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Design problem: Nomad Civilizations

Discussion in 'FfH2 Modmods, Scenarios, and Maps' started by Grantor, May 13, 2009.

  1. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    I'm starting the design for a few civs I want to try out, but the one that is perplexing me the most is the Nomad nation.

    In order to model a nation of horse riders, such as American Plains Indians, or ancient Genghis Khan-era Mongols, you would pretty much want to do away with cities as a center of population. But there are several problems with this design:

    What do other player's attack and what rewards do they get for attacking?
    • How do you generate and record population?
    • How do you create gold, tech, culture, trade?
    • How do you create cultural boundaries?
    • How do you create units?
    • How do you all the civ to collect resources?
    • How do you track religion?
    • Where do buildings and wonders go?
    • What do tile improvements do for this civ?

    • Also, how do you match-up against the player's choices in a more traditional civ game; such as build infrastructure or build units? Or push for tier-two melee or tier-two archery. Or play a builder-game or go for early-conquest?


    My initial thoughts would be to make all of this civ's "cities" into settlements, limited to one pop, much like Kurotates. These could be called "trading posts" or something. Now you have something that other players can attack (for small reward; one-pop city) and tools for controlling culture, gold, trade, tech, religion and resources. And these are nearly essential for a Civ4 game, really. (Dungeon crawls and other scenarios aside.)

    But this still leaves all of the problems related to production and improvements (since settlements don't produce or work tiles).

    If you just auto-spawn units, then the player is not making any choices, so this seems unfun.

    If you use variant-workers (e.g. horse herders) to work the tiles, lots of AI work has to be done if a non-human player is going to be able to use these workers. And I remember how fun it is to use Priest of Leaves units to cover my lands once with forest, manually. Now do that for the entire game. Again, this is not fun design.

    So the goal here should be summed up as:
    • Add design elements that add to and develop the goal of a non-city oriented Civ.
    • This Civ should be capable of winning any victory, except maybe Cultural, although not necessarily ideal for every victory.
    • Operation of this Civ may be different from--but should be no harder than--managing another civ's workers, specialists and City productions.
    • Ideally, the process of managing this civilization utilizes some of the same decision processes as normal city management, so AI coding is modification and not writing from scratch.
    • The civ should still be vulnerable to standard AI-initiated attacks, whether that is barbarians or a AI-player's Stack-of-Doom, or else the player can never truly lose the game.

    Ideas or comments?
     
  2. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    An issue with spawning units, rather than producing them, is that the user doesn't make any choices. Nor does he have to decide between infrastructure and army; his army is just auto-generated for him. In fact, other than exploring, I'm not really sure what the player would be doing, other than waiting through half of the game until he has an army large enough to attack his neighbors.

    And, I could be wrong, but an advanced start could totally skew the game with this sort of Civ in the mix.

    Some ideas I'm considering:

    Herders
    Make a special worker unit and a two special improvements. Finishing the "food" improvement dumps X food in the nearest trade post (sort of like chopping wood), and enough food pops another worker. Finishing the "hammers" improvement dumps X hammers in the nearest trade post, eventually finishing the production of whatever building or unit you are working on.

    The trick here is that the improvements decay. The "grazed grass" negative improvement eventually regrows to an normal grassland again when the improvement goes away, and then it can be grazed again. And, since this is so close to standard worker behavior, the AI should be able to use this process with little mess.

    A problem here is that you are effectively playing a Civ that never gets the advantages of Farms, Mines, Sanitation, Blasting Powder, etc.

    Although maybe you wouldn't need to. Civ4 slows pop growth by forcing pseudo-exponential costs on each additional pop. You'd be taking advantage of exponential growth instead. Imagine: One "Herder" makes another herder in 16 turns. Then they work together and make a third herder in 8 turns. Then the fourth one in (round up) 6 turns. Then 4. And by Turn 60 you make a herder every single turn (in that one city) for the rest of the game. That's nice population growth! (Assuming you don't produce any units with these same herders, but that would only slow you down, not prevent this explosion).

    You may observe that this is checked by the availability of grass to consume. A player would have to expand with more cities to keep up with the growth rate. But that might make things worse! For each city you make that clips off 16 herders from the first city, you get another 1 herder per turn. Not including settler production time or travel time, you could have a potential 256 cities with 16 herders each by turn 204 (over 4000 pop). Obviously the decay time of grazing will have to put a check on this system.

    However, all these "grazed" improvements are also stopping production in these tiles. So it's like you turned your entire fat-cross into farms if you never produce. Is this the balance? The final question for this system: Do these herders really equal a pop placed outside the city walls? Or do they allow the player to break the system and get runaway growth?


    Specialist Units
    Rather than producing buildings, you make special units. While they are in the trading post, they can "settle" and produce a similar effect (like the Hope spell), but they can always pack up and move.

    Unfortunately, making a huge list of units to cover each building also gives you a huge list of art assets that need to be created. Perhaps allowing some buildings would be needed. After all, you are going to have Wonders and Great People at your trade posts, just no pop to work the land.

    And does Great People (and some buildings) mean that the trade post has started producing on it's own? And, aside from a few wonders, how are you getting Great People? You can't have specialists (and certainly not an entire specialist economy) if you don't have pop.

    • More thoughts after Memorial Day weekend...
     
  3. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    reserved for final Civ design write-up, when I get to that point.
     
  4. civ_king

    civ_king Deus Caritas Est

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    how about using Camps, and having different terrain spawn different units and have a small chance for camps to be spawned (this makes the civ incapable of AotL and ToM and Culture victories) if you destroy the camp, you are basically destroying the city
     
  5. zup

    zup Chieftain

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    You might want to see this thread. http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=320593 It might have information relevant to your problem. Such as conquest victories and defeat conditions. Also, The History of the Three Kingdoms mod has a civ with nomad camp units which may spawn free units if placed over a pasture.
     
  6. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    Thanks, Zup, I've read that thread. But I did not know about the Three Kingdoms mod.
     
  7. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    I wonder if making a variant of Fallow would be a good place to start. Has anyone tried making modifications to how this trait works in FfH?
     
  8. deadliver

    deadliver Loud Mouth Amateur

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    Hey, are you going to have Nomad Camp units from warlords? Those were cool, spawned units based off of what terrain they were one at the time.
     
  9. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    Using terrain as a factor is spawning units does sound pretty cool. And it gives the user control over what is produced. But I am concerned that auto-spawning means that the player just sits there waiting for an army to produce itself while waiting. It also forces the nomads to be in a location with a variety of terrain, instead of just plains and grasslands, like I envision nomads favoring.

    I'm still giving this idea more thought before posting more analysis. Once I've made a decision, I'll see what is possible with Python, and likely, I'll have to mess with the SDK too.
     
  10. Tasunke

    Tasunke Crazy Horse

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    I am thinking that you have special "horde" units, which are mounted of course, but act just like a city square in some cases. The only difference is that it never provides defenses. It creates "culture" around it in a BFC, and you can set its "population" to work tiles. It can produce units and create other "hordes". It raises population like any other city, and it makes a new horde like a city would make a settler. The nation would have to not produce any unit costs or maintanence costs as this civ would work solely on food and hammers.

    Im thinking that the way you could gain techs is by capturing (and razing) enemy cities.
    Although it is "possible" that you could capture a city, and once that city is 90% nomad culture, a spell by any unit sitting in that city could turn it into a horde.

    If you find a good way to gain technology from hordes then Stick with that plan, otherwise perhaps you could "settle" your horde into a city in order to research things ... Or maybe constantly moving around and unable to build buildings will not hinder your ability to research.

    Upon consideration, having the horde be a 4 move settler (of course your cavalry will be modelled after the hippus, at least in terms of speed) that can turn into a city and back into a horde.
    If an enemy "captures" a horde it will recieve a settler.

    I still think that a non-city horde should be able to make and/or randomly spawn new units and hordes, as well as have a population number that can change due to its surroundings (go where the grass grows greener). Cities that turn into hordes should retain their population and culture value, and perhaps any buildings that seem carryable. That way you have a decent city when you "relocate"

    Also, require complete kills should somehow always be allowed for this Civ
     
  11. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    I'll need to check this out further, but apparently Orbis has a mechanic where forts/castles/etc. produce culture, but only adjacent to the improvement. Interesting.

    One thing I envision for nomads is that they claim lots of space, but that space easily falls to the encroachment of civilization. What if whatever centers of their culture (trading posts?) claimed territory one ring further than the other civs, but their rings only ever went up to 51%. They could never push a cultural flip on a city (which would be kinda dumb), but their lands would easily recede to the pressures of agricultural land use.

    I haven’t examined the code and conditions, but I think this gives them a big advantage with Domination victory. I’d be okay with that, since they would likely suck at other victories.
     
  12. Grantor

    Grantor Chieftain

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    I've finished my summer of photographing Little League tourneys and taking vacations, so I have time to think abou tthis again and see how far my coding skills go.

    Here are a few run-downs on how this Civ could be built (Pro and Con at the bottom).

    1. Non-City Civ
    Civ uses worker-type units (“herder” unit) to make nomad camp improvements on resources.
    Nomad camp improvements spread culture.
    Nomad camps can randomly generate unit based on resource type it is built on. (Something like Horses: 50% Herder, 50% Horseman; 5% per turn.)
    Civ can capture non-living units when taking a city (especially ships!) and workers, but gets no city.

    2. Settlement Civ
    Civ places one-pop Settlements, like Fallow cities, which cannot grow but do everything else.
    Herders work the land like workers, producing food and hammers that go into the nearest settlement, just like chopping forests.
    As food is collected, instead of growing in pop, a “herder” unit is produced.
    Nomad camps again, but at a lower value, since you can produce as well.
    Buildings, wonders and great people can all be placed in a city.

    3. Flexible cities
    Regular cities, just like every other civ.
    Civ can evacuate/move population from city by converting them (1/turn, x/turn, all but one?) into “Nomads” that function just like Manes.
    Nomad camps are not needed here.

    Cons:
    Non-City Civ
    Civ’s base mechanics strongly depend on having cities on the map. AI uses it to launch conquests. Economies are based on pop working the land. Checks against run-away winner civs (e.g. Inflation, Maintenance costs, logarithmic food costs for population growth) all require a city to function.
    No place to put Great People, Wonders, Rituals.
    No means to defeat race except to kill every last unit.
    Few interesting choices to make as a player. Spawning is random. No production queues. No decision to make between infrastructure or army. No specializing cities.
    No way to effectively defend. Player must constantly be on the move.
    Must write entire AI for how to play this Civ, since it is so different from base play.
    Exponential grown for elements that normally have logarithmic growth.
    How does player acquire tech? Why would they need to if their units spawn randomly?
    Cannot win any victory except Conquest, since it lacks population, buildings/wonders and cities to found religions in.
    Advanced start? How?
    Need I go on?

    Settlement Civ
    Unclear how economy is made to work for cash and tech.
    Effectively, you have just made all of the city’s internal automated population into manually operated external units. Now the city governor cannot help. Welcome to constant micromanaging.
    Some challenge writing AI to run these cities.
    Much tougher to make Great People when you don’t have Priests, Sages, Engineers and so on.
    Challenging AI to write for creating an Advanced Start.

    Flexible City Civ
    If a nomad civ is meant to move easily or spread out over large areas, this has trouble capturing that idea. You’ve locked down a standard city and given it one extra ability: retreat. Players don’t do that much, since they tend to be on the winning side. And rebuilding lost buildings in the new location would make this still a significant setback.
    Feels too much like Hippus.
    Must teach AI how to retreat.

    Pros
    Non-City Civ
    Completely models a nomad civilization.
    Should be easy to play. Basically all-combat, all the time. Especially if “Herder” behavior can be set to auto, which is needed for the AI anyway.
    Easy to write Nomad camp as Planar Gate copy with mobility.

    Settlement Civ
    Wandering Nomad camp has good nomad feel to it.
    Easy to write Nomad camp as Planar Gate copy with mobility.
    Trading Post “settlements” surrounded by “herder” units looks like a Nomad civ.

    Flexible City Civ
    Adds one simple system to the game.
    AI for this addition is easiest to write.
    Able to make use of Advanced Starts without breaking.

    I would ask interested parties to help add to this list of Pro's and Con's while I work on the design of an interesting hybrid of these core concepts.
     
  13. Valkrionn

    Valkrionn The Hamster King

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    Not entirely correct. Orbis has said mechanic, and Fall Further Plus will sometime this week after I release. :goodjob:
     
  14. Deon

    Deon Lt. of Mordor

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    It shouldn't be really hard. You should have a "chief" which acts like a fort commander and is able to build a special improvement like a fort really quick. Then the game will consider the fort with your commander as a capital, and it should be the onl change, everything else is already in.
    This one could be a fully working city which should be able to "transform" back to a commander and keep it's buildings as promotions. Some python work though.
     

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