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IDProjectCategoryLast Update
0024367AI War 2[All Projects] Balance IssueJan 28, 2021 11:21 am
ReporterArnaudBAssigned To 
Severityminor 
Status newResolutionopen 
Product VersionBeta 2.723 AI Accountant Fired, And Relentless Waves 
Fixed in Version 
Summary0024367: Potentially excessive scourge buildup
DescriptionI recently played through the "Twisted Foe" Quickstart featuring a difficulty 7 AI and Scourge 5 on the honeycomb map. This is supposed to be the introduction to the Scourge. I did the scenario multiple times, on the beta, while the Praetorian and Warden had absurdly low caps.

It proved excessively difficult, even more so when played with default setup (not changing starting fleet, battlestation or anything in the lobby), just quickstarting.

I see two problems. First, it's a lot harder to reach the scourge because pushing through the AI planets are harder nowadays. The AI is also smarter and the scourge feels like it build faster. I remember Scourge being a death sentence within 3 hours if you don't kill the Spawner on the AI Homeworld by then, but otherwise survivable 5h into the game. Currently you can be doomed within 2 hours. Since I did my playthroughs while the Warden and Praetorian were... incapacitated, this means newcomers will be absolutely crushed by this scenario. The first problem is thus getting to the scourge buildings and killing them, which is very difficult because they have a lot of health.

The second is that the scourge build up fast, and that even while killing hundreds of scourge and wiping out multiple armories and spawners, the growth was still increasing at a pace that even I couldn't keep up with. I could only win by beating the clock. Killing builders and destroying scourge buildings felt like it didn't meaningfully impact the scourge ability to build up. This is worsened by the "stealth" builders that will reach blockaded off parts of the galaxy, which is good in term of the enemy being smart, but currently it's impossible for players to stall or meaningfully slow the Scourge growing power.

Now there are a few reasons as to why the quickstart is so hard. It's very possible that with the AIP rework, scourge get more income than they used to because AIP is in higher from the start onward (due to absolute floor). The honeycomb map is also a very hard map to play on because it takes time to travel through it, plus there is a lot of connectivity that makes blockading the scourge hard. I didn't use beacons to throw minor factions into that fight, since I considered using them should not be a must-have in this quickstart.

I believe the current scourge 5 is more akin to what it should be at 7 or 8. It's just nasty and require RNG not to screw you plus the player to make "knowledgeable" choices that they cannot have, since this is the introduction to scourge.

My suggestion would be a slight nerf to the scourge income, to account for the AIP being higher in general nowadays, plus making killing the buildings and builders more meaningful for the player. One possibility is to make builders appears at Mark I all the time rather than at Mark VII when created by a Mark VII spawner. This is what StarKelp use for his Neinzul enclave mod, where killing high marks hives (<=> spawners equivalent) only let them rebuild a Mark I in its place.

This isn't a pressing issue. Another possibility is to create a new quickstart with an intensity 3 scourge.

If you have questions, just ping me on discord.
TagsNo tags attached.

Activities

ArnaudB

Jan 27, 2021 9:50 am

reporter   ~0060400

Notes on scourge after watching how they expand

AI 7 - Scourge 5 - Honeycomb

Notes:
-It takes 34 min for scourge to reach Mark II on first spawner
-Mark II happens when a builder has 1200 metal
-Builders aren't consumed when building a scourge spawner or armory
-The spawner and armory have CRAZY amount of health and shield. I mean CRAZY. The Mark II are 200k shield short of being as tough as Dire Core Guardposts, which are mark VII!!! They even have less weakness than Core Guard Posts!
-Mark III Spawner have 1m health and 3.5m shield. Almost nothing has bonus against them and they even have an anti-frigate/Lone weapon. They are insane.
-Once bottled up or limited to create more buildings, builders keep accumulating metal, which is why scourge can replace losses very fast since a high mark builder will have a huge income combined with the ability to upgrade to its mark +1.
-Crippling the Scourge economy requires a combination of killing high mark builders (to make them lose on metal income, stored metal and ability to upgrade and thus raise their income) and a combination of destroying their building (to cost them metal to rebuild)
-Scourge have a "science unit" of some kind that has no clear source. It'd be important to figure out, because more science units allow them to build more builders (they have a cap of how many they can have) and they can replace killed builders extremely fast (if with Mark 1 ones)
-The builders have 1000 speed, which allow them to flee many ships of the player. Builders flee if player has local superioty like AI forces. This is why subterfuge/generalist worked surprisingly well over classic (Ambush/concussion/Splash) loadout which is the default in the scenario. V-wing, spider and Warbird can immobile the builder. Though only spider has the range to hit them before they flee, and only Warbird can catch them before they run.
-At roughly 1h15 Scourge reach Mark III.
-Linear cost increase for scourge upgrades means higher marks are comparatively cheaper for them. Much like the player, as their income and source of income increase, they can rank up faster and faster. This isn't entirely unintended, but might not be adjusted for the new balance. To see.

*Scourge Economy:
-The spawner creates up to 3 builders and a stream of neophytes, all Mark II
-The builder accumulates xp and metal every seconds, more with every mark. It spend its metal for building a Mark I spawner or armory, and for upgrading building with a linear metal cost increase for upgrading (2500 metal to build, 1200perMark to upgrade - Base builder income is 2.5 metal/second)
-Higher marks creates get more metal, thus spawner creates neoyphytes faster that morph into warriors. Armories raise the Mark of warriors, and from Mark III onward can transform warriors into exotic forms. Builders get upgraded by armories and can upgrade building up their mark +1 (Mark 1 builder upgrade Mark 1 spawner to 2).
-As costs are linear with marks and buildings/builders get more income per marks, this causes the growth of scourge to be exponential even if they didn't have more buildings, which they do.
-How do Scourge gain "science unit" is unknow. However when they do, they can create Mark II then Mark III neophytes and builders right off the spawners. "Science unit" also allows Scourge to have more builders.

*Suggestion:
-Heavily reduce the Health and shield, possibly also modify some stats, so that Spawner and Armories can be killed much more easily. This is the most important balancing factor right now, because those buildings have way way way too much health and shield.
-Reduce builder speed from 1000 to a slower 600 or 400. It'd be much easier to catch them after you find them, without constant transport-micro or turbo-raiders, and it'd allow more techs to be viable. (Currently you want light hull and fast units wayyy too much here, or/and subterfuge).
-Potentially raise the metal cost per mark of upgrading buildings for builders, which would let the scourge spread fast, but slow their mark escalation to account for the overall longer playtime needed to win in the beta.

NotesOnScourge.txt (4,118 bytes)
Notes on scourge

AI 7 - Scourge 5 - Honeycomb

Notes:
-It takes 34 min for scourge to reach Mark II on first spawner
-Mark II happens when a builder has 1200 metal
-Builders aren't consumed when building a scourge spawner or armory
-The spawner and armory have CRAZY amount of health and shield. I mean CRAZY. The Mark II are 200k shield short of being as tough as Dire Core Guardposts, which are mark VII!!! They even have less weakness than Core Guard Posts!
-Mark III Spawner have 1m health and 3.5m shield. Almost nothing has bonus against them and they even have an anti-frigate/Lone weapon. They are insane.
-Once bottled up or limited to create more buildings, builders keep accumulating metal, which is why scourge can replace losses very fast since a high mark builder will have a huge income combined with the ability to upgrade to its mark +1.
-Crippling the Scourge economy requires a combination of killing high mark builders (to make them lose on metal income, stored metal and ability to upgrade and thus raise their income) and a combination of destroying their building (to cost them metal to rebuild)
-Scourge have a "science unit" of some kind that has no clear source. It'd be important to figure out, because more science units allow them to build more builders (they have a cap of how many they can have) and they can replace killed builders extremely fast (if with Mark 1 ones)
-The builders have 1000 speed, which allow them to flee many ships of the player. Builders flee if player has local superioty like AI forces. This is why subterfuge/generalist worked surprisingly well over classic (Ambush/concussion/Splash) loadout which is the default in the scenario. V-wing, spider and Warbird can immobile the builder. Though only spider has the range to hit them before they flee, and only Warbird can catch them before they run.
-At roughly 1h15 Scourge reach Mark III.
-Linear cost increase for scourge upgrades means higher marks are comparatively cheaper for them. Much like the player, as their income and source of income increase, they can rank up faster and faster. This isn't entirely unintended, but might not be adjusted for the new balance. To see.

*Scourge Economy:
-The spawner creates up to 3 builders and a stream of neophytes, all Mark II
-The builder accumulates xp and metal every seconds, more with every mark. It spend its metal for building a Mark I spawner or armory, and for upgrading building with a linear metal cost increase for upgrading (2500 metal to build, 1200perMark to upgrade - Base builder income is 2.5 metal/second)
-Higher marks creates get more metal, thus spawner creates neoyphytes faster that morph into warriors. Armories raise the Mark of warriors, and from Mark III onward can transform warriors into exotic forms. Builders get upgraded by armories and can upgrade building up their mark +1 (Mark 1 builder upgrade Mark 1 spawner to 2).
-As costs are linear with marks and buildings/builders get more income per marks, this causes the growth of scourge to be exponential even if they didn't have more buildings, which they do.
-How do Scourge gain "science unit" is unknow. However when they do, they can create Mark II then Mark III neophytes and builders right off the spawners. "Science unit" also allows Scourge to have more builders.

*Suggestion:
-Heavily reduce the Health and shield, possibly also modify some stats, so that Spawner and Armories can be killed much more easily. This is the most important balancing factor right now, because those buildings have way way way too much health and shield.
-Reduce builder speed from 1000 to a slower 600 or 400. It'd be much easier to catch them after you find them, without constant transport-micro or turbo-raiders, and it'd allow more techs to be viable. (Currently you want light hull and fast units wayyy too much here, or/and subterfuge).
-Potentially raise the metal cost per mark of upgrading buildings for builders, which would let the scourge spread fast, but slow their mark escalation to account for the overall longer playtime needed to win in the beta.
NotesOnScourge.txt (4,118 bytes)

ArnaudB

Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm

reporter   ~0060405

So more information after some testing.

Another test game diff7 Scourge 5 on cluster. 27 min and they have a Mark III Armory up. Further investigation showed they build it at 21min30-something Mark I. By 25m44s they had upgraded it to Mark III.

So, once Scourge builders have stored resource, it takes them less than 4 minutes to upgrade from Mark I to Mark III. Less than 4 because the added time was the builder taking time to show up.
So at 3.5*4 builders = 14 metal/second. A Mark III building cost 3600+2500=6100 metal. This represents 435 seconds of scourge income.
I thought the experience they accumulate would stall them for longer, but the experience mechanic for Scourge buildings is borderline meaningless, it accumulates so fast it might as well not exist.

*some further pondering occurs.*

Some calculations made that worse, since after the player spend 10,000 science past the 15,000 starting one, they get units and buildings starting at Mark 2. This means they economise 1200 metal for every building and skip the experience requirement for upgrading from Mark I to Mark II.
This get worse once the player spend 20,000 science as Scourge get their buildings and units to start at Mark III. They don't need to pay the 1200+2400 metal cost for upgrading Spawner or Armory, or care about experience requirement. They also get about 9 builders each with their income, since they can build more builders as the player spend science.

*Spend a second wondering about multiplayer, then do further singleplayer tests*

So it apparently worse that I thought it was, because of an unexpected interaction with scourge marking up. You remember the lines above starting at higher marks? This affects builders. There is also these lines in AIScourgeDifficulty:
 BaseSpawnerMetalIncome="3.0"
          SpawnerMetalIncomeIncreasePerMark="0.6"
          BaseBuilderMetalIncome="2.5"
          BuilderMetalIncomeIncreasePerMark="0.50"

So normally a Spawner Mark III has 4.2 metal/s income and a builder has 3.5 metal/s. Correct? Unfortunately it's wrong, as shown in the screenshot.

What happens? Well two things: first if you have the Scourge "Mark upgrade" from science spending, builders should get 2.5+0.5=3.0 metal/second. However what they get is 2.5*2=5.0 metal/second. They get twice the base builder instead of the increase per mark.
Bad enough? It gets worse: builders appears at Mark I. They have 5.0 income at Mark I when they should be Mark II, and can then mark up to Mark II and receive 0.5 bonus metal for a 5.5 total, then continue getting their 0.5 m/s increase per mark.
Of course, this applies to Mark III once the player has spent 20k science. Builders will start with 7.5 metal/second and get their 0.5 per mark too.

All this means that the player or minor factions killing scourge builders will increase the scourge income, because newly appearing builders at Mark I will have a higher income than early builders dying at Mark V.

***

This was the rabbit hole I have gone down today.

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BadgerBadger

Jan 27, 2021 4:10 pm

manager   ~0060407

This is interesting because I'm playing an MP game with 2 AIs at 6 and the scourge at 4, and the scourge aren't a big problem. The map is pretty well connected (its a Squares map with lots of connections).

ArnaudB

Jan 28, 2021 12:09 am

reporter   ~0060416

For Chris, this can be closed. Tests and discord talks with Puffin and Badger unearthed the various confusion about Scourge.

Data here found, in case this come up again:

-"Science Unit" is science spent AFTER the initial 15,000 starting science. Builder get a bonus income every 6000 science spent this way, which is how builders at lower marks end up with a higher and higher income as the game goes on.
-Buildings do start at Mark Three, while units start at Mark One, even after the two "Mark Upgrade" for the scourge which take place at 10,000 and 20,000 science spent (again, excluding starting science)
-Killing an armory or a spawner has a negligible impact on the Scourge economy, like killing builders. Once the player has spend 24,000 science (200 AIP pre-AIP reduction), the Scourge can build a Mark III building every 44 seconds.

Counter tactics against Scourge are thus:
-Ignore their buildings and move on (which make me sad)
-Kill Neophyte and warriors at armories
-Once strong enough, kill only spawners so Scourge only has armories without a stream of neophyte/warriors to evolve
-Don't blockade but leave a path for Scourge to pass through between your worlds and periodically murder passersbys
-Use minor factions to deny parts of the galaxy (friendly-Scourge, marauders with your support, Nanocaust allied or not)

This was a confusing and strange dive into Scourge, but at least things make sense now.

Crabby

Jan 28, 2021 11:21 am

reporter   ~0060417

I unleashed a hostile-to-all nanocaust and gained allied-to-me Scourge to level the playing field with the Scourge in that scenario. This does result in amusing scenarios of Nanocaust Ghouls and Husks appearing in the middle of nowhere.

Let's just say there's a steep learning curve with the Scourge: don't chokepoint the Scourge (frankly I'm not a fan of chokepoints and would rather not be chokepointed by the AI or hostile faction), ignore some AI-owned planets (don't bother neutering some of them, especially those without valuables), gather your own allies, increase AIP wisely to counter the Scourge threat, and keep hacking.

Issue History

Date Modified Username Field Change
Jan 27, 2021 5:48 am ArnaudB New Issue
Jan 27, 2021 5:52 am ArnaudB Description Updated View Revisions
Jan 27, 2021 7:29 am ArnaudB Description Updated View Revisions
Jan 27, 2021 9:50 am ArnaudB File Added: NotesOnScourge.txt
Jan 27, 2021 9:50 am ArnaudB Note Added: 0060400
Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm ArnaudB File Added: 20210127195844_1.jpg
Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm ArnaudB File Added: 20210127195813_1.jpg
Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm ArnaudB File Added: 20210127195601_1.jpg
Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm ArnaudB File Added: 20210127195654_1.jpg
Jan 27, 2021 2:32 pm ArnaudB Note Added: 0060405
Jan 27, 2021 4:10 pm BadgerBadger Note Added: 0060407
Jan 28, 2021 12:09 am ArnaudB Note Added: 0060416
Jan 28, 2021 11:21 am Crabby Note Added: 0060417