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IDProjectCategoryLast Update
0023085AI War 2[All Projects] Balance IssueJun 2, 2020 11:34 pm
ReporterswizzlewizzleAssigned To 
Status newResolutionopen 
Product Version2.012 Populous 
Fixed in Version 
Summary0023085: 10/10/10 Difficulty Intensity 10 Spire Victory - Balance improvements/difficulty increase needed
DescriptionSave pack detailing the win:

With the actual winning save attached here.

I have detailed this as a "bug"/balance issue here because, as far as I understand, your design for the game is that difficulty 10 should be a basically impossible difficulty. In my last difficulty 10 run, I heard comments from badger that since spire works outside of the AIP system, and doesn't seem to be affected much by base AI difficulty, an intensity 10 spire/diff 10 run would be something more challenging and an "issue" if it was won.

I was debating creating this "issue", because this win was quite challenging, but it felt a little bit "too easy" for a difficulty 10 run. Felt a bit more like a 9.5 or so.

Most of the feedback I posted in my previous difficulty 10 run applies to this one as well, but of course, in the last one, spire was set to the default 5 intensity AI reaction, whereas this one is an intensity 10 spire.

Besides my previous feedback, the performance issues with weapons on ships (especially spire beam cannons) not firing caused some very frustrating problems. Another big issue was the warden fleets having *WAY* too many individual/small ship stacks, causing massive performance issues (0.5 speed running at 10% for example). These two issues compounded to make the final stages of the game very difficulty and tedious to get through.

I *strongly* suggest that the AI puts MUCH more of it's budget into exo-galactic units once it starts getting to "rediculous" sized exo/etc... waves, to improve performance and make the whole thing feel more epic. Additionally, it needs to spawn more higher tier units, especially when difficulty is 9 or higher. This is maxed out difficulty 10 everything where I owned basically the entire galaxy, and the AI only spawned a single mothership against me.... Seeing stacks of 1000+ forcefield guardians was a big letdown when the new, powerful exo-galactic units could have been added instead.

On the topic of exo-galactic units, starting from annihilators, and especially planet crackers, motherships and flensers, need to be *strongly* buffed in terms of their strength. What I mean is, they seem to be balance well for their stated strength, but the strength they represent should be 5x or more than what it is now. I was basically vaporized the single mothership the AI sent against me, while spending what felt like aeons chasing around stacks of 1000+ mark 7 pike corvettes... in general, stacks just don't feel "epic" when you are fighting them, and again, having a VERY powerful mothership sent against me instead of yet more guardians seems much more thematic. I consider difficulty 10 maxed to be what the game is intended to feel like if a canonical *real* AI was playing against me... in the Spire war, spire are simply a speedbump.. and motherships/planet crackers/flensers are supposed to be the biggest, baddest AI ships... I think for sure these three ships need to be capable of stomping multiple dreadnaughts on their own, at the least, with the flenser being a game ender even against a mark 7++ spire force. Flenser should basically be unbeatable except for *extreme* late game spire fleets, or the imperial spire fleet.

Regarding the imperial spire fleet, i'm not sure exactly what you can do with it, but it is basically impossible to successfully survive at high difficulty/intensity... it's just *so* much larger than normal waves.... where normal waves were already hitting me with 10s of thousands of fleet power. You can go ahead and try it using saves from my saves pack, but you will see that the wave size is basically insane, and so large it causes the game to come to a stand-still.

I very much hope my feedback is well received, and I hope the difficulty of the game, and especially the spire content, can be increased. Balance across starting fleets, spire tactics, and similar that I detailed in my AAR would also be nice so I don't feel forced to pray to RNJesus and use very narrow early/mid game strats.

**Footnote: Please do something with the scourge... I really want to use them as they are so flavorful but all they do is needlessly increase AIP and cause performance issues.. in this run they basically did nothing for me besides make it harder - this makes me sad. :(
TagsNo tags attached.


related to 0023107 resolvedBadgerBadger Make scourge scale on enemy power level 



Mar 30, 2020 3:04 am


10 10 10 Spire 10 (1,375,112 bytes)

Lord Of Nothing

Mar 30, 2020 7:45 am

reporter   ~0056634

I just want to chime in and mention that while I can't speak for most of the high difficulty comments, I completely agree with this part (By virtue of having reached the same issue via refusing to end the game when I could have because I want to see a Flenser):

"I *strongly* suggest that the AI puts MUCH more of it's budget into exo-galactic units .... or the Imperial spire fleet."

, for the same reasons given - these issue are also relevant at lower difficulty levels. If I own 75 planets and have 9 MkVII spire cities for an extended period, the total number of tier 4 Exo units (Planet Cracker, Mothership) seen in the entire game should not be four, even at a low difficulty. And by the time they do spawn they are often easy meat even with a large supporting AI fleet unless the player has already massively overextended.

Strategic Sage

Apr 1, 2020 4:25 pm

reporter   ~0056654

I definitely agree that the balance can be improved in some of the ways mentioned here with the extragalactic war units. I don't think it's correct though to call it a difficulty issue that this was a win. It wasn't a Spire win (as mentioned the imperial exo was impossible to defeat) and it wasn't a normal win (which would be without using Spire at all). There's always going to be that in-between zone on a Spire game where you can take out the homeworlds, I don't see any way around that unless someone has a better idea than I've thought of. I also think a certain amount of performance hit is simply going to happen with an over-the-top Spire endgame. I'm all for improving those scenarios in any reasonable ways that they reasonably can, but I don't foresee how it could ever be eliminated.


Apr 1, 2020 7:04 pm

manager   ~0056656

Last edited: Apr 1, 2020 7:56 pm

View 3 revisions

I've increased the AI income for extragalactic units at AI difficulties >= 7.

Also, saying "Please make the scourge better" isn't going to help anything. Saying "here's a save game where the scourge aren't doing anything" or "Here's a save where the scourge are doing something stupid" would help. Specific, actionable feedback is what might actually let me make improvements. See for a good example.


Apr 2, 2020 4:07 am

reporter   ~0056657

@BadgerBadger - You make a good point regarding the scourge. I suppose the biggest "problem" with them, as a specific actionable insight, is that they *do* scale, in that they add AIP (killing warp gates) and thus difficulty of the game based on the AI difficulty chosen - however - they *do not* scale in terms of their growth/strength/etc... based on AI difficulty.

What this means, is that whatever AI difficulty they are balanced for in your internal tests, at lower difficulties, they will be too strong, and at higher difficulties, they will be too weak.

I had an experience when I first played this game at difficulty 7 where the scourge beat the AI by themselves, without my help (I didn't add scourge as an allied faction in game start - at that time I thought hacking their beacon was meant to be part of the base-game's difficulty/experience). Obviously a scourge that beats the AI by themselves is too powerful.

In these difficulty 10 runs, the strength that the AI gains from AIP is so massive, that the only thing the scourge do is make the game incredibly harder.

So, my suggestion is, find a way to link the scourge to AI difficulty so that an intensity 5 scourge maintains the same level of positives & negatives regardless of what difficulty the player is playing at. Without this, high difficulty players will just turn them off, and low difficulty players will also probably turn them off (no fun playing a game that beats itself, is there?).


Apr 2, 2020 4:10 am

reporter   ~0056658

@Strategic Sage - as far as I know, Spire victory is *either* using spire capital cities beyond 5 to crush the AI *or* surviving to get the imperial fleet. I think it's a bit of a sidestep to say that a win without doing imperial fleet isn't a win?


Apr 2, 2020 4:14 am

reporter   ~0056659

Err just to add - i'm saying all this and posting all this because I want difficulty 10 to be basically unwinnable (ala AIW classic), and difficulty 9 to be significantly challenging. The balance issues I post here, and feedback, is meant as a request to the AIW team to increase difficulty 9 to be approximately what difficulty 10 is right now (a bit more difficult would actually be nice).

Strategic Sage

Apr 2, 2020 7:01 am

reporter   ~0056660

I'm not saying it isn't a win per se - obviously any time you destroy the AI homeworld it's a win. I'm saying the Spire is designed so that the imperial exo ending is the primary and logical conclusion in mind. Ergo, that's what the game should be balanced towards. More specifically, consider the following scenarios:

** 'Pure' run - AI, Player, nothing else
** FS 'Partial' - add fallen spire, destroy AI homeworld at any point you desire
** FS 'Imperial' - Complete the transceiver, get the imperial exo, etc.

You could add in the Scourge here as well but this should be enough for the point of demonstration. The key thing here is that it is inconceivable and unreasonable to simultaneously balance the game across all of these dimensions at once. Spire operates based off intensity/# of cities, standard AI games off of AIP. If you balance the game to be impossible on 10 in a Pure run, that inherently means unbalancing other scenarios. More narrowly within a Spire run, if you make the exos strong enough that you can't scale up to win on Partial, then you never get to the Imperial stage. If you don't, then Partial will always be possible. If you somehow manage to equalize the ramp up with the Imperial so that both are at the same level, then you've taken away the special nature of the Imperial victory because it's designed to be the hardest part, the climax/conclusion, etc. So in balancing these things, there are way too many factions with way too many robust capabilities and differences etc. that it's just never going to be the case that you can balance across all of those dimensions while maintaining that diversity. Similar to my response to you on your AAR thread, you have to choose what point you want to be that diff-10 balancing level (Pure in this case) and then everything else is always going to be an additional difficulty lever making the game easier or harder relative to that. There simply is no way around that reality.


Apr 2, 2020 7:58 am

reporter   ~0056661

The only resolution I can think of is for higher-tier AI to get a bit more enthusiastic at bringing top-tier Extragalactic War units in response to the player amassing Spire forces. That would make it harder to beat the AI with the "regular" Spire fleet, without affecting the difficulty of a pure run or the Imperial Fleet victory.


Apr 2, 2020 12:12 pm

manager   ~0056662

What difficulty scourge were you using? It's intended that you use the scourge difficulty to control their game impact, not to have it scale off of the AI's difficulty.

It's hard to balance the scourge because there are simultaneous reports that they are too weak and too strong.


Apr 2, 2020 12:13 pm

reporter   ~0056663

(My impression from this ticket is that a pure, no-spire difficulty 10 game is still about right, and an Imperial Fleet victory at Spire 10 is possibly *too* hard; the issue only comes from beating the difficulty 10 AI using Spire units without going all the way to the end of the Spire quest)


Apr 2, 2020 12:23 pm

reporter   ~0056664

I should also point out that a difficulty 10 game with an Intensity 1 spire should be easier than a difficult 10 game with an intensity 10 spire. If it's not, then what's the point of spire intensity?


Apr 5, 2020 8:10 pm

reporter   ~0056692

@BadgerBadger - yes it's hard to balance the scourge *because* they don't scale off of AI difficulty or AIP. You will never be able to balance them without taking those two variables into account... Intensity for Scourge should be whether the player wants them to be "balanced" (intensity 5), very weak (intensity 1), or win-the-game-for-me (intensity 10).


Jun 2, 2020 1:20 pm

manager   ~0057173

Puffin added some buffs to the Extragalactic Response at higher AI difficulties


Jun 2, 2020 11:34 pm

reporter   ~0057174

Very happy to hear.

Issue History

Date Modified Username Field Change
Mar 30, 2020 3:04 am swizzlewizzle New Issue
Mar 30, 2020 3:04 am swizzlewizzle File Added: 10 10 10 Spire 10
Mar 30, 2020 7:45 am Lord Of Nothing Note Added: 0056634
Apr 1, 2020 4:25 pm Strategic Sage Note Added: 0056654
Apr 1, 2020 7:04 pm BadgerBadger Note Added: 0056656
Apr 1, 2020 7:08 pm BadgerBadger Note Edited: 0056656 View Revisions
Apr 1, 2020 7:56 pm BadgerBadger Note Edited: 0056656 View Revisions
Apr 2, 2020 4:07 am swizzlewizzle Note Added: 0056657
Apr 2, 2020 4:10 am swizzlewizzle Note Added: 0056658
Apr 2, 2020 4:14 am swizzlewizzle Note Added: 0056659
Apr 2, 2020 7:01 am Strategic Sage Note Added: 0056660
Apr 2, 2020 7:58 am Fluffiest Note Added: 0056661
Apr 2, 2020 12:12 pm BadgerBadger Note Added: 0056662
Apr 2, 2020 12:13 pm Fluffiest Note Added: 0056663
Apr 2, 2020 12:23 pm Fluffiest Note Added: 0056664
Apr 5, 2020 8:10 pm swizzlewizzle Note Added: 0056692
Apr 6, 2020 2:50 am BadgerBadger Relationship added related to 0023107
Jun 2, 2020 1:20 pm BadgerBadger Note Added: 0057173
Jun 2, 2020 11:34 pm swizzlewizzle Note Added: 0057174