What if combat wasn't RNG dependent?

Discussion in 'Civ4 - General Discussions' started by TheMeInTeam, Jul 2, 2012.

1. Um the MuseKing

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Oops. I did say that 1.5 is only good for "close-ish" battles, but you're right anyway. The basic problem with the rule of thumb is that there are jumps in odds depending on how many rounds of combat there will be. I'm not too worried about absurd stretches like knights versus scouts, but my rule of thumb is horrible for attacking wounded units.

In short, there can't be one magic multiplier.

That's not really an issue, I don't think--the mod doesn't actually use rounds of combat, so there's no reason why the "rounds" have to be whole numbers. Take the number of "rounds" to kill from both combatants, see which one is smaller, and use that number for both combatants (you might have to round up depending on the precision allowed, I think. Sorry, not terribly computer savvy). One, by definition, should do enough damage to kill, while the other shouldn't except in the case of a tie.

On the other hand, there's an elegance to the current system. It's easy and intuitive. So what if it changes things a little? That may not be a bad thing.

2. dr_sPrince

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I'm not sure it's worth trying to reproduce the results of the existing damage system. Is there any evidence that it's particularly well thought out?

Based on my reading of the thread, I think that your current test mod uses the following formula for damage. If S1 and S2 are the strengths of the two units, and S2 >= S1, then after the battle, S2 is reduced to (S2 - S1). Is that correct? If you think this is too much damage, but want to preserve mutually assured destruction when S1 = S2, then I would suggest changing this to something like

S2*sqrt(1-S1/S2)

Then a 1 strength unit attacking a 10 strength unit would leave the stronger unit at 9.5 instead of 9, a 5 strength unit attacking a 10 strength unit would leave the victor at 7, and a 9 strength unit attacking a 10 strength unit would leave the victor at 3.

3. plasmacannonEmperor

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Now, this looks better. However, it results in 0 damage, when units are of equal strength.

Perhaps, an average of TMIT's formula and this one would achieve balanced results.
Option3. A set or percentage damage done to both units. If both units were reduced to 0.1 strength, then neither would fight afterwards. The one in a city would heal. The one with a supermedic would heal.
Option4. Mutual annihilation. Both units are destroyed.

4. dr_sPrince

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It's the formula for the remaining strength of the victorious unit, so it results in 100% damage for equal-strength units.

5. plasmacannonEmperor

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ok. So, S2*sqrt(0) = 0, thus 0 strength remaining to both units or Mutual annihilation. Got it.
Thanks for the clarification. I was looking at as damage done to each unit.

What about the average option of both formulas though?
In TMIT's example, the 1 str unit attacking a 10 str unit results in a 9 str unit remaining.
In your example, it results in a 9.5 str unit remaining.
An average would result in a 9.25 str remaining.
I realize this difference seems small. It is because of these numbers being used.
When larger 40 str battleships are involved, or mods that increase unit str even higher, then the smaller amount of damage done makes for a practically invulnrable unit.
Both formulas have merit. Hence, the suggestion of an average of the two results.

6. dr_sPrince

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It occurs to me that I should elaborate a bit on my suggested formula. Using my notation above, TMIT's original formula can be written as

S2' = S2*(1-S1/S2).

Here S1 is the strength of the weaker unit, S2 is the strength of the stronger unit, and S2' is the strength of the victorious unit after the battle. This formula is the product of the stronger unit's original strength and a factor (the stuff in parentheses) that depends on the ratio of the two strengths, which is why TMIT originally referred to this as a ratio.

My suggestion is to modify the formula by raising the second factor by some power:

S2' = S2*(1-S1/S2)^n.

If you pick n < 1, then the victorious unit will survive with more health than with TMIT's formula, while if you pick n > 1, it will survive with less. By adjusting n, you can adjust how much health the victorious unit has after the battle. I picked n = 1/2 because it was the first thing I thought of. But you could pick n = 1/3 or n = 1/4 if you wanted even more health after the battle, or n = 2/3 or n = 3/4 if you wanted less.

This also suggests a couple other modifications.

One way to treat the flanking promotion would be to modify n. So if n = 1/2 normally, than an attacking unit with flanking I might get n = 2/5, and an attacking unit with flanking II might get n = 1/3, for example. Similarly for drill. A stronger unit with drill I might get n = 2/5, with drill II, n = 1/3, etc. A weaker unit with drill I might get n = 3/5, with drill II n = 2/3, etc. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader what should be done if both units have drill, but at different levels.)

You could also have n depend on terrain if you like, but maybe that's overkill, given that unit strength already depends on terrain.

7. Um the MuseKing

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FWIW, I like dr_s's formula. I'm not sure that I like his solution for Drill, and I definitely don't think it's the right way to go for flanking. You have to both attack and win for the promotion to do anything! It better be very powerful to be competitive.

What about a 15% bonus when attacking anything?

By the way, why go from 1/2 to 2/5? Is that based on their decimal forms (i.e. 1/2=50% and 2/5=40%, 1/3 is roughly 30% so each is going down by 10%)?

8. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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You guys break the game just fine anyway (which CFC also does, mind you ). That said, I believe my friend will release the mod when we've gone a bit further with it. If not, I'll try to talk him into it.

No, actually. I think ultimately the game SHOULD have some incentive to tech obviously, but balance it such that tech lead doesn't necessarily equate to a win. The strength distribution on most non-elephant units in the game actually do a pretty good job of that IMO...but damage is another matter. I'm pretty sure Firaxis didn't consider the question of expected damage because they let the RNG throw chips where they may lie. It's a new problem for deterministic combat, and it's really going to be up to a combination of balance of tech and vs preference.

So far, yes. I'm still not decided on it personally.

For non-equal strengths this is interesting (it's pretty much a wash at equal strength ). My only concern is tipping the scales too far the other way, such that a tech lead suddenly becomes insurmountable. Tweaking the n factor could make the model really good potentially though.

What if the change in n applied to the attacker is sufficient to give the unit with flanking the ability to always survive when strengths are close enough, but not if they aren't ?

What amount to go down by in terms of % is very much straight theory at this point. We'd need to look at what actually happens in doing so.

9. dr_sPrince

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What I was thinking was that in the current system, flanking on average saves you hammers when you attack, because you sometimes survive when you otherwise wouldn't. I was trying to preserve that. Obviously my suggestion doesn't really capture the essence of the current flanking promotion. You could also reverse my suggestion and make flanking only apply when the attacking unit loses, but increase n to cause more damage to the victor.

Just picking a monotonic sequence of rational numbers with small numerators and denominators. Those were the first that came to mind.

10. lindsay40kEmperor

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Been out of the thread for a while. Something occurred to me; why is the choice framed as RNG vs determinism? Combat's split into rounds, so if one wanted fewer extreme results but still retain an element of unpredictability, couldn't a 'determinism' mod have a sliding scale for how determinist the combat it? At the very least, make it possible to set it so that 0%, 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of rounds are RNG. (Could be tricky to fit first strikes into that, and it leaves the question of whether those RNG/determinist rounds should be sequential or themselves randomly rolled.)

This would go a long way to resolving my main concern with pure determinism - the issue of equally matched foes killing each other every single time, yet the tiniest advantage to one side (easily acquired by a suicidal catapult shaving a bit of HP off all five opposing units) enabling their forces to definitely survive (yes, I know a single mounted unit could harry the 1hp survivors to death, but there's a lot of 'if' about that).

I'd be interested in playing a mod wherein spearmen never kill tanks, but the issue of closely matched foes does put me off somewhat. I'd prefer breaking a Mexican Standoff to remain something of a roll of the dice, especially with the promotions system being as it is.

11. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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In light of the combat odds are rigged thread, I'm resurrecting this one. Work on this mod stopped at a certain point as everyone who contributed to it aside from me switched permanently to civ V. I might still have it somewhere, however, and can dig it out.

Indeed, in the interim I have only come up with stronger reasons why deterministic combat > RNG combat in civ IV:

1. The vast majority of this game is deterministic.
2. Deterministic combat allows (and if you want to play optimally, forces) you to plan carefully, which is a key element to good play at any difficulty. This is different from RNG combat in that planning is occasionally rendered completely irrelevant.
3. Opponents doing something unexpected could nevertheless produce unexpected results, and sometimes drastically so.

Some common arguments against this:

1. Restating what the mod does without actually making a statement as to why it's good or bad (lol).
2. Technical implementation difficulty (a legit issue, then and now).

3. AI can't handle it: The AI can't handle the current game, either. The big thing that would need change here is modifying its attack courage, especially in stack combat. At that point the game's difficulty would not be much different from what it is right now: DoW'd on high levels early, you probably die or get slowed too much. Survive and out tech? Win. Might be interesting to merge deterministic combat into kmod.

4. Why not play chess: If one is making this argument with a purpose other than trolling, I kindly suggest banging one's head against a wall, as odds are that will allow consideration of a better argument.

5. Alteration of resources lost: This is, in disguise, another "AI can't handle it" assertion and nothing more. Nobody remotely competent would engage in a situation where they could be stack-wiped without killing anything.

6. There are all kinds of "preference", "realism", and other arguments floating around out there. The realism ones are trash, and below I show why, but perhaps the most interesting and compelling of these types of arguments comes from karadoc himself:

My answer to this, over a year later, is "if one truly feels this way, why is it unique to combat"? Why not make EVERYTHING RNG based, for "flavor", "spice', "needing skill to adapt to changing situations", or any other similar argument? Here are some things that should also be RNG-based if one were to apply the argument to combat:

- Tile yields. Some turns, a riverside corn is worth 4 . Others, it's worth 9 . Once in a while, it's worth 0 . After all, weather and other luck factors did affect farm yields!
- Randomize tech costs for each civ. Your pottery costs 197 , but your friend's might only cost 82 . Pick any random justification based on history, just like the impi vs redcoat thing.
- OBVIOUSLY, mineral resources need to randomly dissapear, kind of like civ III. That was a fun mechanic everybody enjoyed after all...but it definitely fits RNG theme!
- The project manager for your granary is bad in a given city. Sometimes it can cost as much as 3 times the number of to build it.
- Some libraries are poor quality and give you less , at random of course.
- Some luxuries randomly don't make your people happy, or make them more happy. After all, trends change so the amount of generated should also change...every turn.

I could go on, but hopefully the above highlights why RNG-based combat is actually a *break* from the vast majority of civilization gameplay. With factors like the above, micro optimization and planning would be nearly impossible. The examples might sound ridiculous, but they are functionally equivalent to RNG battles, and RNG battles might have felt equally ridiculous had the game been designed around deterministic combat instead, because if it were done well it might allow a similar degree of planning and optimization as empire management can.

It's worth pointing out that one might "prefer" ANY of the above! There is no logical reason RNG combat is fundamentally better than RNG tile yields; I assert that preference for one over the other without experiencing all combinations is straight bias.

And on that note, let me see if I can dig this up once I get back to my computer with civ, probably won't be until tomorrow. I suspect any serious play in this mod would reveal the need to rebalance the game to at least some extent, but it could potentially make things much better. We'd have to see.

12. vincentzProgrammer

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If I understand your "No RNG in combat" correctly, then what you want is 10 strenght 10 units woul beat 10 strenght 9 units 100% of the time?
I cant see the fun in that tbh. Isnt part of the charm of Civ RNG?
If we played the same game on the same map without RNG, it would completely loose its replayability.
But as K said: Personal Pref. In fact I find some of your "horror" examples quite interesting.
Especially the "Harvest differs" and "Scientific inequalities". I wonder how much strain it would put on MP.

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I will argue - this is not a good idea at all. Let's have a look at history than : How many battles were won against all odds ? Let's just say there was a few battles like that . We cheapen ourselves by believing that we will be always succesful. If there is no "luck" than we will fall into cold - calculated design where there is no "chance" factor and therefore there is no reality. We will always win because we know we will always win Where's the fun in that ?

14. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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Isn't a corn tile worth 1 on turn 7 but randomly worth 9 on turn 13, sometimes, part of the charm of civ RNG?

If we played the same game on the same map without RNG, it would completely lose its replayability. Yay! I can say it too and it means just as much for my side of the argument!

I know some people would like the extra random mod too. But, your first line about

Is just as ridiculous. It's going on assumptions that things must be the way they are now, and that nobody would adapt in a deterministic setting such that the game could still be as, and possibly more, engaging. BTW I don't think removing any semblance of micro being important from the game would make it more deep, and I similarly posit that RNG doesn't help add depth to combat.

DERP!

How many times have farms always given identical yields?
How many scientists gave the exact same output to the scientific community?
How many technological discoveries had a fixed, equal amount of effort between areas of the world with defined, linear progressions?
How many mines produced the exact amount of coal every year without exception?
How many mineral deposits have absolutely never ran out?
How many world leaders have led their civilization for 5000+ years?
How many civilizations have even lasted 5000 years straight, even if left alone militarily?

You're trying to bring real history into a model that does not in any way represent real history. In fact, you are actively supporting one of the few things in the game that is separated from its core mechanics. That is not a logically sound position, unless you advocate that the majority of civ IV needs to be reworked...which I don't THINK you're doing .

Non-argument. Leave this junk out please .

Why do you want reality in the first place? Also, how does deterministic outcomes not mesh with reality? In reality, if someone blasts an enemy soldier into 5 pieces, the latter dies. Always. He won't randomly not die. In fact, war in reality *is* deterministic, but does not appear so at the macro level. This is not because someone rolled a virtual dice and returned a value of 9, but rather because the opposition did something unexpected. Even with deterministic combat outcomes, opposition can do things unexpected:

1. Hide units
2. Store promotions until last minute
3. Suddenly whip walls
4. Choose to avoid engaging or to do it at a different time
5. Hit a key tech and suddenly upgrade
6. Counter-attack with fast units and start burning cities

In arguing for realism, you actually ask for something that isn't realistic, and is only applied because the scale of the game does not allow for tactical battles at the individual level.

Your opponent has deterministic combat too, you know. What makes you think you'll always win?

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None. That's a valid point ! Civ is not about reality I know It's just a game but combat odds really give some randomness and charm I will still argue that fixing them is not really an option - too predictable Why should we not allow someone to be lucky ?

16. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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An equally valid question is why anybody should win by luck in a strategy game, or even get lucky.

While the outcomes would be predictable in a given fight, the way wars go would not be. I can perhaps demonstrate this better if I can find the mod again.

The #1 biggest RNG problem in this game is start positions though, and fixing THAT seems no small feat. I heard there was a mod or map script or something that helped though.

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I think I get Your picture there : "Why anybody should win by luck in a strategy game, or even get lucky" Civ is a mixed game -> tactics of a single unit are neglected and done by RNG Than it is really a different picture "Why should a strategy game contain a tactilal element at all ?" I think You would like to turn Civ into a clear strategy without RNG controled battles there so that a better stretegist would always win Is that right ?

18. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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There is a difference between "better strategist" and "person who displayed better strategy this game". You don't need any random factors at all for a player who is weaker on average to win some games.

I want the person who plays the best in a given game to win it, all other things being equal (obviously in things like FFA this would get a bit more convoluted).

But I also question the need for RNG driven combat, as well as what it brings to the game over deterministic combat. It seems an odd choice in a game that is so largely deterministic to throw in a random factor that, for all intents and purposes, gets largely negated in scope by deterministic ones after the early game. Why have the random factor at all then?

19. rahDeitySupporter

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Not that I really want to get into this argument because it really is a matter of opinion.

The vast majority of this game is deterministic
So what. Most games have many set deterministic rules.
I don't think just because a vast majority is means it should all be.
And many "STRATEGY" games use a RNG for certain aspects.

Should there be no RNG at all?
Should every AI DOW you every time you turn down a request?
Should you get the exact same map/land every start?
Should you have the same AI opponents every game?
Should there be no random aspects in the diplomacy side?
How many program decisions use the RNG?
I"m sure there is a long list.

Again, it all comes down to preference.

But I did really enjoy your random tiles.

And I didn't even use chess

20. TheMeInTeamTop Logic

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A valid point, but then what drives the decision to make a particular element RNG-based instead of deterministic? What does it add or take away from the game? "Preference" is something that develops with experience, but in civ IV people only have experience with RNG combat and not deterministic. I suspect that most people would prefer deterministic tile yields and RNG combat, since that's what they know. But is it fair to assume they'd prefer it that way if the game shipped with the reverse? Certainly not.

Let's leave preference aside, since virtually everyone (even me, despite limited experience playing this) is ignorant to how a well-fleshed-out deterministic combat model would play out. I want to hear sound theoretical reasons it's good or bad.

I think you do need it in one key spot:

This one. Unlike every other mechanic/feature in the game, the AI is taking the place of a player. Unless it can think, learn, and grow, the best way to make the AI unpredictable is to give it weighted chances of reacting to each thing differently, such that you could never know for SURE how it will behave. In this case, you're not talking about the game's design, but rather how a player in it chooses to behave. Player choice is what I advocate should drive victory or defeat, and thus you need the AI to make some different choices at least sometimes...obviously with bias towards what is typically strongest (even humans possess such bias).

How you acheive an AI that plays strongly and is still enjoyable is another matter, and a separate one from whether the core gameplay is deterministic...probably a bit outside the scope of this mod, aside from the obvious necessity to alter how the AI evaluates combat if you wanted to truly realize the potential of the mod in SP or coop MP.

Land should be balanced, unless you're deliberately creating scenarios otherwise. Or put another way, we should have at least ONE map that will generate different, but balanced start positions. We have none. That way if someone WANTS a balanced script, they can get it. Or heck, why not? If the algorithm is too terrible/hard to create, make a few maps into scenarios and balance the scenarios/randomize who starts where (since all the starts would be balanced). I forget whether scenarios can do this or not though.

There aren't with humans. Here again, and with most of the AI-related stuff, the AI is a player in the game, it is not the game. Separate this stuff out from the "deterministic" aspect of the design, because core game mechanics are not the same thing as what the player chooses to do with them. If it can exist with no AI in the game, it's a reasonable candidate for avoiding any RNG at all. There are surprisingly few things that fit that description that actually ARE RNG-based, and I'd be interested to hear a convincing argument that any of them add more to the experience because they're RNG based instead of deterministic.