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  • Requesting input on custom faction

    I realize it would theoretically be more appropriate to post this in the Creation forum, but that forum seems pretty dead so I'm posting it here.

    I'd like to create an ueber-Morganite faction based on the Arab oil states, with an agenda of wealth and power for the ruling class. Gameplay-wise, it would have an even greater incentive to go FM than the Morganites. Specifically, in line with the "law and order" nature of the Arab oil states, it would be able to run FM while using police units. There are 5 basic ways of doing this:

    1) +4 police, no Planned (promotes FM, discourages Police State)
    2) +2 police, no Planned, +1 or 2 eff (promotes FM/Police)
    3) +2 police, no Planned, immunity (?) to negative efficiency (strongly promotes FM/Police and later IIRC Thought Control)
    4) immunity (?) to negative police, no Planned (strongly promotes FM and later IIRC Cybernetic)
    5) impunity (?) to negative effects of FM, no Planned (strongly promotes FM)

    My preferences are 1), 4), and 5) because they leave the faction more flexibility in its choice of government, making it hopefully more interesting to play.

    I want to compose a short list of 3-4 likely-to-be-balanced variants for playtesting, so I'd like thoughts on which variant sounds the most fun and on the best penalties to balance out the faction, as well as good minor "flavor" bonuses (starting units, etc.).

    Interest on energy reserves sounds like fun, especially since no normal faction has it and because its effect is relatively minor in the crucial early game and it requires a sacrifice (keeping a reserve) to effectively utilize.

    My thoughts on penalties: an efficiency penalty is definitely in order for reasons of flavor (rampant nepotism), a planet penalty likewise (resources are seen as something to exploit), a support or industry penalty likewise (the "gold-plated sinks" effect), a drone penalty likewise (islamic fundamentalists increasingly agitating as population and thus social problems rise). The efficiency penalty would knock Police State out of consideration, so would go best with option 1), which already eliminates Police anyway. A growth penalty would mean no pop booming (-1 + 2 + 2 + 2 = 5, which is <6) and somewhat lacks flavor. A probe penalty is kind of weak and lacks flavor. A science penalty is kind of weak and lacks flavor. A morale penalty might make sense.

    I've seen the faction-rating guidelines at http://1st-euro.com/AC/fac-tool/rate.htm, so you don't need to point me to that page. In any case, I don't find it too useful, as some of the values assigned are questionable (planet as 3* rating level and police as 1*? Come on!) and in any case, flat multipliers can't take into account synergistic effects (as the ability to run FM on Transcend without Rec Commons as a first build definitely is!).

    In terms of "real" (playtesting-judged) faction single-player power, I'd like The Sheikdom to be middle-of-the-road, i.e. neither boring (drones) nor frustrating (spartans).

    USC
    "'Lingua franca' je latinsky vyraz s vyznamem "jazyk francouzsky", ktery dnes vetsinou odkazuje na anglictinu," rekl cesky.

  • #2
    I love custom factions, and I've always been of the opinion that the AI Morgan could do much better if he had a natural ally. Now, as for the strenghts and weaknesses I see:

    #1-- Starting with +4 police would give the faction a huge advantage from the start. +4 police would allow the faction to grow much larger than the other factions start out at, and then the switch to FM (once another way to quell those citizens becomes available) would enable this highly productive workforce to dominate rather easily.

    #2-- Not as strong as #1 above, but an efficiency bonus could lead rather quickly to a paradigm economy. AGain, this would make them rather tough to beat in the midgame.

    #3-- They start to look a lot like Hive in this setup, only without Planned. Immunity to any of the major society effects penalties tends to limit, not enhance, a faction's SE choices.

    #4-- Better, but could you see Islamic citizens sitting by complacently as computers take over? It just doesn't have the right flavor to me. Plus, as above, I am of the opinion that immunity limits choices.

    #5-- Running FM with impunity would negate the planet penalty as well. This would end the strategy of another faction being able to hit them with worm rushes while running FM. I think that this would also be a little too much.

    How about this..

    +2 Police
    Robust, Police
    I believe this would keep Police at -1 while under FM, still enough to use a single unit, which is all a wealth-oriented faction should need.

    Be very wary of adding interest to any factions. It is very easy in the mid-to-late game for an economy-focused player to get surplus credits into the thousands in just a few turns. If you're set on doing this, keep it at 2% at maximum, 1% preferred. It may sound low, but the alternative is worse. At 2% interest, a player with 2000 credits in the bank is going to gain 40 ECs just by sitting there on it, easily enough to pay most of his facility upkeep. He then has the choice to let his ECs pile up in the bank, creating even more free ECs and cornering the global energy market, or putting all his economy (beyond what is needed for luxury) into lab output, shooting way ahead for victory by either conquest or transcendence.

    If you decide to give them interest on their credits, an efficiency penalty is needed to keep them from gaining a paradigm economy. The two taken together would simply be too much to handle.

    I believe that this faction should have a drone penalty stronger than the University. A drone for every three citizens sounds just about right, to keep them from growing too much while they have a bonus to Police. Also, no econ bonuses... they should be forced to run FM to get their free energy per square and you don't want them racking up the energy at base squares that Morgan can manage.

    A -1 support penalty might also be useful in order to create a downside to the extra pacified citizens they would have at the beginning.

    If they still kick butt over the AI factions, perhaps a planet penalty might work, but it would become pretty pointless under FM (I don't think there are further penalties for going under -3 planet). A -2 planet might be pretty neat though, it'd prevent them from capturing mindworms even under Green until Cybernetic.

    So, we have:
    +2 Police
    -2 Efficiency
    -1 Support
    (Maybe) -2 Planet
    Robust, Police
    1-2% interest per turn
    Extra drone per 3 citizens

    The only bad thing is that this eliminates Police State as a viable government choice, at least until the faction has enough ECs in the bank to gain enough interest that they don't need to worry about putting much into econ. If they turn out too inflexible, perhaps adding an impunity to police state would balance things out again, but then there's the worry about being able to pacify too easily in the early game.

    Well, there you go, my quick thoughts on the matter.

    I'm working along similar lines for a Morganite ally, one whose philosophy is geared towards a long-term sustainable economy rather than Morgan's short-term view. Will post as I have time.

    Udelar

    Comment


    • #3
      Actually, FM is a -5 police modifer, so starting with +2, you'd get -3. Not that bad, just 1 extra drone if more than one military unit away from base.

      A planet penalty of -2 is really no different than a -1 penalty. Either way you get no resources from Fungus prior to the second food in fungus tech unless you go Green at that tech is so late that there's little dought left on who will evenually win by then. (And if you go FM, you'd never get resources from fungus.)
      1st C3DG Term 7 Science Advisor 1st C3DG Term 8 Domestic Minister
      Templar Science Minister
      AI: I sure wish Jon would hurry up and complete his turn, he's been at it for over 1,200,000 milliseconds now. :mad:

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by joncnunn
        Actually, FM is a -5 police modifer, so starting with +2, you'd get -3. Not that bad, just 1 extra drone if more than one military unit away from base.
        Yeah, that's why I also added the robust police ability. That would cut police penalties in half, which (I think) should make it go down to -1. That still gives a token cop.

        A planet penalty of -2 is really no different than a -1 penalty. Either way you get no resources from Fungus prior to the second food in fungus tech unless you go Green at that tech is so late that there's little dought left on who will evenually win by then. (And if you go FM, you'd never get resources from fungus.)
        Yeah, the only reason I suggested a -2 was to eliminate the possibility of the faction capturing mindworms through Green. It's a small enough thing, to be sure, but this faction shouldn't be able to rise up a native army and threaten others out of FM, under any circumstances. Green would still be useful for the efficiency bonus to counter this faction's penalty.

        Hope I explained myself a little better this time.

        Udelar

        Comment


        • #5
          Udelar,

          I like the Robust Police thought, but I'm not sure that -3 halved would round to -1. (I don't want the faction to have -2 police when running FM, as the whole design is based around finding a way to let it run FM at 0 or preferably -1.) Also, I find the list of penalties you mention a little harsh, especially if a -2 planet were thrown in.

          If playtesting shows that -3 halved rounds to -2, then I'll up the original police rating to +3 and keep all of the penalties you mention, maybe even raising additional drones to 1 per 2 citizens, and limit interest to 1%.

          If playtesting shows that -3 halved rounds to -1, then I'll use the mildest possible variation of what you propose.

          All in all, though, I really liked your insights and am especially glad that you agree that the ideal settings are those that disallow and discourage as few combinations as possible.

          By the way, any thoughts on free opening tech? Industrial Base would make it "yet another faction that starts with Industrial Base", whereas Industrial Base plus Industrial Economics would be quite strong... perhaps though it could be granted in exchange for a mild penalty in some other department.

          USC
          "'Lingua franca' je latinsky vyraz s vyznamem "jazyk francouzsky", ktery dnes vetsinou odkazuje na anglictinu," rekl cesky.

          Comment


          • #6
            Just tested it out with a basic faction with only +2 police and robust police:

            Under FM, they get the sought-after -1 police. Looks like robust rounds down those half-penalties.

            The reason I suggest such stiff penalties is because this faction will be able to run FM, a very powerful economic system which normally is only feasible in peacetime, while having an effective army. Not to mention that without FM they have as much police power as Yang under Police State.

            Haven't given too much thought to their free tech yet, but I don't think they should start with the ability to run FM. In fact, I don't think they should start with either of the techs on the way to FM. They're going to rock enough when they get it, and with +2 police it's going to be easy enough to get, that I think the faction should have to wait until both techs are researched naturally before it can gain the juicy +1 energy/square.

            Well, talk more later, got to register for classes.

            Udelar

            Comment


            • #7
              You could give them Social Psych, the tech Miriam starts with. It would represent the Islamic schools in the Arab world.
              "Cutlery confused Stalin"
              -BBC news

              Comment


              • #8
                I heavily tested this faction over the weekend; here is a summary of the results and my thoughts on the faction. You'll find no direct reactions to the above comments here, but I think the indirect reactions are clear enough. All playtesting was done on a large map with directed research and a random pick of the 14 SMAC/X factions. No test ran longer than 80 turns; some just ran until I got rolled over in the very early game.

                Executive summary: Not as powerful as it looks; a faction with large potential, but requiring great skill to unlock it. This faction is far from being the 800-pound gorilla that Udelar suggests due to a -1 support rating. Firaxis knew dang well what they were doing when they gave this penalty to Morgan, and it and its frustration fit this faction to a T as well... and rein it in even more than they do Morgan.

                First, the 9 settings I chose for the faction. (I've heard that you can use more than eight if some of them are of certain types, but I've heard conflicting reports and so for safety's sake I'm sticking to eight for now, except for one setting -- the aversion -- which somehow was immune to the limit.)

                Aversion: Planned

                Free technology: Industrial Base
                Free technology: Industrial Economics
                +2 Police
                Robust: Police
                -1 Efficiency
                -1 Planet
                -1 Support
                Extra drone for every 3 citizens

                Note: the original version had -2 planet, but when combined with the low support rating and the tendency for this faction to run FM/Wealth early to reach its full potential, Planet was eating this faction for breakfast, which would have been OK if it had fewer other weaknesses, but as it was, it served as the "final blow."

                --------------------

                This faction's first task is to find 40 credits to switch to Industrial Economics. Initial base placement and the outcomes of pods, contact with other factions, and any NL battles that might arise will strongly affect how quickly this happens. Thus, its extremely early game is strongly luck dependent and arguably is also weaker when playing pods off (as I know some players prefer). Towards the end of the testing, I considered replacing the free tech Industrial Base with free energy credits (somewhere from 40 to 100), but I'm still not decided on this.

                The early expansion phase suffers from the same crippling problems as Morgan's: the faction is mineral-starved. Due to the low planet rating, it is still also in constant danger of getting wormraped. Sure you can have the garrisons sit back and wait for the worms to come to them... but this only works until you have formers out and spore launchers approach and start pinning them/destroying their work... which happens annoyingly often.

                Early exploration suffers from similar problems: even in the phase where pods only yield a single worm, you can forget about killing that worm if you're running FM/Wealth once it's after 2114. (At -4 Planet, you have only a base 10% edge over the worm, and so if your unit is green or very green....) This means that it's one more to worry about as you expand in the given direction.

                Early terraforming suffers from the chicken-and egg problem that you need minerals to build formers to gain minerals etc. Also, the faction has a difficult choice between acquiring centauri ecology and acquiring a number of other attractive techs.

                Keep in mind that unlike Morgan who, in certain situations, can sit back and run ungarrisoned, low-exploration FM to synergistically alleviate his support problems while "taking advantage" of the FM police penalty, this faction NEEDS to build garrisons AND explorers to take full advantage of its advantages, which means that it is far more crippled by the support penalty than Morgan is.

                Thus the main skill you need with this faction is superb early mineral management.

                Also note that often, a very quick implementation of the FM/Wealth combination that otherwise so strongly helps this faction can mean (unless you use quicky SE switches during diplomacy) horribly crippled diplomacy with the AI, as these two settings piss off a total of 7 of the 14 original factions: caretakers, usurpers, gaians, cult, pirates, uni, spartans.

                In the midgame, the faction also suffers strongly from its inefficiency and its extra drones -- it's a good thing that it can get along reasonably well without allocating psych, because it takes ridiculous amounts of psych to budge all the double drones these guys get. Democracy can help slow the leaks that hurt the Sheik's acquisition of energy for psych (and energy in general!)... IF you can survive a -3 support rating.

                Now let's move on to the faction's good points.

                The ability to run fully painless FM extremely early is useful. (Keep in mind, however, that except for the ability to send out non-independent explorers and the double function of garrisons, this ability is in no way better than that of Lal and Domai, except of course for Domai's inability to actually RESEARCH FM from the start.) What is even more useful is the ability to very quickly beeline to IA, whose production and energy benefits help to alleviate the faction's mineral problems.

                If the faction is able to make contact with an "open-minded" faction early, its early tech lead means plenty of fodder for trading and for bribing neighbors into factions and pacts. If the stars smile upon our Sheiks, they can acquire massive numbers of techs this way... though sometimes at the cost of slowing the beeline to IA.

                The core advantage -- the extra energy of FM with the police benefits of non-FM -- is certainly nice, though it's not really the "killer advantage" that it might seem to be, thanks to the support hit. But it's nice. Its real benefit, however, is not so much in very early expansion as in expansion after the bureacracy limit is hit -- unlike Lal and Domai's "FM buffers", it's not hurt by double drones, and that's VERY nice, as it means that base sizes can reach 3 without drones, which does wonders for solving mineral problems. The Sheiks compare interestingly here to Morgan's Green/Wealth:

                Sheiks FM/Wealth: -1 police, -4 planet, -1 support, -1 efficiency, +1 industry, +3 econ
                Morgan Green/Wealth: +2 planet, -2 growth, +2 efficiency, +1 industry, -1 support, +1 commerce

                Morgan, with the same ability to use police, makes less money in this situation (unless he has numerous treaties and pacts), but keeps more of it and probably comes out ahead. He also has a higher base limit, no real worm threat and some spare worms for exploration and cop duty. However, he has slow growth. All in all Morgan has a slight edge here. The situation of a Morgan with FM/Wealth, meanwhile, is slightly worse than the Sheiks' unless the no-garrison approach is used masterfully.

                I've found this faction to be a great expander if the stars smile upon it, it has no problem quelling first drones in new bases under FM, and once its economy gets rolling it can easily afford buying far-flung bases "wasteful" RC's just to keep the colony pods rolling out. On the other hand, this ability is wasted if the faction is strapped for available space.

                The ability to run a war without using stupid Punishment Sphere tricks is nice, but the support problem must be solved first, and that's no small matter. If one manages to solve it, however, there's no doubt that this faction will be out kicking some midgame but.

                If this faction gets the Virtual World and Intellectual Infantry, it can easily field size-six bases with a 0% psych allocation, and that's also VERY nice.

                Final verdict: fairly balanced, sometimes quite frustrating, sometimes quite powerful, and certainly interesting to play. All I'd maybe change at this point is IndBase for some credits, and I'm not sure about that. One other option I considered was giving them a spare unit at the start, which would slightly alleviate the back-crushing support problem, but the option rather lacks flavor.

                USC
                "'Lingua franca' je latinsky vyraz s vyznamem "jazyk francouzsky", ktery dnes vetsinou odkazuje na anglictinu," rekl cesky.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would think fundamentalism would fit in somwhere.

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