument against the Ball Court, but plays a role more often then you´d think.

The Hammam is an aqueduct which you get with Mathematics, which is very high priority. Aqueducts you build anyway and together with their usual +2 health make the Hammam crawl up in the build order even a little bit more. They come early (though aren´t required necessarily too early), come with a must have technology  and the building they replace is a must build in Ironman anyway.

Overall Ottomans have great starting techs (and Janissary are nice, too in Ironman), India has the Fast Worker and Maya the Holkan for being safe early against an opponent sending a couple of chariots. For a long game of civ without a city elimination with lots of buildup it probably goes 1. India 2. Ottomans 3. Maya. Besides that there aren´t many other civilizations that can compete with those three as picks in such a scenario.

For Good UB – Bad UB part #1 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #2 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #3 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #4 click here
For Good UB – Bad UB part #5 click here

concepts #2 – city commerce specialization

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

City Specialization
Currently civilization gameplay allows you to specialize cities either for commerce (that can be out into research, money, culture, epionage) or production. A city with a couple of hills and production ressources will benefit from a forge relatively more, while a library has very low priority if it will be build at all. It´s the other way round with a city next to (rivered) grassland and maybe a luxury ressource like gold. Once a city has been designated mainly for commerce though, it´s not possible to specialize it 100% for anything then science (in a cottage economy at least!). What I´m referring to is the commerce slider that regulates the distribution of commerce for an entire empire. Hence if it´s set to 70% technology and 30% wealth, that is the way commerce is distributed in every city.

 

commerce distribution Practical example
A city has a base commerce rate of 30 and a library. Let´s see what happens to the overall commerce output on different research/wealth distributions. Only the research rate is named, the difference between it and 100% is consequently the wealth rate (just like in the game). Remember that a library gives 25% bonus on tech, meaning that on every 4th beaker the city receives an additional beaker. The calculation is always rounded down, so 7 base beakers result in a bonus of 1, just like 4 do.

0%: 0 tech, 30 gold = 30 overall commerce
10%: 3+0 tech, 27 gold = 30 overall commerce
20%: 6+1 tech, 24 gold = 31 overall commerce
30%: 9+2 tech, 21 gold = 32 overall commerce
40%: 12+3 tech, 18 gold = 33 overall commerce
50%: 15+3 tech, 15 gold = 33 overall commerce
60%: 18+4 tech, 12 gold = 34 overall commerce
70%: 21+5 tech, 9 gold = 35 overall commerce
80%: 24+6 tech, 6 gold = 36 overall commerce
90%: 27+6 tech, 3 gold = 36 overall commerce
100%: 30+7 tech, 0 gold = 37 overall commerce

Of course if a market is build in that city, the overall commerce output will be pretty much equal on all distributions of wealth/research. But a market is another building you have to build. Assuming that your research rate is where it should be, at somewhere around 80%, the gain of building a market into a commerce city is (happiness bonus set aside) pretty small to non-existent.

A concept for specialization
It´s the nature of civilization that most commerce is put into research over an entire game or at least over the vast majority of it. Wouldn´t it be nice if it was possible to regulate commerce distribution for a city independant from the rate set for the entire empire ? And I don´t mean “just like that”, but for example with a building, a wonder or a civic. This way cities could be specialized for wealth, culture (if that made sense) or even espionage (it´s another topic though that I really don´t like the concept of espionage for multiplayer!). A “wealth-city” could build a market, a grocer, a bank, Wall Street… and no science buildings! At the moment those buildings are almost solely build for their health/happiness bonus – exception being a bank in a capital city for example.

Ideas for implementation

building: Local Parliament
required technology: currency
cost: 100 hammers
effect: Cities can distribute commerce independant from rest of the empire.
Can be build only once for every 4-5 cities.
Double production speed with Organized trait.

Wonder: ???
required technology: ???
cost: ???
effect: All cities can distribute commerce independant from rest of the empire.

Civic: Economic Autonomy
effect: All cities can distribute commerce independant from rest of the empire. (Maybe additional effect required, otherwise too weak?)

concepts #1 – building: assembly line

October 26, 2009 Leave a comment

building: assembly line

assemblylinerequired technology: assembly line
cost: 120 hammers
effect: 1 additional production slot for armored units and gunpowder units.
Double production speed with Organized trait.

With this building, whenever a city builds an armoured unit  (example: tank) or a gunpowder unit (example anti-tank, mech infantery) the used-to-be hammer overflow from the first unit directly goes into a second similar unit without any losses.

  • A city that produces 160 hammers a turn is able to finish two similar units each 80 hammers a turn.
  • A city that produces 120 hammers produces 3 similar units in 2 turns. First putting 80 hammers into one and 40 into the second unit and next turn finishing the 40/80 unit next to having another 80 hammers left for the third.

The purpose of this building would be to revive an aspect of civ multiplayer in modern and future start games, which is lost due to the nature of those eras. In such a late era game there is no need or use for building up tech rate – since there is either nothing worth teching (future) or costs too much in relation to the state of your economy at the start (modern) – there is not much room for micromanagement of land beyond the crucial first 5-10 turns and there is no need for long-term city planning. A city requires 10-12 tiles, better green then brown, and will very fast and without much skill required from its controller reach the point where it builds one unit per turn. In both eras the goal is to plant cities fast, get barracks, spread religion and then bring them asap to the 1-unit-per-turn status.  From there on it´s a game of building up pressure on your opponent and eventually being able to overwhelm him due to the strength of your position (culture borders!). The problem is that there is not much room for creativity – you simply spam a unit a turn and in between sneak a settler or two in.

With the assembly line building there is a reason to do something else then units-only all game long. The base production of an average modern/future city with its free forge and production enhancing civics is around 80-100 hammers, enough to build one tank or mech infantery a turn. In order to be able to consistently spam out 2 units a turn though a city next to the assembly line would require additional production enhancing buildings or a lot more then 10-12 tile to work. Factories, Levees and power buildings become much more appealing, so does long(er)-term city placement and not-to-close planting of initial cities. In addition a new city is potentially worth a bigger advantage over an opponent then right now.

Bottom line is modern and future start games would receive an additional strategical component. A player would have to decide whether and if when to get the required buildings. The short term loss of units would be compensated with a long term gain. Question would always be whether the timing is good. When a team is under constant pressure by an early artist bomb and some chopped units from the start, it won´t find the opportunity to do something else then units for defense so easy. The other way round a more defensive strategy that involves getting out additional settlers might pay of much more since a disadvantage in unit numbers could be caught up with and turned around easier.

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