Player Bonus Settings Revamp
@redrum Well done sir. That was a very quick turn around. Very impressed.
@Hepps Thanks. Any feedback is appreciated.
My next steps are to move the AI bonus properties to the player selection screen and then add XML parameters for maps to customize which players bonuses are available for, which resources are influenced, and set recommended bonus levels.
Latest changes have been merged so feel free to test it out.
Will grab this and play a test game when I get home from work.
These days I basically use tripleA as a player, so that's my main frame of reference. In early days though I used to make maps for tripleA, so I have a little bit of that perspective too.
I think as a map designer the idea of players messing with things on the fly can be a little unnerving. I'm sure Larry feels this way about bids in A&A for example. And anytime someone modifies something that has been carefully designed in such and such a way, there's some reason for pause.
That said, the reason why I like income modification as an approach to game balance, is because it just seems a lot less extreme.
When it comes to things like adding units, changing how combat works (altering how the dice work, or changing the abilities of units directly), altering production, or introducing new rules or new core features like resources, my opinions there all over the place. I like having a bunch of novel solutions for these sort of games. But one thing I'm pretty confident about is that most perceived imbalances in A&A style games (whether between players or within the game itself) can be corrected by simply changing the money.
Another approach not really mentioned much is to change something about the turn order (I would include there the idea of the restricted opening which skips the combat phase.) But just sticking with the money for now...
One thing I really wish we had, since all this stuff is still under discussion, is a very basic Bid that only goes to starting income.
I'm not talking about pre-placement bid, which involves a purchase phase and adjusting the starting unit distribution. I mean simply adjusting the starting values of a player/nation's starting income.
This was the earliest bid convention, even before the bid for preplacement units, (despite the fact that the later was ultimately more popular with Classic), so it would be cool if the player/designer had this as a simple default option for the bid too. In other words a way to prevent the bid from being used outside of the normal phases. Right now this can be player enforced PvP, but the default for the AI is to immediately spend the bid for pre-placement units.
We should have an option to turn that off entirely if desired. So among the various standards that have been discussed (whether the bid can be spent on units in such a such a place, or under such and such conditions) I'd dig if there was also a standard option there that says the bid cannot be spent at all, except during the normal purchase phase of the first turn.
These bids are of course often higher than a similar amount spent on extra starting units. But they are also less disruptive to the opening TUV trades.
I know this is among the simplest things to edit, but if we're talking about establishing defaults and standard practices, that seems like it my be a good one to have as a possible option.
Again talking about PvP as well as the AI.
I guess I'd also stress that I like being able to control for the thing that's being modified as a game balancing mechanism. So having the ability to adjust resources or production seems like it would be cool for a lot of maps, but I have misgivings about a single option that tweaks all the stuff at once.
Just to give an example. The v6 map is extremely low income and low production. This is a map where Cernel's idea of being able to increase production is really applicable. But in that case I don't know if having proportional increases for income and production would necessarily be ideal. You might want to increase the production by doubling it while doing something different to income. Or as in the bid concept above, just with a starting income bid. Or maybe a lower income percentage, or much higher one. In any case I see a definite case to be made for having them as separate. My guess is that resources are probably much the same, where proportional increases might not be constructive as say having a consistent ratio, but with different values for each. Or turning on one, but not the other.
Really great stuff by the way! Just wanted to say that too. I'm glad to see this generating a robust discussion and some very helpful changes to the UI. It's something I think a lot of people will get excited about.
More functionality for the game options (and the edit mode too), and lately the cool stuff for the AI and quality original maps in the pipeline, is really what sets TripleA apart from other ways to play these sorts of games.
PR for the next set of changes: https://github.com/triplea-game/triplea/pull/1800
- Move bonus income percentage to player selection UI
Latest changes are merged now so feel free to test out the pre-release and let me know what ya think!
@Black_Elk Some good ideas. The idea around extra starting income (bid that can't be immediately purchased/placed) is something I do like.
My thought now is to make 'standard' bonus levels that could be customized per map but still allow users to edit bonus directly if they want. This will help less experienced users get a feel for what standard AI bonuses should be on a map.
Questions to all:
- Should we move bid input from the settings UI to player selection screen? This would seem to make settings screen much cleaner and allow all 'per player' properties on the player selection screen.
- Should income bonuses be available to human players or just AI players? Should map makers be able to disable bonus for certain players?
I guess it depends on how much room it'd take for #1. if it stayed on the same line and just went to the right of the AI it'd probably be ok. I guess quite a few of the popular maps use bids where they might not change much in settings so would be one less click. Maps with lots of players might get crowded if they have to have their own line.
I'd say yes for #2. The more flexibility the better imo
Here is what I see when I open it up:
• The headlines are confusing atm. It looks like it states “Alliance Bonus Income Precentage”.
• The default set income could be 100 as this would prevent any confusion IMHO.
• Also, I would like to suggest adding the possibility to have lower that 100% income, like handicaps. In SP games if people find the AI to cleaver they could handicap it. Also Possibility for lower than 100% would mean the opposite than flooding the map with more units in the effort to balance powers.
• I hope this bonus system can work with Humans and AI alike, I don’t see any reason why this should not be a possibility.
I would suggest something like this, as it would be easily understood and simple (made with paint
That looks pretty clean to me. The UI laid out like that reads well at a glance.
I definitely like the idea of income percentage where the regular default is 100%, meaning normal income. 50% would be half of normal income. 200% would be twice normal income etc. I think that just feels more intuitive, and easier to parse. It would give a lot of flexibility so I like it available to Human players as well as AI players.
I really like moving this option to the player selection screen. I think that's a great idea! Just downloaded the latest. Will see if I can get in a few rounds
As much as I think that moving them to the player selection screen is a great improvement to their own usability and keeps the Map Options (I still suggest to change this overly generic name to "Rules Options", as these options do not belong to the map, but to the xml, and pretty much whatever options for the map are "map options", comprising, like, how much you want to Zoom it) much cleaner, I definitely believe the main starting screen should not immediately offer options that are, either, marginal or, worse, AI only.
This assuming that the main way of playing TripleA is with no AI at all, any AI usage being never primary nor standard, but at most an alternative way of playing the game (and I still see that the tooltip of "Play Online" tells me so). It is just common sense not seeing on main screen things that are not primary.
Of course, as I said, moving to the player selection is the way to go (much better than having it in Options), for several reason I think we all see, hence my primary (first best) suggestion, would be to make these options AI only and appearing only for players specifically assigned to an AI.
This means that nothing at all would change, from the current stable, if you are selecting a game with no default AI players (you won't even see the new column), but the additional column will appear, with the thing next to the AI selected players only, only when you select players for AI, looking like this:
The things on the right, with the "100" default, would be there for AI players, or appear when you select an AI, and disappear if you select Human, while the "Income %" column would totally disappear when none of them is showing.
As you can notice, I also agree with all @Frostion's adjustments, except that I would put the Income column closer and call it "Income %", not having the percent symbol right of each thing.
If you don't agree with this proposal, and would want any part of the "Income %" (or whatever it's called) showing up always, then I surely say that this option should be not AI related at all (but working for players assigned to Human too), as I surely believe it would be bad something AI only showing up as default, especially since players are "Human" default, and should stay so (plus, if you can set it while the player being Human, it would be confusing if, then, it doesn't work).
Yet, assuming that my proposal of having any part of the Income % tab magically appearing only upon assigning some to AI is feasible and accepted, then I would have little doubt in affirming that this new feature should be limited to AI only (which would be assured as default, if following my proposal of the things appearing only right to players that are assigned to an AI).
The user-oriented main reason might be what @Black_Elk is saying, to use it as a less distortive alternative to rebalancing maps by bidding but, honestly, I don't think this usage will become popular, or, at least, I can't see people starting to do that, instead of bidding, once they can. Since, anyway, in such cases, I think it would make sense to have more of a boardgame feeling, I think this might have an actual popular following (but I still doubt) only for something being a flat bonus (like giving +4 production each round to Russians, or whatever, instead of a bid, but not a percentage, like I'm seeing here).
The user-oriented other reason I can see, for wanting the Income % option, would be for playing a map with your little brother, or something, giving him a bit more income, just to make the game some less unfair; honestly, I see uses like this one so marginal, that I would not support them, just because of how unimportant they are and, in my opinion, I would rather give some bid.
The maker-oriented main (or rather only) reason I can see is to have, like, a player that it is more productive than the average, and manages to get 50% more the income out of the same land, than another one. I guess some mapmakers might use a feature like this to represent more efficient civilizations, like the Germans getting a few more income per territory than the Italians (so, like, you prefer that the Germans take "Ukraine SSR", instead of the Italians), or the Americans making much more income per territory than the Chinese, out of the same territory. While this might feel totally rad, I'm actually thinking I'd skip it, as it would really just not jive with its normal usage as, then, you would have all of a series of bonuses assigned, and no way to add percentage AI bonuses on top of them, thus it would just make it confusing to use them for what they are primarily intended for (for example, if you want to give +25% to all AI, and you are dealing with a game with such bonuses already assigned default, for not AI reasons, you would need to think and calculate in terms of how to add this general 25% on top on the normal ones, and would be just weird.
To sum it up, if something is meant to be almost only for AI, I would help myself cutting confusion by making it actually AI only (and, of course, then it should be not possible to assign it ineffectively, or it would be even more confusing).
The alternate not-AI use of making some players themselves more productive than others is of arguable interest, but, to cut confusion, I believe it should be rather handled with another similar set of settings, not for the AI and located in the normal options, where you can have a +25% for Germans, and you can, then, still give a +25% AI bonus to them too, that would be calculated based on the income already multiplied by 1.25. Such a feature is arguably not much needed, anyways, since you can do about the same by just having some players having lower production costs for the same units (for example, in LOTR, the Goblins can buy the stabbers, that are the same as the orcs, but cost 2 instead of 3, plus have the even better shooter, making the Goblins by far the most efficiently productive civilization in that world, already), or having better units in their frontiers, also since this would feel like something you would want to relate to tech advancement, and there is no way to change properties settings, not even with triggers (thus, having the possibility of saying that a player is inherently +25% productive, or something, should be rather handled not by unrestricting the option to AI, but having a similar option not in the properties at all, but in the playerAttachments (that you would be also able to change with triggers)).
So, my definite suggestion is for these options to be AI only, but only as long as they are totally absent from main screen, when no AI is selected; otherwise, just as a matter of principle of not having AI-only options showing up at all as default, I'm definitely for them being not AI related at all, if I have to see them all the times.
Regarding the bids, just let them where they are, especially if following my suggestions here, and having this stuff AI only (while not the bids). No good enough reasons to risk disrupting the intended options listing of many maps and, in general, when in doubt about a change to something stable, don't change it. Plus, I would really not add any more columns in the player selection.
@Cernel In my view this income bonus thing could potentially be very useful for PvP. It's much more intuitive than a Bid, which involves a whole specialized phase at the outset and also requires that the player understand what a Bid is in the first place (since the general term "bid" isn't really described anywhere, it's not mentioned in any of the recent official manuals of A&A games, and would require at least a paragraph of notes to explain on the UI screen). For a new player, an income bonus just seems easier to grasp, so I like the idea of popularizing this option as a simple alternative to bidding, in instances where you want to adjust the balance of play by nation/sides.
Because TripleA is one of the most convenient ways to play A&A style games, I think we could do a lot to establish a standard here. Just because Bids have been the go to method in tabletop tournaments, doesn't mean it's necessarily the best approach. Anecdotally, I know many people who find pre-placement bids kind of frustrating, so this gives them another solution to try, which may become a lot more commonplace if it is provided at launch.
Similarly, I think the AI option is particularly useful for new players. I know in my own experience, when I first downloaded TripleA like a decade ago to play Revised, the first thing I did, before learning how to connect with other players (whether live or PBEM) was to game solitaire to learn about the details of the map and how tripleA worked. The ability to play against an AI opponent would have been really welcome, as opposed to just playing against myself. So I like that these things are just right there at game launch without having to open another screen, or parse a bunch of complex settings.
I'm still in favor of having both a flat rate and percentage option. I think the former is somewhat easier to get your head around coming out of the table top experience. Since it doesn't involve any mental math to calculate. Though when playing against the AI I definitely now prefer percentage. In PvP flat is like more convenient for making quick calculations (whether for yourself or the enemy) as opposed to counting up totals, doing division/multiplication on the fly and then rounding to figure out how much cash you're likely to see at the end of a given turn.
I agree that Rules options or simply "Options" would probably be a better description than Map options. Although I suppose in tripleA "map" and "gamemap" are often treated as synonymous for a lot of things. I can see how some confusion might enter into it. If you were expecting to somehow tweak the map, when what you're really doing is tweaking the game xml. I think that's a good idea.
Ok, either ways, I see your point and I'm not really against it, if you really feel this option may enjoy a popularity as a bid substitute, we (meaning @redrum) can follow this path, but I think we (meaning @redrum) should decide now if this is going to be an AI bonus or a not-AI bonus, yet likely to be used mostly for AI, already.
I also see a good point in the fact that if we go AI only, then having per player bonuses, instead of a single bonus to all AI, becomes some harder to justify, as I think that most time you would just want the AI all having the same bonus.
If it is going to be a not-AI bonus, which might be the best choice (I'm not really sure), my suggestion would be rather to totally avoid it being customisable in the xml, then, except only for the good item of allowing the mapmakers to choose which resources are excluded, as I think it would be confusing using such bonuses for strict map dynamics (making some players more productive than others, as a game design, to represent different economic abilities or whatever), when, then, you would want to use it as a proper bonus on top of the game; thus keeping it fully and exclusively as an option that the players apply themselves on a finished game, that it is not using / setting it itself.
It would be also possible having an option, in Engine Preferences, for choosing the behaviour of those bonuses appearing only for AI players (as per my previous suggestion) or being always there. Anyways, also in this case, I would not allow mapmakers to set their value in the xml, so just having 100% as mandatory default, to cut down confusion, by restricting their usage away from any games' dynamics.
Surely not just "Options", for me, as you have a bunch of other things that are options, like the "Sound Options", but calling it "Map Options" is almost the same matter, since we have a bunch of options that are options for the map too (the zoom etc.), and the map is definitely the original skin (and the others are called mapskins), not the games, where these options are, that can exist as multiple xml for a single map.
Just to reiterate, I think whether a game option is marginal or popular, has everything to do with giving players a chance to see this option in action. A couple enthusiastic playgroups adopting the same standard improves the chances of it becoming popular more generally among the broader player base. TripleA started out as a clone of the table top experience, but it has since developed a life of its own, with a regular following and pretty strong community. I think if we give it the nod and make it acceptable, there's a good chance that many players may start to see this income bonus idea as a more attractive method of balancing the game or determining "who plays who" than bidding. Or even if it doesnt replace bidding as the most popular method, players would have at least have one established alternative to bidding that doesn't mess with the normal phases of play.
We've done something similar before with Low Luck. Even if I don't really enjoy the LL playstyle myself, it certainly became a lot more popular once it was included as a standard option in tripleA. What used to be a pretty marginal thing in tournament or house rules play, became common.
I guess I'm already a convert, since I have used income bonuses for years in my own HRs, so none of this seems out of place for the human player. Just a lot more convenient than constantly editing to make it work.
Income to me is just the simplest way to modify the game. Whether one chooses to have a single large bonus only to starting income, or a smaller recurring bonus to regular income per round, I think these can create the desired balance while still staying somewhat true to the opening play pattern as designed. Either method seems easier to implement than a pre-placement bid, so maybe I'm biased. But honestly I can see how some players might even like to do both at the same time, using bonuses and pre-placement bids together.
It wouldn't be the end of the world if I had to go in and mess with the Map Options (whatever it ends up being called) to access these features, but I definitely wouldn't make them exclusive to the AI simply as an expedient for a more streamlined launch UI. If the option exists I'd like to be able to use it for Human players too.
To me the whole idea of a basic income bonus, just provides an easy/intuitive way to scale the difficulty of play for a given player or team. Whether that player is human or AI doesn't really matter. It's just the idea of having a quick and ready way to make the gameplay more challenging. The issue with having the same bonus assigned to all AI players at once only comes up if you plan to assign players on your own team to AI control. Because then it is no longer an effective way to increase the difficulty of the challenge (since you're basically giving your team a bonus too) so it just seemed a lot more flexible to offer this option by player/nation.
Basically, a main issue that I can see is that mapmakers may want to be able to define, in the xml, defaults different from 100% per players, mainly to make AI-Challenge tuned games. This is not much of a problem for AI options that (like the old ones) are AI only, but if they are not AI only, then these bonuses become not AI bonuses, but "productivity" bonuses, and a mapmaker may make not-AI maps in which different players have different "productivity" (like Americans more productive than Chinese), that would, then, become confusing to re-use all the same for, either, AI challenge or rebalance or somesuch, of those same maps that already use them for other reasons, by the players, as those bonuses are primarily meant for.
I guess you can just put a very clear warning in pact of steel to never set in the xml these bonuses for anything else but to unbalance maps for AI challenge?
My suggestion to limit to AI only was mainly just to limit this confusion, about what these bonuses are supposed to be, but I can see the merits of keeping them open to PvP rebalancing, as an alternative or supplement to bid, as per what @Black_Elk advocates.
Ultimately, I'm leaning towards suggesting to have them as AI-only default (and showing only besides players assigned to AI), as my initial suggestion, but also having in Engine Preference a general setting (always applying, after you put it on) for having them always showing, and usable for Humans too.
Lots of good feedback and @Frostion really like the updated screenshot which helps visualize your suggestions. For now, I think I'll keep the income percentage available for both human and AI players.
Here are the latest changes: https://github.com/triplea-game/triplea/pull/1815
- Update player selection UI to be more intuitive and look cleaner
- Update bonus income to have starting point at 100% instead of 0%
I have not tested the newest build, but anything that compresses the amount of info on screen would be nice. I can't remember all that @Cernel wrote in the above posts, so maybe I will repeat something already mentioned. Sorry
I would say that this new percentage feature is very welcome. But altering the income of specific players on the map does seems to be just as much outside the standard intentions of a map as any of the other current "Map Options" players may control. And I would say that noob players would/should not fiddle with adjusting the income of players before at least playing a few games with the normal balance.
The extra information that this feature brings to the start screen / launch screen seems a bit out of place. As it is an advanced rule-altering play option, and not a basic mandatory option like choosing player-slots, it would be better placed in the current "Map Options". But as I have said before, the settings flood the options screen and destroys the possibility of getting a quick overview of these options.
May I suggest that this be moved back to Map Options, but be displayed in a simpler way. Would it not be possible to have a button inside the Map Options screen that opened up a new window with all these settings. This window could contain any settings that might be implemented in regards to resources options, including flat rate or whatever?
I think this would keep it simple, not confuse noobs, keep it away from the main launch window, not flood the options window and in the future we don't have to be impaired by how much visual space these resource settings take up.
This is one of the 2 main reasons why I suggested to have it restricted to the AI players, and magically appearing only in the moment in which any AI is selected for any players.
But I can see the PvP uses underlined by @Black_Elk (tho I'm still dubious that many will).
I'd rather now suggest a button in players selection in which you show / hide Income Modifiers, with the default being hidden, but with also a setting in Engine Preferences to set the default as shown.
To sum it up, I totally agree with @Frostion that it is bad having all that stuff in player selection as default, especially since I've little doubt it will be rarely used outside AI games, and AI games are not the main target of TripleA, but I also think that having it in selection screen makes it much more user friendly than somewhere in options, thus my suggestion of not having it until you just click on a button to make it appear, plus a way to define to have it default, if you prefer so.
Practically, instead of "a button inside the Map Options screen that opened up a new window with all these settings" I suggest a button in players selection to show all that stuff, there.
I don't have a huge opinion for the UI layout, whether it goes in the player selection screen or game menu screen. I can see advantages or disadvantages for either. I'm just really more interested in the functionality. A separate screen accessed out of the game options menu seems fine for me. As long as the option exists somewhere I'm happy.
I rather wish it wasn't such a persistent issue that A&A games would require rebalancing by the players. Would be nice if more could be built into the standard rules with some kind of randomization to prevent the first round game scripts from becoming static or stale overtime. But Larry has been trying for like 30 years, and I've yet to see a game that didn't require some form of bid or income adjustment or unit set up change at some point to restore interest or balance by sides once the game is cracked.
To me it seems kind of unreasonable (just based on past experience) to expect a perfectly balanced game design. A good balance between two players of equal skill is hard enough to achieve, but one that can also accommodate balance between players with a disparity in skill at the same time, that's a pretty tall order.
Even if a game is constantly updated by the designer with new revisions based on player feedback and such, invariably a point is reached where the map maker takes a bow (the game goes out of print say) and then it's basically up to players to take the reigns if they want to give it an afterlife. When a map is brand new, these issues are a lot less pronounced. It's only after it's been out for a year or two, and experts have played the scenario to death, that you start to really see players pushing for changes. And in those cases they are always looking for some standard to follow. You'll hear questions on the forums like "what side has the advantage for this game?" Or "how do we fix such and such a move from being so broken and overpowered" or "why does this one side always lose, and what should I do about it?"
The standard bid process was developed to address these sorts of issues in tournament play, but it still leaves something to be desired. Typically what happens is that the bid will be used to break one of the major round one TUV trades, so you end up with a first round battle that becomes all or nothing. If the battle works then the game is balanced, if the battle fails it's totally unbalanced. That's the constant problem with pre-placement bids.
Regular income adjustment by contrast, pushes things further out and makes it harder to predict. Nobody is flipping the board, or quitting after the first round, because the results of some key turn 1 battle means that a loss for their side is now inevitable.
That might work great for a live tournament with strict time constraints, but it's important to recall that tournament play isn't necessarily the way people game at home or on the computer. In a tournament you want a rapid turn around, with very clear signals to the players like "hey it's obvious now that you're going to lose eventually, so don't drag it out." Or "OK, hurry up and quit so we can get to the next game in the play-offs." Hehe
For the choice of balancing mechanism, it really just comes down to whether you want to front load all the major 'gives and takes' so the game is easier to call early (pre-placement bid), or somehow push these major TUV trades onto the back burner so the game has more time to develop (income adjustment.) Personally I favor the later for a more satisfying play experience over-all, but that may just be my own bias showing through.
On the table top I don't much like the idea of a game that takes an hour to set up, and then 3 minutes to completely unravel, if a particular round one bid battle goes sour. Some people play LL just to control for this stuff, though I find that playstyle largely unsatisfying myself. For me it's better by far to have a moderate ongoing bonus, that allows for a build up of advantage over time, or opportunities for recovery even if the initial losses are catastrophic haha. But that's me. Others may like different solutions, to this ever present and seemingly intractable problem haha.
So I tend to agree with limiting the amount of information the user initially sees. My thought is to have a button either on the main screen under "Map Options" or on the player selection screen to expand/collapse/popup player settings besides choosing players called something like "Show/Hide Advanced Player Options".
I still think moving bid into the player selection screen makes more sense and makes it easier to display. It could either be displayed by default or be included in the advanced player options.