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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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    It's an opportunity cost "calculation". The opportunity cost is the value of achieving an alternative tech sooner rather than attempting to steer the RA for a deeper tech. You can't quantify that at ALL until you've settled on which tech you'd have chosen to research, had a RA been impractical. There absolutely is a net gain of beakers, but it's a delayed gain that is not always available. I don't see why you refuse to acknowledge this point. It doesn't change the cost-benefit of RA being overpowering one bit, but it IS there.

    I also have no doubt there are better systems. Firaxis LOVES doling out pointless micro and not giving a crap how we feel about it. You need look no further than the UI and the (lack of) hotkeys and frequency of unnecessary clicks by design.

    Correct, although I suspect this might even be true if you don't micro RA in many cases. Regardless, overpowered =/= exploit. Current game balance is built around the existence of the mechanic. Too bad firaxis doesn't realize that kind of thing when it makes balance changes :(.

    Yes, which is why the ability to micro RA can be seen as a mechanic left in to allow the human to compete with AI bonuses; they get the bonuses, the humans know how to micro RA to get more net gain.

    I'm not saying that the above is a GOOD design decision, but there is historical evidence to suggest that they tagged it with a "good enough" and moved on. Heaps of it, too.

    :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough: :cough:

    Yes, but you oversimplify the methods of putting a "tight clock" on the player. It can be done with bonuses, but it can also be done via making the AI optimize its turn-to-turn decisions and tactics better, or better recognizing and making decisions that lead it to victory. Even the "bonus" category is oversimplified! WHICH bonuses get x amount of help to the AI vs not can make a big difference on whether the difficulty is real or fake, too.

    Regardless of the bonus choices, however, the bonuses are (and have to be) applied within the constraints of the mechanics as they stand, or the mechanics can be re-worked to cut into the human advantage and then the bonuses don't have to be as severe. Which direction will firaxis go? They might not even touch it, but I STRONGLY doubt they'll make a change, consider how it affects balance, and attempt to address ripple effects. It'd be the first time I've ever seen that from them in a patch.

    What you're missing is whether cheating or playing well makes the game more/less fun, and whether each alternative offers diverse and perhaps situational strategies. Cheating has a tendency to limit them, although it's necessary for the AI.

    But to what extent? Where do you draw the line? When the difficulty starts being set based around gameplay mechanics that frankly make it more tedious EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO AI, it starts to look more and more objectively like a case where firaxis does, in fact, deserve blame. A good RA mechanic would force you to evaluate whether an RA is cost-effective against alternatives. A bad RA mechanic forces the player to do many clicks and is functionally always beneficial (or not beneficial - something that always sucks shouldn't be in the game either and needs re-balancing), adding tedium without much thought/strategy (a key facet of the S in TBS, mind you).

    To be clear, I am not blaming firaxis for giving the AI difficulty bonuses. I am blaming firaxis for leaving #@$@#%ing broken mechanics, UI, and flagrant strategic imbalances in the game and then balancing the AI difficulty around said problems. THAT is why tactics like this are not really valid to be called "exploits"; they shouldn't exist in the first place, but the game indisputably has been built with them in mind.

    To prove my point, let's go back to the aesthetics beeline strategy in civ IV BTS. If the AI followed a more diverse tech path (even if at random), the net tech pace would have been staggeringly faster as the AI-AI trades would become more fruitful. Also, if aesthetics were simply made more difficult to research (say alphabet as a pre-req instead of writing) its practical trade value would be significantly diminished. The same goes for the liberalism beeline; that was only done because the AI by and large avoided it UNIVERSALLY. Now take situations where the AI beelines medieval military or lib at random (or based on how many people it currently likes/hates). All of a sudden you have 500 AD or earlier deity lib times and a lot less trade value to the player; even the best would struggle to keep up with deity tech then, because much of the deity metagame centered on warring with a temporary tech lead and getting enough land to compete. Take that away, and the bonuses have to be adjusted.

    Firaxis never took that away. Will they take away RA micro and re-balance after doing it? I hope so. I'm not holding my breath.

    Finally, fixed algorithms can be dangerous to even veteran players if they are called upon unpredictably, such as AIs choosing between viable alternatives at random.

    For it to do that, however, there need to be viable alternatives. Think back to high-level play in every civ game in existence. It's amazing just how common cookie-cutter approaches and things like "academy/national college in capitol ASAP" and timed attacks are in every iteration. Those cookie cutter approaches emerge because they are consistently superior to other play, so much that the cases in which they're optimal form an overwhelming majority. Then noble/king/whatever players come in, see these tactics that have been developed to work through AI bonuses in a game with questionable fundamental design balance, and claim that "X IS AN EXPLOIT".

    The whole game might as well be an exploit by that logic. "Exploits" as most good players would define them do not exist in polished, well-balanced games. It's also hard to call out tactics the designers force you into executing as exploits.
     
  2. ChevalierdeJstn

    ChevalierdeJstn Chieftain

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    It's not an exploit. Perhaps RAs are overpowered, but that doesn't make using them an exploit. Before the patch, was using horsemen an "exploit"? What were you supposed to do, just not use them?

    So we have a means of using RAs which can produce a different - and sometimes better - outcome than another means of using RAs. Well, as TMIT showed in a Let's Play, if you combined Horses with the Flanking bonus, you could sometimes use them more effectively than as standalone units. That's not an exploit, that's strategy/tactics.

    Gee I have a 4 horse tile next to my capital. (Gee I have a bunch of gold and friendly AI.)
    Oh well I will only build 1 horse and will only ever move it 2 tiles at a time because 4 horses at max move speed is just way too powerful. (Oh well I will sign only 1 RA at at time and I will not micro it because to do more is just way too powerful.)
    I guess multiple orgasms is an "exploit" too. You gotta put in a little extra work for a potentially exponential result. They should be banned!
     
  3. DaveGold

    DaveGold Emperor

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    It's simple enough. That's an exploit and it needs a fix.

    I'm sure other problems will be found with research agreements as they're conceptually poor but I suspect they won't get a total overhaul until the first major expansion goes on sale, if then.
     
  4. Alpedar

    Alpedar Warlord

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    Usualy you can research whole tech during RA and then block what you does not want in lower ammount of turns than researching anything usefull would take. So for eg 3 turns of research (without any benefit) you gain 20 (with benefit) and the research from that 3 turns is not lost (although later its usualy irelevant ammount).
    So only thing that is payed long before benefit is those 350.
    And developers intentions was that it should be worth it with random choice. So with unrandomed choice its clearly even more worth it.

    Using RAs is definitely not exploit.
    Choosing revard definitely is (but not illegal exploit, unluess rules of some MP match says it is in such MP match).

    But it would be realy unfair (life is unfair, bur games should not) if two players with same techs would get different outcome in way that one gains good expensive tech and another cheap tech he does not need.

    So IMO it should give random cheapest tech available and treat already invested beakers as overflow. This way some randomness sometimes remains and boosts balanced teching (compared to deep beelines, without hurting them) which would help AI and if it makes game too hard for someone, there always (except one situation) is lower difficulty level.
     
  5. No_such_reality

    No_such_reality Chieftain

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    RA's should be nerfed providing cheapest incomplete tech only with any invested research as overflow.

    Alternatively, if you think this exploit is good. Then simple code it as RA's provide the most expensive researchable tech and scale the prices to match.

    The alternative is a bunch of tedious micromanagement, that the AI doesn't do. Micromanagement is not strategy. Strategy is emphasizing science, then executing the plan to leverage population growth and scientific buildings to rapidly advance your tech. Micromanagement is looking at the concrete 650 beakers needed for banking and knowing you've got 128/turn so you go force a scientist in a university just for the five turns needed to get the tech.

    That same micromanagement knows you've got 128/turn with 30 turns and the exact cost of each science and simply adds.

    Maybe someone with modding skill could have some fun, the computer shouldn't take many cycles to leverage this exploit and grab the most expensive tech. It's simple math, research per turn, growth rates of cities which change pop and science. I suspect they could get the AI to execute the exploit.
     
  6. KrikkitTwo

    KrikkitTwo Immortal

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    Exactly... the way to get a result should be intuitive and not require mindless clicking.
     
  7. Monthar

    Monthar Deity

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    What about having to choose a tech for the RA when it's started with some stipulations.

    1. You can only choose a tech that both parties can research at the time. Thus if all the other players/AI already have all the techs you can research, you can't get a RA with any of them.
    2. The tech being research via the RA cannot be researched normally. This is to avoid wasting beakers on a tech you'll receive via your active RAs, as they are now similar to having multiple research labs working on different projects at the same time.
    3. The duration of the RA is based on 25% of the total BPT of both parties.
    4. The cost of the agreement will be 50% of the the Tech's beaker cost. A tech that costs 400 beakers will cost 200 gold to start the RA.
    5. If war is declared by either party during the RA, both parties will have half the joint beakers applied to the tech. If 25% of the total beakers of both parties is 40 BPT and the RA has been in effect for 5 turns when war breaks out, that's 40*5 = 200 beakers towards the tech. However, the enemy scientists grab whatever documents they can and burn/shred the rest before escaping or being captured. Thus both parties only get 200 of those 400 beakers applied to represent what their own scientists salvaged from the project.
     
  8. Sneaks

    Sneaks Brooklyn Bum

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    The fact it required 5 points to explain that system for an RA means its probably too complicated to be a meaningful mechanic. Simple solutions of a percentage increase in beakers on completion or during the course of the agreement seem more reasonable to me.
     
  9. Seek

    Seek Deity Supporter

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    I brought this up to Thal a while ago, and I think his solution is best:

    Achieves what we can assume the devs were aiming for without too complex a formula. Unfortunately it is apparently not possible with the current modding tools.
     
  10. Monthar

    Monthar Deity

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    I suggested something like that before and the idea was shot down.
     
  11. LordTC

    LordTC Warlord

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    People don't really talk about it but you can actually do much better with this. Now that the regular game has research overflow, you don't put in a full turn, but rather your overflow beakers (0 turns of research) then switch off it.
     
  12. LordTC

    LordTC Warlord

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  13. LordTC

    LordTC Warlord

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    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.

    Sorry accidently deleted the quote link.

    But you're wrong here. The AI can impact your ability to perform "X" rather than just get bonuses that compete with Y. In fact if the attitude is that the AI is not going to interfere with your development and will just get a faster clock at harder levels the game does become very non-interactive. Similarly things like your eliminating the leading AI civ through war slow down said clock.
     
  14. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    This is flagrant ignorance, and it hurts my eyes to read it. If you actually think that constitutes zero risk, pick up an economics book. You need the work. If OP implied such intentionally, so does he. You are demonstrating a weak conceptual understanding of key arguments on the mechanic. Shouldn't you understand what you're talking about before you try to argue the point? But since some of you aren't getting it, let me spell it out for you.

    Risk factors that exist even when your desired tech is 100% guaranteed:

    1. RA gets canceled. In this patch, a DoW will cancel the RA w/o giving you the tech. Even pre-patch, a DoW could force you into a weak tech before you were ready.
    2. AI gets wiped out (minor, but it exists depending on which AIs you RA, but you guys put a ridiculously ignorant burden of "COMPLETELY" eliminating risk, so even this qualifies)
    3. You run into a situation where you desperately need money, and now you don't have that money because you sunk it into a research agreement.

    I could go on, but I've already curb-stomped what I've quoted, so there's no need. Economics is a valuable subject. Understanding some of it will help you with this game.

    Not only is it an argument, it is MUCH stronger than your assertion that is OBJECTIVELY WRONG about eliminating risk. Keep trying though.

    Yet ANOTHER example of bottomed-out understanding of economics. It...doesn't matter? So it wouldn't matter if RA cost 1000 gold, or 0? Really? For someone who claims statements "aren't even an argument", you're sure making a lot of statements that are objectively wrong. And not arguments. The opportunity cost of a RA is an EXTREMELY relevant consideration on how good it is as a mechanic, and the necessity of "x resource investment" is a direct factor in opportunity cost (which you mention). Not the sole metric, but an important one, because it dictates whether it is good play to use RA instead of other options. If RA were more expensive one could justify selecting techs with them. Also, you're once again making assumptions about "designer intent", which I've already answered in this thread until someone expands on the opposing argument further.

    Hey hey! Way to prove my point. Now give us some viable PROOF, through #'s, that SP storing was/is (especially post patch where tradition took a buff) consistently optimal. Come on, we're waiting. The phrase "put up or shut up" comes to mind. The burden of proof in balance changes lies in justifying the change. Can you come up with proof, or are you going to be like every other donkey that claimed SP storing was OP w/o proof and refused to come up with anything past an OP statement? Show us you know better. I'm not just calling you out to prove how ridiculous you're being, if you can ACTUALLY DO that, it would be useful to the community (and would make you better than the designers). Good luck. If you manage you'll get instant respect from me and probably many more.

    If you can't though, quit blathering this nonsense and realize that "obviously optimal" is wrong.

    You're looking more and more like one of those guys who feels that every strong tactic that doesn't fit a perfect picture of how he wants the game to be is an exploit. Might as well say playing the game is an exploit if you're going this far.

    Granted, the constant sale and trade management of luxury resources, RA, etc is incredibly tedious and I'd like to see it reworked, but I say that about the UI too, and moving units/picking what to build in cities (hopefully) isn't considered an exploit to you.

    Making objectively wrong statements and complaining about players using the game as the designers present it seems rather unfair. Maybe life is unfair, because somehow 3 pages into this thread I still have to deal with people who have no apparent understanding of economic risk.

    Except you couldn't, because my post history CLEARLY shows I have some SERIOUS issues with this game. Including the need to micro RA to compete being left in by design as of so far.

    We wouldn't want that, now would we :lol:.

    Probably the best move is to use the "quote" button above the quick reply (or advanced reply) that simply adds the quote tags w/o the name. If you copy text, you can paste it into the resulting quote and /quote tag immediately (the cursor goes inside it by default), allowing you to rapidly quote a copied portion of a post.

    I'd also like to make one thing very, VERY clear. I do NOT like this mechanic as it stands. Civ V's UI is chalk-full of unnecessary clicks, lack of hotkeys, and micromanagement that does NOT involve decision making. "micro" RA is another example of BAD DESIGN. While that doesn't make it an exploit (especially when the game is balanced around this kind of crap), it DOES make it an annoying mechanic that should be patched. Once you've chosen your tech, right now you can essentially get the RA to give it to you. However, you have to go through possibly 50+ clicks to do that instead of simply choosing a technology, even though functionally they are very similar.

    And yes, I feel the same way about the current practice of selling luxuries. It is tedious, especially since it is so consistently a top option but still requires the constant contacting and clicking of AI, over and over and over again. That isn't "strategy", as TBS would imply. That is tedium, and TBT isn't appealing.

    So while this tactic is NOT an exploit, it SHOULD be patched and rebalanced, ASAP, along with all the interface crap problems in both civ IV and V.

    Until it is fixed, however, it is a viable and fair option to use against the AIs.
     
  15. avl8

    avl8 Prince

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    Pff, when some people were using ICS it wasnt "abuse". Its was powerful strategy and you could do spaceship on deity in less that 200 turns.
    It wasnt abuse/exploit, it wasnt.

    And now, when another guy shows you a nice way to deal with RA-mechanics - you call it exploit.
    Well done!
     
  16. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Over/underpowered tactics are not the same things as exploits. Neither is micro tedium, necessarily.

    Try crossing the sahara desert on a punctured unicycle. Try an argument. Try it.
     
  17. Txurce

    Txurce Deity

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    Instead of handing out reading assignments, skim a debate handbook first. Your head has been handed to you, and all the obnoxious undergrad-level sarcasm* in the world isn't going to distract most observers from seeing that.

    *Sarcasm aimed at seemingly everyone except Martin Alvito. Intimidated much?
     
  18. LordTC

    LordTC Warlord

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    Most of these are attacking straw men.

    The first point about the AI DoW's is true, but in practice not a huge issue since there are ways to control relationships to avoid this problem. AI's getting eliminated is a negligible risk. You've introduced examples completely different from your previous explanation of risk. I have an understanding of risk, It just wasn't clear what you obstacles to achieving the objective are.

    You've also misrepresented what I said about cost. Obviously it matters of the game as a whole whether RA's cost 0 or 1000 gold. However, regardless of cost of RA's the system is horribly misdesigned due to micro making RA's so powerful that you get encouraged to use gamey manipulative tactics with them. RA's in theory were designed to introduce some random development in the tech tree, mimicing human life where you can focus research but can't guarantee what you'll end up with. I mean I don't think anyone would be happy if Firaxis fixed this by patching RA's to cost 100,000 gold so no one can use them, although economically the problem with RA's is now solved (no need to micro since no need to buy them). You still haven't addressed my combat example which makes this point clear. Game components should be balanced when a player has chosen to interact with that component, they shouldn't be costed out of existence. This is a good general principle from software design, and has nothing to do with developer intent.

    As for my understanding of economics, it seems much better than your understanding of math or computer science (much more valuable disciplines, which don't involve using pseudoscience to crash markets) seeing as you have demonstrated a complete ineptitude at understanding process or giving formulas that underly concepts. I've developed software and have an understanding of good design principles, so yes I've assumed they haven't tried to break a bunch of them for no apparent reason, which the micro-RA setup does.

    Just because you have no ability to understand game design and reduce all general principles to understanding "specific intent" doesn't mean we all have to. In economics, you might be familiar with similar principles, particularly if you work in a portion of the field that makes the rational agents assumption (the vast majority of the field). Joe Halpern at Cornell has published some good work on why this assumption doesn't work (including a computational model underlying certain biases (forms of irrationality)). The reason I mention this rational agents assumption is that the basis of much of this field you glorify is that agents act rationally, which by the way requires them to intend what their actions end up causing. The use of the Nash-Equilibrium and other game-theoretic concepts underlying much of economic theory don't make sense without this. And this assumption means among other things agents intend the things their actions cause. But assuming it doesn't make it true, and those who know computer science don't expect to see basic design errors covered in a software engineering 301 course to be introduced intentionally into a computer game at a professional studio.

    Oh and just for the record capitalizating a whole word, claims of "curb-stomping", and a bunch of insults don't make your arguments any stronger they just demonstrate your immaturity. I don't feel proud about somewhat sinking to your level with the math and CS barb, but perhaps it will jar you into actually reading all of what I say before replying, rather than selecting a straw man argument out a few select pieces.
     
  19. LordTC

    LordTC Warlord

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    A rather generous assessment, I'd very disappointed with this kind of behaviour out of my undergrads.
     
  20. Txurce

    Txurce Deity

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    I was bending over backward to not be accused of trolling. My back is killing me now.
     

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