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[Document] The core problems of 0AD and mitigation solutions


Sevda
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@AIEND Has put much effort into typing up a document that outlines the fundamental problems of 0AD so far and solutions to fix them. Being an expert RTS player who has played a large variety of RTS games, his opinions will certainly be worth considering. The origininal document was typed in Chinese and I will translate it here. I believe this might provide a solution to the endless balancing discussions and new balancing issues the crop up every alpha. 

Orginal document: 0AD修正[352].docx

Edited by Sevda
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  • Sevda changed the title to [Document] The core problems of 0AD and mitigation solutions

Part 1: 

The core problem of 0AD is that the fundamental settings (designs) are incomplete, which hinders our ability to make improvements, for example, citizen-soldiers,  territory, phases and heroes.

 

1. Citizen-Soldiers

 

The original intention of adding citizen-soldiers was to combine worker units and soldier units of most RTS games into 1 category, in order to simplify the gameplay. However, this was not successful in practice. Eventually, we gave birth to 3 categories of workers: women, citizen infantry and citizen cavalry, on top of mercenaries who function as builders. Aside from them are the champions, mercenary cavalry and heroes, who cannot work. The division into these categories not only didn’t simplify the matter but replaced the 2 unit types with a much more complicated unit categorisation system, defying the purpose.

 

At the same time,  0AD aims to be historically accurate, but the design of citizen soldiers juxtaposes with the aim because it relies on the principle that all civilisations have similar basic unit trees and identical stats, for balance.  For example, some civs have archers while others don’t. In order to balance the civs, archers are javelineers cost identical amounts of resources and archers had their attack stats weakened to a historically inaccurate extent just to compensate for the javlineers’ range disadvantage. This results in later-added archer civs (e.g. Han, Scythians, Kushites) being placed at a disadvantage in military, even though historically they were quite advanced in military and technology. On the contrary, in a RTS with a clear division between workers and soldiers, all you needed to do was to give archers a higher skill requirement and more resource cost to balance.

 

Aside from this, in order to not overcomplicate the units required to boom your eco, citizen soldiers cost mostly wood and food, which not only banished the classification of units based on demands for rare metal prevalent in other RTS games (in AoE, javlineers and spearmen who cost only food and wood are separate from their swordsman and cavalry units which cost metal), but also resulted in players floating spare metal. Since citizen soldiers and structures do not conflict with mercenaries in resource requirement, mercenaries which only cost metal become ‘cheap’, resulting in them destroying the balance. The immense demand for wood to build cities do conflict with the training of citizen soldiers. On low wood maps designed in the past, this troubles players without mercenary units (making Carth, Maury, Ptol OP on these maps).

 

The status quo of citizen-soldiers not only hinders the adjustments of stats based on historical facts, but also amplified the complexity of worker units and monopolised the demand for wood and food, which is not worthwhile. Therefore, refering to AoE, AoM, etc, I think we should make the following adjustments:

 

1. Adding civilians of both genders that only cost food. They have the highest efficiency at collecting resources and building structures. Use civilians to replace starting infantry.

2. Adjust all infantry except for heroes to become ‘frontline builders’, such that they can chop wood and build military facilities including siege engines. The efficiency of working is independent from their military rank.

3. All cavalry and infantry (except heroes) are ‘part time hunters’; they can gather hunt at a similar rate as civilians.  

4. Citizen spearman, swordsman, pikeman, archer and cavalry cost different amounts of food and metal, only. Javlins and slingers who don’t need metal are defined as ‘trash units’

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lol

so the *mitigation* strategy for a unit categorization problem is  to remake from scratch the whole eco of the game?

criticizing the citizen-soldier concept: you are doing it wrong

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59 minutes ago, alre said:

so the *mitigation* strategy for a unit categorization problem is  to remake from scratch the whole eco of the game?

Not necessarily.

The problem with CS arises because the optimal total unit composition--when a player needs both economic and military work done as fast as possible--is pure CS, rather than a mix of CS and Civilian units. This means that 1. there is very little tradeoff between economic and military buildups and 2. it is possible to instantly pivot from a 100% economic strategy to a 100% military strategy, and back, with no build-up or fore warning. These factors, combined with 0AD's commitment to soft (i.e. weak) or non-existent counters, makes for a very simplified strategic environment. CS provide your offense, your defense, and your economy all in one place, better than a mix of CS and Civilian.

Put another way, CS is just too near parity to civilians in terms cost effectiveness for economic tasks. If they were made less effective at harvesting (and maybe building), or if their cost were increased, that would tip the scales more in favor of making CS + Civilian mixes. Efficiency at economic tasks would then be less of a critical balance point for CS units, once it is no longer one of their primary responsibilities: meaning more freedom to change movement speed or price without breaking the game; resource harvesting and building become a bonus thing CS are able to do when they are not preforming their primary purpose of military action. All without ever needing to abandon the historically authentic concept that ancient soldiers usually performed non-military roles within their societies in addition to their martial service.

Edited by ChronA
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^The booming=turtling discussion from like a year ago.

Mercenaries have been a step in the right direction in this regard but have produced some OP units (merc cav)

I think the simplest and most effective way to proceed with decoupling economic boom from military buildup is to add a male unarmed unit that gathers faster than CS infantry. Ideally it would cost like 75 or 80 food (or maybe like 35 metal as a "purchase"), become available in p2,  and have the following gather rates:  food: 1, wood: 1, metal: .75, stone: .75.  Starting hp 50, also affected by loom. Since the unit would be pretty powerful, perhaps it should only come from CC at 2x train time of woman.

Unit could be called slave, or villager if we think this is immoral to have in the game (historically there were slaves for sure). 

The point is that the fastest boom will not involve citizen soldiers, but will be incredibly risky. Also, it will mean that Citizen soldiers are better used for fighting in more scenarios, which would break some inhibitions for early attacks for non-cav units, as well as breaking the couple between military loss and economic loss for infantry.

 

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5 hours ago, Sevda said:

The core problem of 0AD is that the fundamental settings (designs) are incomplete, which hinders our ability to make improvements, for example, citizen-soldiers,  territory, phases and heroes.

This is a non-problem. The game is not complicated, honestly it is more simple than AOE2.

I quite honestly don't understand what is the problem here. How on earth is the game design limiting development? Why do we need to completely overhaul the game design? I don't see how this fixes anything to be honest.

9 minutes ago, Player of 0AD said:

Most important core problems of 0ad are about Multiplayer

- ddos
- loading doesnt work
- joining matches not always possible
- no replay if rejoin

these are real problems.

If I may add performance issues, but this is already understood.

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Posted (edited)

Everyone calm down! I was doing the translation, these are not my opinions, I am simply acting as an upgraded Google Translate Pro VIP++ 

Of course, there might be imperfections in my translations.

I also must add that I have never played AoE or AoM before; the closest thing to an RTS was Ice age village and maybe PVZ2.

Edited by Sevda
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I like the core idea of how 0a.d works, so maybe I wouldn't change anything about how it works now. Regarding spam, I think adding viable strategies on the map, such as treasures, alliances, abandoned fortresses among others, can help. The objective is to add other means of achieving victory other than just making large numbers of soldiers. Champions must be trained in p1. They must be really strong compared to conventional soldiers, this would encourage them to spend resources training champions instead of more citizen soldiers. Also champions must have some sort of special skill, like being able to train siege units or special buildings like towers that can be built on enemy terrain.

Edited by borg-
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4 minutes ago, borg- said:

siege units

or various levels of siege ram. from a trunk(log) to conventional ram.

And the arsonists in the tribes to burn buildings.This will offset some of the firepower of siege engines like catapults.

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10 minutes ago, Sevda said:

Everyone calm down! I was doing the translation, these are not my opinions, I am simply acting as an upgraded Google Translate Pro VIP++ 

Of course, there might be imperfections in my translations.

 

Use DeepL translator.

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6 minutes ago, Lion.Kanzen said:

ou vários níveis de aríete de cerco. de um tronco (log) para ram convencional.

E os incendiários das tribos para queimar prédios. Isso compensará parte do poder de fogo das máquinas de cerco, como catapultas.

Exactly, you pay 500 gold to a tribe, it gives you 10 extremely fast units with a very burn power, but weak for general combat, or 5 units of 2 men and a trunk, much faster than a conventional ram, capable of destroying buildings in a more stealthy way. We could have relics around the map as an old metal mine, with infinite metal or a large metal mine and some towers around, which would make it difficult for the enemy to fight these collectors.

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1 minute ago, real_tabasco_sauce said:

is he really?

He has played many RTS games before and his expert analysis of 0ad did impress me. I myself am not a RTS expert so I don't know how knowledgeable he is compared to others on the forum.

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1 minute ago, Sevda said:

He has played many RTS games before and his expert analysis of 0ad did impress me. I myself am not a RTS expert so I don't know how knowledgeable he is compared to others on the forum.

Yes, it seems AOE3 was his favorite. I thought u meant like pro-level aoe player.

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1 hour ago, Sevda said:

He has played many RTS games before and his expert analysis of 0ad did impress me. I myself am not a RTS expert so I don't know how knowledgeable he is compared to others on the forum.

7 hours ago, Sevda said:

citizen soldiers cost mostly wood and food, which not only banished the classification of units based on demands for rare metal prevalent in other RTS games (in AoE, javlineers and spearmen who cost only food and wood are separate from their swordsman and cavalry units which cost metal), but also resulted in players floating spare metal.

No expert RTS player will say that the cost of CS soldiers is the cause for players floating spare metal. Because any expert player will not waste energy to collect any resources that are not being spent.

What age of empires 2 does better than 0ad is the following: When a player reaches the next age, the timing difference between you and your opponent is hugely important. important crucial timing difference is not a single moment in the game, but it happens when players reach both castle age and imperial age. Only after these important timings have passed away, players are able to think about unlocking their full arsenal. So age of empires has 2 very important moments in the game  before you can start working on unlocking your full arsenal (getting all the relevant technologies of the so called post imperial age).

In 0ad for comparison often see the following: there are 0 import stages of the game before unlocking your full arsenal and players cruise nearly mindlessly the position to unlock their full arsenal (p3 with all relevant forge technologies).

 

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1 hour ago, LetswaveaBook said:

In 0ad for comparison often see the following: there are 0 import stages of the game before unlocking your full arsenal and players cruise nearly mindlessly the position to unlock their full arsenal (p3 with all relevant forge technologies).

yes, I hear youtubers talking about different civs "power spikes." I think this is like what you are referring to. Ie once Koreans are castle age they get war wagons which is a good time to go on the attack. However, I think 0ad does this to some degree too, and that more civ differentiation would likely increase power spikes.

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1 hour ago, LetswaveaBook said:

No expert RTS player will say that the cost of CS soldiers is the cause for players floating spare metal. Because any expert player will not waste energy to collect any resources that are not being spent.

good observation. That probably goes for any RTS game that uses resources.

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One thing i notice about citizen soldiers is that it makes raiding/harassing way less profitable and interesting than in AoE. One thing that could be interesting if that male citizens would have to get their equipment at the nearest barracks(after all I doubt soldiers were chopping wood in full armored gear). That would also add the importance of protecting military buildings, having your only barracks knocked over would leave you defenseless. Having your men picking resources too far from their barracks would also be very punishable.

 

Of course I am a noob and I know this would probably be too complicated to implement, I just wanted to give my two cents about it :)

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3 minutes ago, Sp00ky said:

One thing i notice about citizen soldiers is that it makes raiding/harassing way less profitable and interesting than in AoE. One thing that could be interesting if that male citizens would have to get their equipment at the nearest barracks(after all I doubt soldiers were chopping wood in full armored gear). T

rational thinking, but impractical when it comes to gameplay.

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@Sevda Stop wasting time on 0ad and revise

The full translation of AIEND's file is here

I didn't read what's inside the document and I don't have any idea what you guys are talking about. I will check out A26 when it releases, otherwise I'm gone, and I don't care how you guys balance it because perfect balance is simply not possible with real humans behind the keyboard and 13 different civs. 

 

[]=========================================================================================================================[]

 

The core problem of 0AD is that some basic settings are in a half-assed state, which affects the overall improvement of various aspects, such as citizen soldiers, frontiers, stages, and heroes.

I. Citizen Soldiers

The original purpose of adding citizen soldiers was to merge most of the labor units and combat units in RTS into one category, simplifying the player's operation.
However, it was not successful in the actual setup, and eventually gave birth to three types of laborers, namely women, citizen infantry, and citizen cavalry, plus builders like hired infantry, and even hired cavalry and champions and heroes who could not labor, which in turn made the original simple and easy to understand labor/combat unit dichotomy replaced by a more complicated and troublesome distinction system.
At the same time, since 0AD is a game based on historical facts, and the citizen-soldier setting has a reliance on the premise that the basic soldier tree is common and consistent across factions, but this is not possible in the game.
For example, some factions have archers and some don't, and the game is forced to make archers and javelin throwers equal in cost and weaken archer stats in order to maintain faction balance, resulting in subsequent games that add countries that have historically had higher military technology and only have bow-like archers will tend to be weaker in faction balance (e.g. Han and Xiongnu, Serbian species), whereas in a labor/combat dichotomy game, you only need to give archers higher skill requirements and higher costs to balance.
In addition, in order to keep the types of resources needed to develop the economy less complex, citizen soldiers cost mostly food and wood, which not only makes it unfeasible to distinguish different classes of units of the same level by relatively scarce metal resources in other RTS (units such as javelinmen and gunners in Age of Empires that consume only wood and food are distinguished from swordsmen, archers and knights that consume metal with food or wood) This even leads to idle metal resources, as citizen soldiers do not conflict with mercenaries, and mercenaries that only need metal even become "cheaper" and become a balance breaker. The high demand for wood also leads to interruptions in town building and citizen soldier training, and the scarcity of wood has been particularly troubling for players in the past on maps that were poorly designed and scattered with trees.
The current state of citizen soldiers, which affects the historical adjustment of soldier data and makes labor units complicated and resources spent singularly, is very costly, so with reference to games like Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, I think the following adjustments should be made.
1. add only the cost of food male and female civilians, can be the most efficient to complete the collection of various materials and engineering construction, with civilians to replace the opening given soldiers.
2. Adjust all infantry (except heroes) to "frontline builders", which can cut wood and build military facilities and even siege machines, and the labor efficiency will not be negatively correlated with combat experience.
3. Adjust all infantry and cavalry (except heroes) to "amateur hunters", who can hunt but can collect meat no more efficiently than civilians, and whose labor efficiency is not negatively correlated with combat experience.
4. Change the cost of citizen gunners, sword and shield players, lancers, archers and cavalrymen to food and metal, each with a different ratio of high to low.

II. Frontiers

The rise of countries with the same frontier concept, whose resources are non-consumable, requires players to control more resource points to achieve by limiting efficiency, so players need to keep expanding new towns to control more ground to improve collection efficiency and also increase depth, in the process, the cost of building new towns is also relatively low.
The cost of building a new town in 0AD is unusually high, requiring 500 wood & metal & stone, a total of 1500, far more than the Office of the Age of Empires, Age of Mythology and Rise of Nations, resulting in a rare player building a second Office in multiplayer games.
As a result, it is difficult for players to expand their towns to spread out their economic and military facilities and also to spread out their risks, and to build deep lines of defense to hinder enemy attacks, and they can only build the opening town and the only town as a "super city-state" and rely entirely on the army to protect it. Once the town is destroyed or lost, the player will never be able to return, as it will be difficult to rebuild the economy elsewhere, nor to rebuild the military and defense facilities quickly.
Therefore, to solve the problems caused by frontiers, a decentralized idea is needed to improve them.
1. lower the cost of the Office and the colony, limit it to 600 and 400 resources (400 wood + 200 stone and 250 wood + 150 stone are recommended), not train soldiers, as a building that simply trains civilians and recycles supplies, reduce HP, attack and frontier influence, and no longer consider it as a fortress-type defense facility.
2. Granary and depot buildings for gathering natural resources such as beasts, berries, wood and metals, and stones should be able to be built in neutral areas as well as docks. This will first effectively use the rich food sources on the map, without having to bother to start farming in the opening game, and will also facilitate a more decentralized placement of mineral resources on the map, avoiding the collection of one or two rich mines to become close to a de facto "infinite".
3. Arrow towers, forts and walls for security and defense should be built in neutral areas, with forts maintaining a certain frontier area of influence. This way, players can block the passages between mountains and forests with few stones through the walls, avoiding the embarrassment of "surrounding one's town with a large circle of walls", and also weakening the role of carts and cavalry and increasing the role of stone throwers. It is also possible to build a "fortress zone" with well-defended and military training facilities, which can be attacked and defended, to improve the role of the fortress, so that the situation does not fluctuate greatly with the army fighting downwind & upwind.
4. Military facilities and temples, which are theoretically occupied, will not get out of control due to the loss of offices and forts, avoiding speculative tactics caused by "office decapitation".
5. Significantly weaken the occupation efficiency of soldiers, especially the cavalry should be less efficient than the infantry.

III. Phase

Due to the presence of citizen-soldiers, 0AD combines labor and soldier training together with the economic start-up-reconnaissance phase and the economic maturity-readiness phase.
This results in a situation where 0AD does not have P1 in the usual sense (instead of P4 as some people think), but rather advances the next three phases, putting the content of P2 in other games at the beginning, where players start with melee infantry, archers and cavalry and most of the military training facilities, and compete from the beginning to develop the economy to maturity and readiness for war.
Due to the aforementioned problems with civic soldiers, players' post-opening work is very complicated, and it is even more difficult for new players to master the skills of operation, so many players complain that they have been left far behind by veteran players in the process of P1 to P2 (actually P2 to P3), and therefore have to choose to start the war in P1 (actually P2) to have some possibility of victory (and also the only game experience).
And as a rule, the work that players should do after the opening is relatively simple, there should not be too heavy work, should not allow players with different experience to be able to pull too big a gap between them through the operation, the game should be a process that gradually makes players tense up with the stage, not very tense at the beginning.
It is because of the lack of P1 in the usual sense that the pace of the game is not only overwhelming for new players who are new to this type of RTS game, but also tricky for those who are used to other RTS such as Age of Empires - they can't touch 0AD, which hinders us from promoting 0AD and thus expanding the player base, so in this regard, we have to adjust the stage in terms of game pacing.
1. Set P1 as the economic start - scouting stage, this stage can only train civilians and scouting cavalry (to replace the original melee or long-range cavalry given in the opening), no longer able to build barracks, stables, arrows and soldiers, players can collect food from beasts and berries faster, and the resources needed to train civilians will not conflict with building construction, upgrading from this stage to P2 only requires food Cost, 600~800 food is recommended.
2. P2 is the stage of economic maturity and expansion, during this period you can build military facilities and train soldiers, and also build primary siege machines, such as punching cars and prowlers and both can be cheaper (prowlers can only attack buildings and machines with rockets), players will start attacking and defending at this stage and completely defeat other players, upgrading from this stage to P3 requires food and metal costs, suggesting 1200 food + 800 metal. 800 metal.
3. P3 is the stage where the battle is white hot, when players can use all their offensive and defensive means to fight fiercely against each other on a map that is already close to being divided up.
4. P4? After P1 has been properly set up, P4 will be worthy of serious consideration as a valuable late stage. This stage should not be set up just for the sake of being set up, and should not just move some of the original P3 content here, or extend some of the already long enough tech lines by another level (e.g. economy and shield tech).
Instead, it should provide, for example, population cap increase, upgrade and direct training of advanced citizen soldiers, faster training of stronger champions, strengthening of siege machinery and defense facilities and navy, increase of trade efficiency, and other technologies (some of which should be gains that come with P4), with a suggested upgrade cost of 1500 food + 1000 metal.

IV. Heroes
   The game's view of heroes is more akin to an RPG perspective, these people themselves become "super soldiers" who provide some limited range of aura, even though most of the heroes are actually the historical kings of the various factions, but in the game is reflected more of a warrior and front-line generals, rather than generally give them and leader status macro-global gains that match their leadership status.
Ironically, however, this type of global gain is given to the same monarchs of all nations as if the king had no policy accomplishments while he was alive and only had some kind of spiritual power to bless the player when he died.
The design of the hero itself is far from being tapped for its design potential than adding an unexplained hearse, or deciding the faction gain by choosing the leader at the beginning of the game (if these appear in the game, there should not be a hero that can directly come on the field), at least the following changes can be made.
1. the heroes including cost attack and defense and other basic data to keep the same as similar champions, so that they return to ordinary people, can be trained in the Office, and the player can repeatedly train them (after death or rather wounded retirement, you can train the same hero again and can not train other heroes).
2. Each hero has at least one global gain, now used on the hearse gain can be referred to (DE module in the opening selection of the leader gain can also be referred to), but also should distinguish the heroes into front-line heroes that favor a small aura to improve the combat effectiveness of soldiers, in the policy heroes that favor global gain, and even a comprehensive hero that has both.
Different factions can favor having more of a certain type of hero according to faction characteristics, and choosing a hero also means choosing a fixed tactical route.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

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6 minutes ago, Yekaterina said:

perfect balance is simply not possible with real humans behind the keyboard and 13 different civs. 

This is true. No game has ever achieved this.balance is subjective. and so is human opinion.

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3 minutes ago, Yekaterina said:

 Stop wasting time on 0ad and revise

Good advice, thanks

4 minutes ago, Yekaterina said:

I didn't read what's inside the document and I don't have any idea what you guys are talking about. I will check out A26 when it releases, otherwise I'm gone, and I don't care how you guys balance it because perfect balance is simply not possible with real humans behind the keyboard and 13 different civs. 

 

I think the author's logic is sound, however, it contradicts with the majority of 0AD's current meta, which has caused discontent among lobby players so it seems.

P.S. I have been asked many times where you are, even though you don't play this game anymore. Seems like people miss you a lot. I have switched back to singleplayer A23, the download link is here if anyone still feels reminiscent of A23: https://releases.wildfiregames.com/

 

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