The power of microing RA's

Discussion in 'Civ5 - Strategy & Tips' started by Fluxx, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Be careful when you make arguments.

    1. This is NOT an example of "completely eliminating risk". If you can't see that, your concept of economics needs a lot of work. It does reduce risk, but that's not what you said.

    2. "Controlling" the tech tree requires some investment into things you do not need as a priority. To be worth it, the resulting techs have to overcome that investment and bring good return.

    3. RA takes resources that have alternative uses. Also, to do this you have to have enough money in the first place.

    I hate when people who don't play games to their potential cry "exploit" over every little thing. It leads to crap like "no social policy storing", despite that no person in the WORLD has ever, even once, demonstrated that said strategy was overpowered, or even consistently the best option. Nobody ran numbers on it. Nobody showed that the later policies were worth the delay in benefits from earlier policies, yet the change was still made.

    If anything, steering RA seems to be stronger than SP to me. That said, you're talking about money that isn't going into maritime to spam settlers and uses of resources to get that money instead of something else. It's hard to justify something as an exploit when it isn't even the best option, but most of these exploit crybabies make no effort to determine whether that is the case.

    Then we get garbage in patches and the UI is still broken (and in the honor tree, wrong too). Maybe the guys in charge think too much like the exploit crybabies; changes in a game should be justified carefully.
     
  2. KrikkitTwo

    KrikkitTwo Immortal

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    I think te "exploit" is more of the fact that it requires "pointless" Micromanagement to do this... If RAs just let you Choose the tech outright, then they might be unbalanced, but that would not be exploity.
     
  3. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    That something is not straight forward or logical does not make doing it exploitative.

    It might suggest the mechanic needs work however.
     
  4. Sneaks

    Sneaks Brooklyn Bum

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    It does not feel exploity because of the fact it is not straightforward, but because it feels like it was an oversight in coding. What was probably meant to be coding to stop the computer from choosing the tech you were currently working on has become a way of directly choosing your reward. I could be completely wrong on this, and this could very well be working as intended, but it does not feel this way. It feels as gamey as selling bad cities to the AI that is too primitive to realize it is getting cheated. Sure, semantically you are right. There is still risk involved, and if we look at it through the proper academic lens, we can see that. But what this really amounts to is buying the tech of my choosing for 250 gold. This is clearly not how the mechanic was intended, or I would just be able to choose my free tech through some obvious interface.
     
  5. alpaca

    alpaca King of Ungulates

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    Indeed. An exploit for me is when you use things in ways that they were not intended to be used and derive a big advantage of it compared to using it "normally". Choosing the tech you get in a RA is obviously not the point, otherwise you wouldn't get a random tech in the first place.

    The gain is obvious, you can have maritime techs AND research agreements. 200 or 250 gold for a tech is already a low price when beakers are usually worth more than 1 gold; if you can choose the tech, it's ridiculously good. Granted, it only really works so early because you can milk the AI for money by selling luxuries for lump sum, which I don't call an exploit but an oversight.

    SP storing is different, and I wouldn't have called it an exploit because you could just right-click the notification to dismiss it. I don't understand why TMIT feels obliged to assume that anyone who cries exploit is someone who doesn't play "games to their potential", but whatever.
     
  6. SammyKhalifa

    SammyKhalifa Deity

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    If the people that created the game meant for you to be able to choose what technology you wanted, they would have let you choose what technology you wanted. You would not have to research one turn into every technology. That obviously goes against the spirit of what the designers intended. "Exploiting" a hole the system, if you will. Maybe people cry "exploit" because, you know, that's what the word means.
     
  7. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    I agree with TMIT here.

    What exploit? You think Firaxis could't code into RAs to ignore the 1 turn investment?
    If you can be bothered to micro and spare the money for RAs then kudos to you. Same effect as microing a war properly or microing worked tiles.
    For some odd reason people think that being ahead in research is the only thing that matters in this game. Sure, you could aim for new social policies or city state bonuses or a specific building or unit. But there's a whole universe of things that do not rely on research, like purchasing power or actual production of units and buildings.

    RAs depend on cash, but so do unit upgrades, rush-buys and tile purchases (just to name a few). If I need 1500:c5gold: to upgrade my army to trebuchets and longswords I CANNOT CARE LESS about research agreements at that point.

    Furthermore, most tech advances have no point if you are not planning on actually building the stuff they provide. "OOH EARLY NATIONAL COLLEGE. Now I just need to spend 40 turns to build libraries in all my cities. The watermills, colloseums, temples, monuments, units, workers, settlers can wait ROFLOL."

    Obviously some civs or playstyles can benefit from RA "exploits" (say, Siam) but there are other civs and playstyles as well.

    Also, people seem to forget that RAs work both ways, so what you're doing is quickening the global tech pace. You might be giving the AI instant Steel, Dynamite or Globalization for all that you know. The reason I'm hesitant to sign RAs with leaders in tech or military.
     
  8. Sneaks

    Sneaks Brooklyn Bum

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    This is not really a question of whether Firaxis COULD do something. I think they COULD have released this game in a state 15 times better than its current iteration. They could have made sure the Angkor Wat worked correctly or that you couldn't sell all of your cities at the very end of the game to get 1 city cost policies.

    As I have said earlier, it could very well be working as intended. Maybe they purposely left out any written explanation anywhere that you could manipulate what techs you can choose from a research agreement so players only discover it accidentally once they discover the mechanic never awards the tech they are currently researching.
     
  9. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    Abusing RAs to the level it becomes profitable requires so many sacrifices, investments and micro that it can be hardly called an exploit. Abusing any other feature of the game is just as effective (Honor + early longswords, for example; perfectly manually techable).
     
  10. alpaca

    alpaca King of Ungulates

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    Early longswords. And the way to get them as early as possible is to micro a RA to save you 20 turns of research. Way better than the 1.5 times xp bonus which you don't need if you have a technological edge. Besides, you can do both.

    Tech speed is not the only relevant thing but the most relevant. I agree that you shouldn't sacrifice everything else to tech faster but 250 gold for a tech (especially one you can choose) is a low, low sum. The most powerful part of microing the RAs is actually getting the good social policies before you have to take an early one that's not so juicy
     
  11. Ahriman

    Ahriman Tyrant

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    It seems to me that the problem isn't about micro-management or not, its that the cost:benefit ratio is out of whack. The research agreement costs 250 gold (more for second or third agreements) regardless of whether it gives you a 200 beaker tech, 1000 beaker tech or a 4000 beaker tech.

    I'm fine with a mechanic that encourages you to have good relations with your neighbors in order to be able to gain faster technological progress (converting gold into science at a favorable rate) but the rate of gold:science conversion should be at least roughly stable.

    I think the RA is a poorly designed mechanic; they went for simplicity over balance, as in several other areas (like the great scientist free tech).

    I think a simple solution would be:
    a) Have the RA give you a free tech randomly from any techs you can research, regardless of whether you have invested any research on it; however, any research you have invested spills over into your current research project (so if your agreement finishes when you're 90% done with a tech and picks that tech, those beakers spillover to your next project).
    b) Have the RA cost each player in gold an amount based on the era they are in when they sign the agreement (so it might cost different players different amounts).
    eg: 200 gold classical, 250 medieval, 300 renaissance, 400 industrial, 500 modern, 600 future.

    These would tend to reward balanced tech paths over beelines, since if you beeline your RA cost will go up but you might only get an old, cheap tech.
     
  12. No_such_reality

    No_such_reality Chieftain

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    Exploit. Technicality. Call it what you want. In the end, it's equivalent to getting your speeding ticket thrown out for doing 110MPH in a 65 zone because the officer's radar gun certification has lapsed.
     
  13. Beef Hammer

    Beef Hammer Warlord

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    the only thing i think is an "exploit" is that researching one turn into a tech and that negates it from being picked for a RA. That can't seem normal or right to anyone...
     
  14. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Those "one turn" investments into techs you don't need at the moment add up.

    It also seems people crying exploit here are conveniently ignoring the 30 turn delay, making the use of this mechanic take careful planning.

    Please use competent analogies. This one is not. The player has control over the usage of RA as well as valid alternatives to the same end. Does what I quoted have that?

    Very strong incentive against beelines. Might be a good counterbalance to beeline strategies, actually.

    You make some interesting assumptions given the behavior of the designers and your lack of knowledge during this game's development. Some very interesting assumptions.
     
  15. TheNoodle

    TheNoodle Chieftain

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    When declaring war was giving the free tech it was ridiculous. With it cancalling (but losing) the free tech it is still ridiculous. Solution is extremely simple: The one who declares war loses the free tech, the other one gets it.

    Normand
     
  16. Martin Alvito

    Martin Alvito Real men play SMAC

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    They don't, due to overflow. You never lose :c5science: by putting a turn on a tech you don't need. You gain :c5science: by getting a higher priced tech than the expected value under randomness, which results in a net time gain irrespective of what you do with the high priced tech.

    You might have had a case here pre-patch. You no longer do.

    The delay is a factor in calculating the opportunity cost, but the advantages are sufficiently large that it is clearly worthwhile to game the system as advertised. There isn't even any planning to it. Get 500 :c5gold: via luxury resales, buy a Maritime, get 400 :c5gold: through resales, buy two Research Agreements as the National College completes. ICS normally and acquire Education or Steel around turn 70 with Classical cleared. The approach will always work from a three luxury start. A two luxury start will delay signing the second RA by a few turns.

    Posit an explanation for the random mechanic that doesn't involve attempting to prevent players from executing deep beelines with Research Agreements.
     
  17. Bibor

    Bibor Doomsday Machine

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    Lets see if manipulating RAs has the same characteristics as beelining, say, Aesthetics in CIV4:

    Randomness factor included - check.
    Abusing AI teching mechanics - check.
    Deliberate player action required - check.
    Temporary sacrifices from player required - check.
    Huge leap in player's tech pace acquired - check.
    AI unlikely to perform the same feat - check.

    Soo... what's the difference again? :D
     
  18. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    You're missing the point.

    You are losing out on getting technologies (and their benefits) sooner by investing time into incomplete techs that, while still incomplete, give you nothing. When researching 3-4 techs with 1 turn, most empires can have actually completed or nearly completed a tech in the same time. What if that potential tech is useful? It probably is.

    Granted, the benefits of the RAs (assuming you have enough money, willing/able suckers, etc.) can and often do out-weigh the opportunity cost, but I have a hell of a lot more than "no case" here. Also, money and ability to bankroll a RA in a time-window that allows for using this to its potential is not consistent. Also note that that kind of cash from luxury resources is only consistently available on the very highest difficulties (lower ones the AI simply won't have the chops to give you that kind of money in trade and still have money for RA) Where is the exploit?

    I'll throw one out there:

    Counter-balance to high-level AIs. With their gobs of money, AIs get to spam RA up the wazoo right from "go". Players can offset this to an extent by focusing the techs they want to get. In other words, this can be seen as a "gamey" feature left in deliberately so that high level players can compete with the AI, rather than an actual attempt at balancing player options such that multiple things are viable at high levels (something firaxis has never accomplished).

    Does that sound like a reach? Maybe it should not. Bibor provides an excellent historical example that is indeed comparable to this:

    It got to the point where on immortal/deity, you opened up with an aesthetics beeline, or in extremely good scenarios maybe alphabet or oracle. The trade ROI was just too high. But what did aesthetics itself give? Access to a couple wonders which were by and large situational, and the ability to tech literature/drama. Good, but not alpha/currency/monarch/hbr/iron working good usually. But the AI ALWAYS went for those, and the player could therefore almost always get all of them by researching...aesthetics. The liberalism bulb beeline as another more advanced example of this as well.

    So what did the designers do?

    - Make the AI not value the tech as highly? No
    - Make the AI tech it more frequently? No
    - Change the value of the tech or the pre/post reqs? No
    - Do ANYTHING to change this tactic? No

    They left it in, and left the AI with bonuses that forced the player into it. Unless they're cooking something beyond BTS 3.19 in secret, that is ther permanent position.

    How about apostolic palace?

    - Did they ever, EVER make it so that the religion needed to be relatively popular? No
    - Did they even make it so that you had to be running the AP religion to win AP? No
    - Did they stop the spreading of the religion to civs in theo, by simply gifting the AI the missionary so that the AI would spread it w/o exception? No, even though unofficial patches did that.
    - Did they do ANYTHING to stop players from cheesing the AI on deity so badly that it was possible to win with a 20000 beaker hole and only 1 AI voting for you? Absolutely not.

    I can go on with examples, but the reality here is that firaxis has a LONG TREND of leaving holes in their games and then "balancing" it with herp derp bonuses, locking player tactics. Then you get droves of rookie players who cry over high level strategies that are essentially forced because OBJECTIVELY, no civilization game has ever balanced its options or victory conditions. No civilization game has even come close. Whether people care or not is another issue and for this thread, irrelevant. Firaxis history on this matter is QUITE clear.

    So there's one possible explanation for you.

    An alternative explanation is that in each case, firaxis was incompetent in balancing the features and thus left overpowering options/holes in its games. However, if you go that route you can quickly follow that explanation to a logical conclusion that the games aren't finished, are imbalanced, and the total lack of balance merits breaking "designer intention" because the designers had no intention of releasing a complete product. That view, while a lot more cynical (and probably more realistic), does not help the "exploit" side of the argument, however. In a mess of a game where "ranged attack" = "move sideways" sometimes and victory conditions don't even pretend to be balanced, calling tactics out based on being exploitative misses the big picture. So don't try it :p.
     
  19. SammyKhalifa

    SammyKhalifa Deity

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    You know, getting away with cheating on your taxes takes careful planning, too. That doesn't mean that cheating on your taxes isn't exploitive. Not that anything with your technique is illegal by any means: if it were, the game wouldn't allow you to do it. We'll have to stay tuned to future patch news to see if the developers think it SHOULD be illegal or not.

    You've mentioned this a few times now, but I don't see anyone "crying" anything--any more than I see others getting overly defensive about a technique they obviously have fun using. Good for them, I say. In my mind, though, that seems like circumventing the proper gameplay--I'm not close to being the serious gamer that a lot of you are, so I'll just bump down the difficulty a notch and play to what is to me a more fun way (even if it isn't the most "efficient").
     
  20. Martin Alvito

    Martin Alvito Real men play SMAC

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    You're not doing the cost calculation properly. Assuming that a tech would have been researched, you have swapped a low value tech for a high value tech of your choice. No :c5science: is spent to accomplish this, and there is a net gain of :c5science:. The result is a direct swap of the low cost tech you would have researched for a high cost one at the cost of 200 or 250 :c5gold: spent in advance.

    A strictly better system would eliminate the randomness mechanic, decrease the value of the RA by the same amount as the :c5science: you're expending to put a turn on techs, and apply the :c5science: gain to the tech currently researched. That eliminates unnecessary micro, eliminates the big :c5science: gain from multiple RAs (all RAs signed immediately after the first have NO temporal opportunity cost), and eliminates the exploit argument.

    If the opportunity cost is consistently outweighed, there is no case. We have defined the local :c5science: optimum and the only remaining question is whether the start permits you to play that line.

    The AI doesn't execute deep beelines, so the randomness factor cannot be controlling the AIs. We know this because if it did execute deep beelines, it would have been shoving Rifles down our throats around turn 90 on Deity pre-patch. The evidence indicates that the AI pushes certain techs in the early game and then researches horizontally.

    If you were privy to internal discussions indicating that the intent was different, then the developers don't understand their game and the consequences of their choices.

    In an abstract sense, Civ simply requires you to produce "X" goods in no more than "Y" turns. The AI is the clock that determines the value of "Y". There are only two possible solutions to the difficulty problem. Either you make it "hard" by putting a tight clock on the player, forcing play down the optimal production line, or you make the game "not hard" and let it be a sandbox.

    You're blaming Firaxis for something that is an intractable problem with the core design. Whether the AI puts a clock on you by cheating or playing well, it's still a clock. (And it's cheaper to have the AI cheat than have it play well, so it's going to cheat.) Further, the AI fails at strategy because it's an AI, so it will always follow fixed algorithms that can be inducted (and exploited) through experience.
     

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