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Borg gameplay and balance issues. (v429)

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Star Trek Mod' started by Morkonan, May 12, 2011.

  1. Morkonan

    Morkonan Chieftain

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    I haven't been playing Star Trek (v429) for long, but I did play a series of games with the Borg.

    I was fairly disappointed.

    I can see how, in some situations, the Borg could really be a powerhouse. But, it all hinges on the very early game. If the Borg fail to dominate early, they're usually defeated fairly easily. If not exactly a cakewalk, they certainly have little offensive power to affect a victory.

    That's a bad thing. Yes, I know this isn't a heavily worked mod and I do appreciate all the effort that has gone into it. But, the Borg really aren't a viable choice as a civilization, compared with others. Their victory is determined very early in the game. If it isn't cemented by then, they're doomed. (At least in the five or so games I played with them.) All Civs should have a fairly equal chance at victory, even if not all Civs have realistic access to similar victory conditions.

    Most, if not all, of my Borg games wound down to me spamming attacks armed with as many standoff weapons as I could muster and the most powerful captured ships I could find along with plenty of cannon fodder. Then, I'd usually get to some point in the game where defenders would "nuke" my stack, pretty much ending any hope of a successful capture of a planet, pretty much ending any hope of the ability to produce better ships, better industrial bases, better cash flow to support invasions of large "Stacks of Spam."

    What's the solution? Well, if the current model is the only acceptable one, there is no way to balance the Borg. Either they'll get lucky with good starting placement and a rapid success they can capitalize on in early wars, or they'll get steamrolled later in the game. Either way, the Borg as they are designed now, do not "play" like one would expect the Borg to play. Admittedly, the idea of tech advancement through captured planets and battles is a good one. It just doesn't suite the Borg as they are, right now.

    The Borg have problems that the current model doesn't help. They can't support large attacks of lower strength ships - They generally don't have the economic base for it. By the time they do, they don't have the ship designs and, by the time they have those, they don't have the industrial base to support spamming higher strength ships in any meaningful amount if they're at war... which is the only way they can realistically gain tech.

    In essence, the Borg depend on the one thing that no player-run game element should ever have to depend on - Chance. When a game is designed so that Chance is the largest element, rather than player skill, it is no longer a "game."

    I'm sure many will disagree. (If anyone ever reads this. :D) There seem to be some Borg fans that believe the Borg are already powerful enough. But, it's still left to chance, not player skill. And, that is always a bad thing.

    How to fix it?

    That depends on how one wants to go about it. Some of it could be fixed with Borg specific Tech Trees... Happy Coding. Some fixes might be found in Borg specific Civics.. again, Happy Coding. Borg specific buildings could help, but I think they'd be too obvious and cheesy.

    What I think would be easiest to do, since I'm not a codemonkey and have no 1337 mad skeelz, is to allow the Borg research, but scale their research capability back with negatives from necessary buildings. So, if they can build a barracks, a pretty necessary building, they get a research penalty from it. The same goes with a hospital and some other buildings. Also, add in Borg Specific UUs like the Cube and Sphere units that retain their current ability to capture ships and add the ability to those units to obtain tech from captured planets. However, no other units, especially lower tech ones, have similar abilities. As the game progresses, and the Borg get access to their UUs with all the neat abilities, the Borg become much more dependent on winning combats and taking over planets than being entirely dependent upon it throughout the entire game.

    The key for any enjoyable game is to have the outcome dependent upon one's skills, not left in the hands of chance. In order to attain that goal, I think the Borg need a rework. I realize that such an eventuality is doubtful, but I wanted to put in my two coppers, just in case anyone wondered why their enjoyment in playing the Borg happens to be fairly random.

    I'm sure there are a couple of players that have some sort of iron-clad strategy in playing the Borg. If they would like to add their comments, I'd love to read them.
     
  2. jfby

    jfby Chieftain

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    Morkonan- I am in agreement with you. Every time I've played with the Borg, by the time I have Light III/IV ships, they usually have 1/4 of the galaxy under their control. With nothing holding them back. I've never experienced a game where they didn't dominate in the early game, and even in cases when 2-3 other civs declare war on the Borg, they never last long. By the time I have Light V/VI, they have so much power and so many high powered ships that I can only hope to slow them down.

    My idea for a rework is to allow them to gain tech through conquest OR as you said limit their research capabilities through buildings, traits, etc. If there was a way to cap the limit of technology that the Borg can achieve to only match that of the highest tech achieved by the other civs. Last I think that the Borg ships should only be slightly more powerful than the other civs until Light IV ships are built, then with IV, V, and VI level ships make them progressively more powerful.

    Of the things I've mentioned, I have the skills to mod everything except limiting their tech to the max of the other civs, and this honestly might not even be possible. The other things I can do, but I only have about 1 hr a week that I play games anymore, so I don't have time to make the changes and balance everything out.

    If you could make these change I/you have suggested and post a reworked version of the mod (or just the reworked files) I'd be happy to play as much as possible and provide feedback.
     
  3. deanej

    deanej Chieftain

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    I think a modmod is a great idea given that I've moved on. The Borg always have been a difficult element to balance and keep everyone happy and it's unfortunate that I came up with the new ideas as late as 4.0.
     
  4. jfby

    jfby Chieftain

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    Deanej, you've done years of work on this mod, and you've done a great job in my opinion.

    The Borg are a difficult subject for me within the Star Trek 'universe'. At their essence they are an overwhelming nearly unstoppable force that could take on 30-40 ships and walk away with barely a scratch. Sure they've lost ships before, but not without great cost. That covers their ships.

    For their civilization, what we've seen from the Voyager series is that their territory is vast, covering many more times the area over what all the major Alpha/Beta powers covers. It would be hard to guess, but surely they had tens of thousands of the aforementioned ships and hundreds of billions of their drones. The only thing seperating them from the UFP or other powers was the vast distances.

    Then you have to consider their transwarp gates, which alleviated much of this distance concern. If the Borg had launched a full scale invasion, without a 'magic bullet' ala a fluidic space style ultra weapon or some other futuristic weapon, the Borg would've wiped house. Instead they kept coming with a 'Kung Fu movie' approach, one cube at a time.

    With these considerations, a true balance between the powers is hard: if you make the Borg pushover, then there is no thrill in beating them back. If you make them uber powerful then they ruin the game time and time again. From the little balancing work I've done in the past, I certainly don't begrudge you for the end result.

    Even with the changes I've suggested, I'm not really sure you could ever make the Borg what the people think the Borg should be. I think the best way to do this would be to make a mod-mod set in the Star Trek year around 2380-2400+ that would involve the UFP, Klingon, Romulan, etc facing off against a full scale invasion of the Borg. You could make the Borg objective to capture certain systems, and make the 'allied' objective to disable the 'transwarp hub' (just a system that needs to be captured) they are using to bring ships to the Alpha/Beta quadrant and deliver some kind of antigen that would destroy/greatly damage the whole Collective.

    Just my 0.02.
     
  5. Morkonan

    Morkonan Chieftain

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    And now, the ugly spectre of attempting to fully translate a fictional universe that is only half-formed itself into an open ended, fully formed game raises its shaggy head... :)

    Translations are difficult and translating from "entertainment fiction" to the complex reality of a game governed by rigid formulae, algorithms, equations and other even less dynamic qualities is simply.. impossible.

    The rule of taking an IP and translating it to a game is simple - A game must be fun. It doesn't deviate from that simple rule just because it is intended to faithfully reproduce, to the best of its abilities, the IP "experience" that it attempts to emulate. Unfortunately, too many professional development companies attempt to drink their own propaganda Kool Aid and "faithfully reproduce" intellectual properties into a gaming environment. Most of them fail. IMO, the less information that is available, the easier it is to make up a game that "faithfully reproduces" the IP's entertainment experience. :D Settings are designed for story, not for gaming. More than just reproducing such an experience, it must add to it. That's hard to do and still stay within the bounds of the IP's universe. By definition, Entertainment IPs like fictional universes, superheroes, starship adventures, galactic space operas and the like are limited, by definition. They have to be.. otherwise, they'd be everything and no production company could afford to produce films or literature devoted to them.

    So, the yoke of the limits of an IP must often be thrown off in order to develop an entertaining experience, yet enough must be retained so that the general theme and "feel" of the experience is faithful. With that aspect in mind, the Borg should be rebalanced for play enjoyment, not just according to franchise fictional history.

    In the franchise, the Borg were practically invincible. If the Borg had ever turned their full attention on the Federation, the Federation wouldn't have lasted a picosecond. It is only because of the Borg's "alien" sense of priorities and self-imposed restrictions that the Federation survived at all, not because some bald starship captain went back in time and bawled his eyes out... :D Well, there were a few dramatic rescues by the Deus Ex Machina of a "Fatal Flaw" thrown in there, as well. But, too many of those get exceedingly tiresome and frustrating... Let's face it, Paramount dropped the ball on Star Trek and the Borg a long time ago. Their late movie story lines relating to the Borg make absolutely no sense and completely rely on "Fatal Flaws" for the Federation to survive contact with the Borg.

    But, this is about a game, not the franchise. So, how to fix the Borg?

    I outlined my thoughts above. Does it halve to be compared against canon? No. Canon doesn't make for a good game - Star Trek is ill suited for a 4x game to begin with. But, the play mechanics described above could successfully yield a play experience that "faithfully reproduced" the entertainment value caught up in Borg fictional history in the Star Trek IP. Once played a bit and tweaked, I think they could be polished off quite nicely. Deviations from my suggestion and the incorporation of other's input would, of course, have a greater chance of succeeding in this goal - We should assimilate the best of the suggestions and make them our own..

    I think the current play mechanics of the Borg are excellent at reproducing the feel of what a developing Borg culture would play like. It is "inspired" work, no doubt and really "feels" like one is guiding the Borg through their development.

    But, it just doesn't work in this game translation. It's either too easily superseded by other civs or so overpowering that it renders play dull. It needs a "change" that retains the custom mechanics of Borg tech advancement while balancing their advancement. The Borg were Evolution's "Killer App" in the Star Trek franchise. But, a supremely powerful civ is.. supremely powerful. And, a civ incapable of anything but war conquests for its technological advancement must rely too much on "chance" in order to yield entertaining play. Chance is never a large component of a "game." Gambling, yes.. Gaming, no.

    What would one do if, for instance, one had to add the "Q" to the game? !! A "Q" that decided to make existence a "game", much like Trelane in TOS's "The Squire of Gothos?" That would work. But, would it please fans of "Q?" I dunno... Elements would have to be thrown in that allowed the Q to "change" the rules of the game itself and appear to manipulate physics and reality at will... and that would be ..difficult. The Borg represent a similar difficulty.
     
  6. jose1357

    jose1357 Chieftain

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    I usually just gift them all ENT era techs, a couple extra cubes near planets, 2 starbases and extraction facilities for hydrogen, and set them @ war w/ the local powers. That has generally been enough to get them to control about a third of the galaxy around the same time I do, granted I've only played at commander difficulty. Plus as an AI they can research, and I always justified this since there's only about 10-20 cities they could conquer (i.e. 10-20 techs they can get) unless they go through the wormhole. I've given myself similar gifts as the Borg since with the starting probe I can conquer most of the quadrant powers except the Vaaduar before they can make ships...
     
  7. DST1348

    DST1348 Chieftain

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    Hello,

    here are my thoughts:

    I have played three games as the Borg :borg: so far on Lt. Commander difficulty (v 431). The game captures the expanding nature of the Borg very well, IMHO. With no need to spend Commerce :commerce: on research :science:, I could do a REX strategy. After I peacefully colonizing four star systems I started to assimilate :assimilate: my nearest weakest neighbor. From then on I frequently switched between assimilation and a peaceful build up phase. It is this aspect of the Borg that makes their behavior so unpredictable to outsiders. They just don't know that the Borg need a health increasing technology right now.

    This brings me to the downside of the current tech assimilation, which has been mentioned by others as well: the chance element. Why not make it so that the Borg gain a free tech of their own choosing after capturing a star system? Like the Liberty tech or the Oracle(?) do in BTS. In my first game, I got all the value founding techs first, but I really don't plan on running Pacifism :) Because of this I fell behind in tech, having only my Cube II against AI Light IV.

    In addition, the Borg could gain research points by dissembling captured ships. The points gained could depend on the Hammer cost :hammers:. Maybe an "Assimilation Center", replacing the useless Laboratory, would be required, or give a percentage bonus.

    The AI should be able to handle these two concepts, since it can already handle the Liberty tech and a Great Merchant, which yields Gold :gold: instead of science :science:.
     
  8. deanej

    deanej Chieftain

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    Well, I've been pretty much done with development for a while now, but I'll respond anyways. I honestly didn't think about Liberalism when I was coding this. Probably should have done it that way. I instead just copied the goody hut code.

    AI still wouldn't understand it... the AI issue is not that it's random, but that it doesn't know that it needs to go to capture cities for tech.

    The tech from disbanding captured ships is interesting. Since the research block actually works by disabling all the techs I'd make it a chance (though much larger than the chance from unit combat).

    That does bring up an intersting idea: change all the current Borg stuff from granting tech to granting research points.
     
  9. Tschuggi

    Tschuggi SNAFU

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    great idea + maybe some tech diffusion via close borders...
     
  10. volbound1700

    volbound1700 Emperor

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    Where any of these updates made? It still seems the Borg is flawed.
     

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