Conceptual Idea for faction balance

Banjo

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Keeping conflict balanced between factions is important for the game, as players might leave the game completely if the game gets stale. The game can quickly become stale for you as a player if your faction have no resources and no way to win a battle. A faction becoming stale will lead to players getting bored and leaving. It would be very bad for the game, if a whole faction full of players quit. This can be even worse, when the game becomes stale for everybody, when there is only one viable faction, and no conflict.
Fom tried to balance factions by the use of perks and lore. Perks were not liked by many players, probably because as it felt forced. Perks were dialed back in later iterations of fom because of inherent issues. Lore were also lost with time, and is a pretty weak tool to balance because it can very easily be ignored by players.

I propose to tackle faction balancing through a limited area of influence per faction.
Where power radiates out from a central area, and only in increasing order. Each faction may move the center area around or vary the range and gradient of power. This is to encourage factions to find their own niche to optimise profits/goals while also trying to prevent with factions with no foothold at all. Basically eliminates total annihilation of a faction, and adds faction positional tactics (Which I expect to be a mix of optimisation and competitor analysis/prediction).



Now this is very abstract, and it was honestly just a quick thought that hit me. I don’t have a good insight in how it fits with the other mechanics, but here are some random ideas how it could be applied. Each point in the brainstorm will be self contained, and may or may not be added with any other point. It’s a brainstorm.

BrainStorm:
  • Each faction have a limited amount of mining and production terminals to place, this forces a faction to narrow their productional scope into a specific part of the market, and could encourage doing deals with other factions to fill their other needs.
    • Maybe the terminals have to be connected by some kind of transport infrastructure, that makes it infeasible to capture and control colonies all over the map.
  • Maybe each colony have some happiness score that needs to be fulfilled otherwise bad things will happen, capturing to many colonies will decrease the happiness score, making it hard to hold more then reasonable amount of colonies.
  • Central storage facility, forcing the factions forces to regear in the center of the sphere of influence, indirectly giving the faction time and cost penalty for go to far away from their center.
  • Maybe each colony has a cost associated with it, and having more then reasonable amount of colonies exponentially increases your cost. (I think this one was tried in FOTD not sure though)
  • …. There may be many more other ways to cut this cake.

What are your thoughts and ideas?
One flaw of this is that it requires each faction to be completely autonomous, if a factions becomes puppets of others, then this balance plan will fail. I would however hope that the risk of this case would be contained and of low probability since this game has a hardcoded amount of factions, and maybe gm control?
 

Hari Seldon

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Not bad ideas for mechanical enforced factional balance. A given disposition of a factional sphere being the unique optimum provides something for the HC to have to understand and get right and for the factions to fight over but with the winner only able to get so far ahead of the other factions.

That said however I must attest that I am against the idea of this form of balance in principle. For a long term aim at a decent population a static environment is more harmful to retention than other players issuing a challenge.

Mechanical balance of this sort would devolve the game towards the TDM side of things (all be it with the addition of survival crafting) by deliberately limiting what faction (ie. collective player action) can and can't achieve. A static parity for MR factions, with permitted marginal elasticity about a fulcrum or not, is one that would in the long run have to be carried entirely upon the enjoyment of the combat which is a fairly tough market to compete in for gaming hours and begs the question of why bother with the accoutrement of an economy, crafting et al. if that side of things is to be altered so the end result is always supposed to be fights that are within a certain range of balanced.

There is no question that there are people that really love that uniquely FoM style of gun fighting, if nothing else MR wouldn't exist were Bio not such a one, but it is dubious to think FoM itself at golden years pop would still be here had it not been for those devilish combat changes. To keep a wider appeal there must be a very real (or at least the sincere player belief in the) chance of players being able irrevocably alter the factional dynamics unless the other group does that right back. Putting limits on the gain and loss of the achievements and maneuverings of factions can only really end with ever diminishing returns as players have maxed that scale out before and be ever less inclined to do the same thing again for the knowledge that the only thing to follow would be the same max yet once more that has only a given amount to do with who is on the other end. I suspect that having visibly enforced balance might actually make players more inclined to depart the game for a period when they feel things are against them as rather than take the uneven fights they can just wait for the balance mechanics to restore the status they view as being worthwhile or fun, how often does a bad PS2 fight make the players on that side either log out for the night or teleport off to the other side of the map?

A better approach for MR's presumed ambitions is to provide tools for balance to the players rather than enforcing them as part of the game.

As an example of what I mean; For the purposes of balancing the potential for one faction to have far more combat troops than another it is better to have hard to create & deploy Tac Nukes or Target Plagues for people to (try to) use rather than enforcing a hard limit to how many players from faction X can load into a given map. One is the cut and thrust of players working under the same rules as you, the other is the rules saying you might as well only bother trying this hard.

tl;dr - Balance is stale not a current lack of resources
 

Banjo

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You bring up some very good points Hari Seldone, and they probably reflect most of the communities opinions from what I have observed. Specially because it touches the topic of player freedom and perception.

Just to summarise, these are your 2 main criticisms from what I understand:
  • The mechanic is static causing TDM fights because it is limiting faction growth.

  • Players will be diasencouraged by a mechanic that limits their gameplay


Let’s first tackle the easy question, the mechanic is not static. As stated; the area of influence can be moved around. The range and gradient of the area also doesn't have to be fixed. Making it up to the balancer how punishing it should be. It could potentially be made so the range is unlimited with a minor power gradient. Which was actually kinda the model FOTD used now that I think about it. Where FOTDs power gradient was based on faction costs ramping up by player count(I don’t remember how colony number changed the costs). It could also be made dynamic depending on how the actual implementation would be carried out. The power gradient could for example be changed by senate vote with factions having equal voting rights, or by the power of OP GD.

So the mechanic is not static, and it is not the cause of TDM fights, because all fights in fom were basically either TDM or Conquest. You are of course referring to the players perception of the game. Where the feeling of the fight being pointless could origin from what you state as “I have already reached my max, so I might as well not fight”. This is however true for any scenario where the map have limited colonies. And have also been reached in foms history by for example EC. So with those glasses the game might as well not exist.
This is however counterproductive to what we are trying to do, so let’s assume that there is good reason for MR to exist. Then we realise it is not the fault of the mechanic but how we dress it. As in how do we balance the mechanic and how do we present it to the player.


As an example of what I mean; For the purposes of balancing the potential for one faction to have far more combat troops than another it is better to have hard to create & deploy Tac Nukes or Target Plagues for people to (try to) use
I didn’t quite understand how your examples were balance mechanics more so then griefing. Another dynamic example could be, that the government hands out mining licenses. Where a faction can only hold x amount of drilling machines. Faction B might have 80% out of 100% available drilling machines in the game and the other factions vote to bring the license number down to 50% max. The bill passes but Faction B doesn’t care, but are now being put under sanctions and maybe the government will aid the other factions in fights. This is a dynamic balancing example where the limits are hidden between the lines of the mechanics.

In the end it is hard to say what is right, and a lot depends on what kind of experience you want to give your players. Freedom works pretty well for Eve. Although even eve limits the expansion of corps through highsec along with the wastness of space. Empty colonies never really suited fom, and I personally don't want to be blue balled or having to fly for an hour to get action. As a side note also the game Albion that mimics eve on some areas also have problems with mega alliances.
 

Hari Seldon

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Track 1

The mechanic is (within a given range) static in terms of the realm it attempts to balance otherwise it would not balance anything. Conceptually the idea must create bounds for the relative factional strengths that can only allow for X amount of difference based on players. My contention is that X should be unbounded and the only factor.

Moving around your zone to control this at the loss of that and adding in costs to having more/effective players to disadvantage larger/skilled factions mechanically in the interests of propping up smaller/lesser factions to keep them competative (<- creating a static aspect of the game world) when in the wild as it were they would not be, is variation on a theme that can be better or worse at hiding the limits but makes no less a TDM.

Track 2 -

If I understand what you are saying here it is boiling it down to; content can't be infinite so there will always be limits.

In which case I accept that bit but not what you follow up with that this means I am saying no limits or no game (ie no game) nor the suggestion that because we must accept some limits due to the medium we may as well accept any additional ones.

MR and the player driven gameworld lure does indeed have a raison d'être (or its sufficient ground if you prefer) and I am not saying otherwise because it can't have the endless content of imagination. While yes it will always be possible for another Reefer to reach the digital Indian shores and wheep at there being no more colonies to conquer because video games always have content limits, the answer must be in the social and player driven facet of the game not a balance mechanic to make it a comfy cage. MOBAs and Fortnites are the same map only slightly changed over years but the core keeps playing because the dynamic nature of it being other players who will not always do the same thing while you may only play the fantastically polished single player bits of CoD once.

True they start every round with a fresh and (within the bounds of luck and meta) equal footing but that is the difference between a arena shooter and an MMO. The concept of having as much observable cause and effect be bounded only by the motivation of other players still applies.

EvE's appeal comes from Nul Sec that pulls in people despite the steep mechanical learning curve. Apex et al. will live only as long as they have the audience for their particular style shooter gameplay, often even only so long as they are the newest version of that.

Track 3-

To come later
 

Banjo

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You are kinda bending the term static in away that is not really helpful, Everything is static if you zoom out far enough. Also balancing doesn’t have to be a bounding factor as you could as an example balance the speed of a game which wouldn’t change the outcome possibilities. Of which this idea have both a bounding(range) and a none bounding(gradient) factor where the bounding factor could be chosen to be infinite. I do understand your point so I will leave it at this.

I still believe that a mechanic could be implemented from this abstraction and be dressed and balanced in such a way that the majority of players would still feel that every battle would have meaning. Just like truth; meaning is in the eye of the beholder, and can be manipulated.
It is true that I would value a healthy population and fun conflicts over the possibility of giving one group the possibility to live a power fantasy with no opposition.

Of course things would be boring if players were not sentivised to create conflicts. However since this is what the game is about, there should be put a lot of energy into making such mechanics.

For me, fom was about social dynamics and the conflicts that it spurred, not a power fantasy. The game lost a lot of players, every time the fights got one sided and one faction took over the starmap. There is no content if there is no one to play against.