Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

General discussion for players of Oolite.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Disembodied »

SiriusCG wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 2:56 pm
Perhaps it's time to consider a game rebalance so new players don't have to dive headfirst in knowing ".plist arcana" or how to choose the right mods into the game to survive it?
+1 from me. The easiest way to do this would be to increase the difference between "safe" and "dangerous" systems. Pirates in Corporate States should be very rare, and pirate packs there should be incredibly rare. For Democracies, replace "very rare" with "rare". Most trips to these systems should - other considerations aside, e.g. carrying "interesting" packages etc. - should be excitement-free.

Occasional pirates (or two) should crop up in Confederacies, and be rather more common in Communist systems. Dictatorships: more common still. Multi-government, Feudal, and Anarchy systems will have ever-more pirates to deal with.

New players can - and should - stick to safe systems. When they've developed more experience, and gained better equipment, they can venture into deeper, darker waters.

There is something to be said for allowing some variation to these rules: a Democracy with 5 Anarchy neighbours should be more of a challenge than one surrounded by more stable states. Perhaps the way to achieve this would be to count the number of Anarchies (or Anarchies and Feudal? Score 1 for Anarchies, 0.5 for Feudal?) within 7LY of any system and adjust its pirate frequency upwards. Confederacies, Democracies and Corporate States could also have the numbers of Viper patrols increased in these circumstances, too … maybe Dictatorships and Multi-Government worlds could have increased Bounty Hunter presences. However, all that said, visiting a Democracy or Corporate State, a Clean player should feel reasonably confident that their trip will be trouble-free.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by SiriusCG »

The easiest way to do this would be to increase the difference between "safe" and "dangerous" systems. Pirates in Corporate States should be very rare, and pirate packs there should be incredibly rare. For Democracies, replace "very rare" with "rare". Most trips to these systems should - other considerations aside, e.g. carrying "interesting" packages etc. - should be excitement-free.
+1

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Redspear »

SiriusCG wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 5:44 pm
The easiest way to do this would be to increase the difference between "safe" and "dangerous" systems. Pirates in Corporate States should be very rare, and pirate packs there should be incredibly rare. For Democracies, replace "very rare" with "rare". Most trips to these systems should - other considerations aside, e.g. carrying "interesting" packages etc. - should be excitement-free.
+1
That's what we used to have.
Then something similar (although admittedly more severe) to this idea came along...
Disembodied wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 4:35 pm
There is something to be said for allowing some variation to these rules: a Democracy with 5 Anarchy neighbours should be more of a challenge than one surrounded by more stable states. Perhaps the way to achieve this would be to count the number of Anarchies (or Anarchies and Feudal? Score 1 for Anarchies, 0.5 for Feudal?) within 7LY of any system and adjust its pirate frequency upwards.
The idea was good but the problem is that it doesn't suit an essentially random distribution of governments (crude maths here).

That thread follows with some ideas about how to 'fix' the situation but if I was starting from scratch with the current approach of neighbours influencing safely then a non-random (or at least partially so) distribution of governments would be a good idea consideration... But then imagining Riedquat as, say a democracy, would take some getting used to (at least if you'd played elite before).
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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Disembodied »

Redspear wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 6:09 pm
Disembodied wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 4:35 pm
There is something to be said for allowing some variation to these rules: a Democracy with 5 Anarchy neighbours should be more of a challenge than one surrounded by more stable states. Perhaps the way to achieve this would be to count the number of Anarchies (or Anarchies and Feudal? Score 1 for Anarchies, 0.5 for Feudal?) within 7LY of any system and adjust its pirate frequency upwards.
The idea was good but the problem is that it doesn't suit an essentially random distribution of governments (crude maths here).

That thread follows with some ideas about how to 'fix' the situation but if I was starting from scratch with the current approach of neighbours influencing safely then a non-random (or at least partially so) distribution of governments would be a good idea consideration... But then imagining Riedquat as, say a democracy, would take some getting used to (at least if you'd played elite before).
Yes, I think such an idea should be strictly limited to "odd" Democracies and Corporate States. If there's one or two neighbouring Anarchies, there's no change. Only those with (say) 4 or 5+ problem systems nearby might have pirate problems of their own - met with increased Viper and/or Bounty Hunter patrols. If it's too complicated, though, I'd just drop it: I think having a strong difference between safe and dangerous systems would be more important.

For beginning players, though, being prepared to dump some cargo to shake off pirate attention is a valuable tactic, in that it does actually work.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Astrobe »

I don't think it solves the problem - or rather, the real problem behind this one, which is that the game gets easier as you progress. It should be the opposite.

Even if you tweak the systems' population, you can still be caught by pirates and dodging them all the way to the station is a painful experience. Spending the first few hours in the game fleeing away from each yellow dot that appears on the radar because of that possibility is not the best definition of fun either.

Furthermore, chances are that beginners will still be locked down to milk runs between super-safe systems until they can afford the basic equipment. At some point, they'll have to guess if they can or not jump to that somewhat less-safe system. Guess because they have no experience. Even with experience, the luck factor makes things quite uncertain anyway.

Additionally, this assumes that the player starts with a Cobra III, which is bad for the progression path in the game because you start with the ship that is designed to become OP and OP (overpowered and omnipotent).

One has to implement a device that lets beginners escape bad situation/luck that cannot be abused later.

Some sort of cloaking device could be a good choice, but since it already exists one has to find something else. Let's have a speed boost then. A temporary, energy-based (no fuel, no injector) speed boost that let you evade pirates as long as you can point your ship in the right direction.
However, forcing engine output with energy is not good at all for the engine (add cabin heat increase for the ambiance), so it degrades the service level of the ship.

So basically, you buy your way out of a bad encounter but it costs more if you have a better ship. If the cost is peanuts in the late game, use the cargo capacity as a multiplier for the service level decrease. This should help people think twice before pressing that button.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Redspear »

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
I don't think it solves the problem - or rather, the real problem behind this one, which is that the game gets easier as you progress. It should be the opposite.
Yeah, but that only becomes obvious at a certain stage of the game, what we've been discussing is from the outset and potentially prevents players from discovering the one you mention.

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Furthermore, chances are that beginners will still be locked down to milk runs between super-safe systems until they can afford the basic equipment. At some point, they'll have to guess if they can or not jump to that somewhat less-safe system. Guess because they have no experience. Even with experience, the luck factor makes things quite uncertain anyway.
That's what the (actually rather attractive - certainly for 1984) elite manual was for but a pdf these days just isn't the same. So I think you're right, that is an issue.

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Additionally, this assumes that the player starts with a Cobra III, which is bad for the progression path in the game because you start with the ship that is designed to become OP and OP (overpowered and omnipotent).
Agreed. Good choice for a game where you can't change ship, bad for a game where you can.

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
One has to implement a device that lets beginners escape bad situation/luck that cannot be abused later.

Some sort of cloaking device could be a good choice, but since it already exists one has to find something else. Let's have a speed boost then. A temporary, energy-based (no fuel, no injector) speed boost that let you evade pirates as long as you can point your ship in the right direction.
However, forcing engine output with energy is not good at all for the engine (add cabin heat increase for the ambiance), so it degrades the service level of the ship.
Interesting but the beginner will likely try to run when already low on energy. Otherwise running pre-emptively is a bit tragic as a regular strategy IMO.

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
So basically, you buy your way out of a bad encounter but it costs more if you have a better ship. If the cost is peanuts in the late game, use the cargo capacity as a multiplier for the service level decrease. This should help people think twice before pressing that button.
Cheaper escape pods? You'd still lose all your cargo but not your equipment.

If you're that rich then the escape pod cost isn't much anyway but if you really wanted it to be significant then its cost could be relative to the player ship (a better idea if player starts in a lesser ship than the mk III).

If escape pods were standard issue however (and why wouldnt they be on a ship as big as a mk III?) then more players might use them rather than simply reloading a save or starting again. I think I rather like that idea - thanks Astrobe, I can feel an oxp coming on :)
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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Norby »

An energy-consuming speed boost of ships which missing Injectors is a good idea imho. To make it unusable in attack (so only for run) it can consume frontal shields too and lock steering. I can imagine auto turn on in the red speed area (top 20%).
This way new Commanders can survive pirate attacks (and reduce masslock times) until fuel injectors replace the energy injection.

Another idea is an auto dump for pirates, even restricted to food only, or allow Gem-stones also which doesn't consume cargo space.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Redspear »

Norby wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 11:18 pm
An energy-consuming speed boost of ships which missing Injectors is a good idea imho. To make it unusable in attack (so only for run) it can consume frontal shields too and lock steering. I can imagine auto turn on in the red speed area (top 20%).
This way new Commanders can survive pirate attacks (and reduce masslock times) until fuel injectors replace the energy injection.
My power to engines oxp does similar and yet is very simple.

Switching weapons to offline mode (by the usual means) grants a speed boost. So it's useful for both running and against masslocks but you can't use it for aggression.
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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by SiriusCG »

I don't think it solves the problem - or rather, the real problem behind this one, which is that the game gets easier as you progress. It should be the opposite.
I wonder if difficulty might not be tied to the Galaxy you find yourself in? 8 galaxies currently, yes? 1 = easiest diff to 8 = insane. I can see a couple of pluses ... The first being it might just make the game logic simpler to apply new rules to an entire galaxy then separate systems in it. The second would be to be an incentive to spur players to make the jumps to the next galaxy to increase their oolite prowness.

Just thinkin' ...

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Redspear »

SiriusCG wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 12:15 am
I wonder if difficulty might not be tied to the Galaxy you find yourself in?
Considered here.

Assuming one installs suitable oxps to make oolite more forgiving from the outset, I think this is currently my favoured way of managing difficulty within the game (although it's likely in need of an update...)
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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by SiriusCG »

Redspear wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 12:28 am
SiriusCG wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 12:15 am
I wonder if difficulty might not be tied to the Galaxy you find yourself in?
Considered here.

Assuming one installs suitable oxps to make oolite more forgiving from the outset, I think this is currently my favoured way of managing difficulty within the game (although it's likely in need of an update...)
Thanks for the links Red. I will have to spend some time getting up to speed on how oolite is scripted I can see. It's been some time since I delved into the wiki ...

Cheers.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Rekrul »

Redspear wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 1:59 am
Reducing that element (player centricity) changes the game considerably.
Actually, that was one of things I always wished was different about Elite. I always envied the Archimedes version for the fact that it wasn't player centric. In this regard, the Amiga version felt even more hollow than the C64 version. Thargoids appeared alongside normal pirates. Pirates always attacked in groups of two or three and you'd encounter them like clockwork on the way to an anarchy planet. Although the manual talks about the police protecting you inside the safe zone, I suspect that the early versions of Elite were written so that no ship would ever attack/follow you within that zone, so they wouldn't have to program the routines for the police attacking other ships. In the Amiga version, Thargoids will follow you into the safe zone (all other ships break off their attack), and if you return fire, the police will kill you!

That said, making the game non-player centric doesn't automatically increase the difficulty. If pirates only attacked a couple at a time, it would probably be possible to survive, but against 5-8, a new player in a stock ship has no hope of winning.

Just the improved graphics and lighting adds a layer of difficulty to fights. You can't target what you can't see. Don't get me wrong, I love the updated graphics, but it shows how difficult it would be to actually fight in space. :)
Redspear wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 1:59 am
With the original elite I think the difficulty was generally set well for the beginning player: challenging but rewarding.
As I recall, when Elite was still a new game, docking was what discouraged most people. They didn't understand the controls and because free-roaming 3D games were a relatively new concept for home computers, a lot of people couldn't get a handle on the idea of lining a ship up with a rotating 3D object. Add to that, that being able to tell the angle of a wireframe model on a 320x200 pixel display wasn't the easiest thing to do. Everyone I knew who played the game made buying a docking computer their first priority.

To be honest, I struggled a little to perform manual docks in the C64 version. The Amiga version was much easier. The station always appeared in a fixed position relative to the planet. Just aim for the halfway point between the station and the planet, watch out the side view, stop when lined up, then roll/climb until it's in the front view.

In Oolite, docking is super-easy, even with keyboard. I target the station to ask permission while I'm still some distance away (it seems I'm more likely to get immediate clearance from a distance than if I wait until I'm closer), then head full-speed toward the nav buoy. If I'm granted clearance by the time I get there, I don't even slow down, just swing around toward the station right before I get to the buoy, roll at the last minute to make sure I enter the docking bay flat and zoom right in.
Norby wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 3:43 pm
In general, you should not attack group of enemies. Better if you hit one, then run on injectors to separate it from others and turn back when there are no others on the scanner and win in a duel.
So far, the only ship I attacked on purpose was one that the police were already chasing. I just wanted to join in the fun. :)
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Spending the first few hours in the game fleeing away from each yellow dot that appears on the radar because of that possibility is not the best definition of fun either.
In an un-tweaked game, you don't have to flee from every yellow dot. Pirates always attack in groups, so you only need to get nervous when there's a whole group of yellow dots.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Disembodied »

Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
I don't think it solves the problem - or rather, the real problem behind this one, which is that the game gets easier as you progress. It should be the opposite.

Even if you tweak the systems' population, you can still be caught by pirates and dodging them all the way to the station is a painful experience. Spending the first few hours in the game fleeing away from each yellow dot that appears on the radar because of that possibility is not the best definition of fun either.
Beginning players should run away from pirates. Dumping cargo to buy them off works, too. Plus beginners can (and should) stick to safe systems, where they shouldn't meet many/any pirates.

Rather than create a game where enemies start off easy and get slowly more fearsome as the player improves, the aim is to create roughly three games which overlap: the Easy game (Corporate States, Democracies, and Confederacies); the Medium game (Confederacies, Communists, Dictatorships); and the Hard game (Dictatorships, Multi-government, Feudal, and Anarchies). Experienced players with top-notch equipment can go anywhere they like; beginners, though, should stick to the paddling-pool, unless they feel lucky/desperate, and if they get caught then those are the breaks.
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Furthermore, chances are that beginners will still be locked down to milk runs between super-safe systems until they can afford the basic equipment. At some point, they'll have to guess if they can or not jump to that somewhat less-safe system. Guess because they have no experience. Even with experience, the luck factor makes things quite uncertain anyway.
There will always be a point where players have to see if they're up to the next challenge. There's no way around this, no matter how the game is shaped.
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Additionally, this assumes that the player starts with a Cobra III, which is bad for the progression path in the game because you start with the ship that is designed to become OP and OP (overpowered and omnipotent).
True, but this is part of the basic mass-lock problem: the player's ship has to be faster than other ships. And if the player started in e.g. an Adder, the need to provide a paddling-pool is if anything even greater.
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
One has to implement a device that lets beginners escape bad situation/luck that cannot be abused later.
We already have this: dump cargo when pirates demand it. Drop 5TCs of pirate kibble and flee.

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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Cody »

Disembodied wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:14 pm
Dumping cargo to buy them off works.
Aye! Ain't the cosmic dice wonderful. Took a virgin Jameson from Lave to Zaonce to see how much kibble it'd cost. 'Twas a milk run! Then on to Isinor, which was also a milk run. Next to Qutiri, which cost me 5+3 - not bad.
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Re: Why was the difficulty of pirates set so high?

Post by Redspear »

Rekrul wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:31 am
That said, making the game non-player centric doesn't automatically increase the difficulty.
If the comparison is with the original elite then I think it does.

In elite the pirates exist purely as adversaries to the player. It's both their role and their 'motivation'. they don't consider the 'odds', they just attack until near death. In order to fulfil that role they have weaker lasers and weaker hulls even when they are nominally the same ship as the player. This is not necessary but it is often true and, I believe, in no way contrary to player centic design. For a challenge their are occasionally pirate packs, thargoids and even special missions. That works quite well as with a bit of practice there is lots of cannon fodder to help you get started but bigger challenges (packs) in the more dangerous systems.

In oolite however, the pirates exist as adversaries to traders generally. The player is no longer their sole target and so it makes sense that they do consider the odds. It also makes sense that their ships and lasers are (at least initially) no worse than those available to the player (assuming non-player centricity here). It further makes sense that they attack most frequently when the odds appear to be heavily in their favour.

If the above is all true then I believe it follows that piracy is much more of a threat than it was in elite, even when only attacked by a solitary adversary.

Having said all of that, yes, 5-8 pirates is still overkill in my book.

Rekrul wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:31 am
As I recall, when Elite was still a new game, docking was what discouraged most people. They didn't understand the controls and because free-roaming 3D games were a relatively new concept for home computers, a lot of people couldn't get a handle on the idea of lining a ship up with a rotating 3D object. Add to that, that being able to tell the angle of a wireframe model on a 320x200 pixel display wasn't the easiest thing to do. Everyone I knew who played the game made buying a docking computer their first priority.
You had to really line up in elite wheras you can get away with a bit of an angle in oolite. It was wise to take your time to line up and at first it was a pain but once you'd got a routine you were fine. IIRC you didn't even need to match rotation on the spectrunm version, just line up straight.

Disembodied wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:14 pm
Rather than create a game where enemies start off easy and get slowly more fearsome as the player improves, the aim is to create roughly three games which overlap: the Easy game (Corporate States, Democracies, and Confederacies); the Medium game (Confederacies, Communists, Dictatorships); and the Hard game (Dictatorships, Multi-government, Feudal, and Anarchies). Experienced players with top-notch equipment can go anywhere they like; beginners, though, should stick to the paddling-pool, unless they feel lucky/desperate, and if they get caught then those are the breaks.
Fair enough but they overlap rather significantly at the moment from what I can tell.

Disembodied wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:14 pm
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
Furthermore, chances are that beginners will still be locked down to milk runs between super-safe systems until they can afford the basic equipment. At some point, they'll have to guess if they can or not jump to that somewhat less-safe system. Guess because they have no experience. Even with experience, the luck factor makes things quite uncertain anyway.
There will always be a point where players have to see if they're up to the next challenge. There's no way around this, no matter how the game is shaped.
I think the point is that government type = danger is not obvious in game (i.e. you have to have read it somehere) and furthermore it's not obvious that a multi-government (for example) is less dangerous than a feudal system.

One might infer that if you can find a milk run you can work out all of the above. However, even if one does understand all of that, throw in influence from neigbouring systems (is that even in the manual?) and it's just become much more confusing.

How much influence? From all neighbours or just some?
Honestly, I don't know the answers to those questions.

Disembodied wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:14 pm
True, but this is part of the basic mass-lock problem: the player's ship has to be faster than other ships. And if the player started in e.g. an Adder, the need to provide a paddling-pool is if anything even greater.
There are solutions to this but they often depend on which of elites 'sacred cows' one is prepared to sacrifice.

Disembodied wrote:
Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:14 pm
Astrobe wrote:
Sun Mar 15, 2020 9:03 pm
One has to implement a device that lets beginners escape bad situation/luck that cannot be abused later.
We already have this: dump cargo when pirates demand it. Drop 5TCs of pirate kibble and flee.
Genuine questions: do they always request cargo? If so, are they always true to their word?
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