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The Return of Max Influence

Flari-Merchant
Bob
Flari-Merchant
I get the impression that there isn't actually a problem yet. Without asking you to divulge info for "Fog of War" and security reasons, are there certain multiple groups that are having a hard time being able to lay down enough Holdings to get where they need to?

In short, can you better explain what the current significant issues of unlimited Influence are without "outing" those who have contacted you?
I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that it has been very difficult, if not impossible, to find an unclaimed hex for quite some time now. If all those hexes are being put to good use, whether for bulk resource production or strategic reasons or whatever, that's great. Players can always PvP to take those hexes for themselves. That said, it sets a pretty high bar for claiming territory, so it would be nice to have just enough of a disincentive to ensure that all claimed hexes are serving a reasonably important purpose, if only to keep it from feeling like the only reason PvP was necessary was to claim something the owners aren't using but just didn't bother to tear down.

The larger problem is related, in that any group that is reasonably successful at PvP is currently incentivized to spread as far as it can. The upfront investment in holdings and outposts is minimal, the PvP may or may not churn some gear, the outposts can generally produce enough bulk resources to keep the holding from falling down, they can probably deal with any feuds fairly easily, there are few if any ongoing costs to holding the territory, and any tiny benefit (even just the added security of some buffer DI) of holding the territory is multiplied by the amount of time spent holding it, which is likely indefinite. The unlimited influence has to go somewhere and the calculation virtually always favors expansion. With few (or no) unclaimed hexes, that expansion inevitably eats into the territory of other settlements, reducing their ability to support themselves.

Again, all of that is fine if there are mechanics ensuring that expansion is more than just a "why not" calculation. It's not our goal to protect everyone from meaningful PvP, but we do want to protect people from PvP if it's only happening because we didn't provide balanced advantages and disadvantages. The best we've currently got is that expansion increases the number of unprotected hexes, but not 1-for-1, and the degree of coordination necessary to take advantage of that is fairly high, and favors the group that already proved itself by taking the territory in the first place.

I won't speak to how much this is actually happening, in part because it would be difficult to know whether any given expansion would be considered meaningful or not by most players. I'll just say that some territory has changed hands in recent times, and the current game mechanics incentivize more of the same without the checks and balances that make such PvP feel meaningful. There are certainly other options for providing those checks and balances (Spreading Escalations would have been a start), but this is the quickest option we've come up with so far.
Sorry for quoting such a long post.

Seems to me that all of these issues stem back to how complex the entire system has gotten coupled with how easy it is to create "imaginary" bodies to fill an unlimited number of Charter Companies.

Again, all about unchecked "creation of resources". Imaginary Characters are another "resource" that is easy to create. Once set up, it is quite easy to set them up generating real usable resource types in the game. Without any real checks on this natural evolution of behavior.

That is where your real problems are and until that is addressed nothing will work right or balance whether real populations are large or small.
Bob
Flari-Merchant
Seems to me that all of these issues stem back to how complex the entire system has gotten coupled with how easy it is to create "imaginary" bodies to fill an unlimited number of Charter Companies.

Again, all about unchecked "creation of resources". Imaginary Characters are another "resource" that is easy to create. Once set up, it is quite easy to set them up generating real usable resource types in the game. Without any real checks on this natural evolution of behavior.

That is where your real problems are and until that is addressed nothing will work right or balance whether real populations are large or small.

The funny thing is that our workaround for that issue was to temporarily acknowledge the system was too easy to bypass. The planned fix was to only count Active (paid) characters, but since that was too complicated to get into at the time, we instead just set everyone's Max to 1,000,000 so nobody had to bother creating a bunch of Free Trial characters just to get around the system. We could bring back the original version of Max Influence, with an Active character restriction, and rebalance the numbers a bit to fit our current population, but that system is also pretty unforgiving. One or two members of your company go Inactive, or switch to another company to help out with a feud and forget to switch back, and suddenly your holdings and outposts are shutting down. There are solutions to that, like adding in a delay, and to most other issues with it, but each solution makes the overall task more difficult. On top of all that, we just weren't real happy that the system was based on Active status rather than some sense of Playing Actively. Since influence generation was always intended as our measure of in-game activity, and is also now only earned by Active characters, that's where we looked first for a solution.
Bob
Kenton Stone
Submit to the might of my Empire or you will be Obliterated.smile Happy Father's Day
You make a very compelling argument. smile
Flari-Merchant
What you appear(to me) to have now is kinda of a large convoluted machine that "supposedly" works great but seems to rely on a large or at least medium numerous active population. No real evidence that it will work well at any scale except that it seems VERY chore-like and burdensome/tedious(fun killing) on small populations of players.

You also have a huge glut of holdings held by a very few groups that far outshines what they need to run their organizations. It is human nature to grab and collect and have more than we really need, for whatever reasons and by whatever means. The current system fully allows for that to happen. Also no one wants to role play a peasant and VERY FEW want to RP a vassal.

A flawed direction, in my humble opinion, is staying the course to keep on looking for small fixes to the large conglomerate mechanism to try and make it work right. At least while the population is so low that it really can't work well at all in a fun way.

While you have such a small population, it should just be shut off. Everything but the most essential functions, if there really are any.

Set a hard limit to holdings. Collapse those that are unattended. Having to attend to settlements and holdings will bring balance back. Make the hard choices that lead to the better game.

Edit to Add: Otherwise what you have is players or groups of players that come into your world, build things, move on perhaps to come back again (and perhaps not) and thus clutter up your world and the opportunities of the players that are actually active in your world.
Bob
Flari-Merchant
A flawed direction, in my humble opinion, is staying the course to keep on looking for small fixes to the large conglomerate mechanism to try and make it work right. At least while the population is so low that it really can't work well at all in a fun way.

While you have such a small population, it should just be shut off. Everything but the most essential functions, if there really are any.

Fair point, it's often tempting to make things "more interesting" when the better solution is to make them simpler. We've occasionally considered pulling back on some mechanics (perhaps not as often as we should have), but usually get nervous because it feels like we're removing a load-bearing mechanic. I'll think on some of the options for simplifying, see what the likely complications would be.
Paddy Fitzpatrick
Bob
On a related note, we'd also considered a system more akin to Max DI, where the number is determined by looking at influence generation over the past 30 or so days. Such a system would be less obviously a tax, but the funny thing is that the effect would be virtually identical while requiring a lot more work to implement.

It would not be virtually identical if I may be straight with you, because when tracking influence generation you can also track influence spending. If a company is spending influence on say feuds it is certainly an active company.

If you are going to do this, manage this at the company level instead of reintroducing an old problem. The thing that must be remembered is that every company and settlement is a settlement of small active players there are no medium or large size companies.

Besides, if you want to incentivize PvP then let it be counted as activity. Calculate activity at a company level not player level. Make some kind of minimum requirement there.

There were many other good points brought up by Kenton and Brings too that should be listened to I think as well. But for now this route of tracking both generation and expenditures is the better route.

To me this seems like a good intentions but wrong implementation thing.
Paddy Fitzpatrick - Rí Ruírec of Fianna, roaming bands of noble warriors!
Member of Aragon Alliance and home of bandits, privateers, and anyone looking to get away from the shackles of law.
Find us on PFO Discord
Paddy Fitzpatrick
Also personally I do wonder if we are letting the perfect get in the way of the good on this.

Make as robust a system as you can but it wont ever be completely foolproof.

On a different note I do think streamlining some of the day to day tasks and just small quality of.life improvements can be a good start for the existing playerbase. Just little things like that can go a long way in player retention.
Paddy Fitzpatrick - Rí Ruírec of Fianna, roaming bands of noble warriors!
Member of Aragon Alliance and home of bandits, privateers, and anyone looking to get away from the shackles of law.
Find us on PFO Discord
Bob
Kenton Stone
I really didn't want to have to wade in on this but it is significant enough to warrant my input.
Thanks for wading in, always appreciated. Now that I have time for more than a flippant remark, I'll join you in the not-yet-implemented water, with apologies for cutting back on the many excellent points in the name of brevity:

Kenton Stone
His initial value of (.5/holding)/day was a doctor saying I am going to test your reflexes and then pulling out a sledge hammer and taking aim at your knee cap. My reflex is to freak out, jump off the table, grab a large object and pummel you to death with it.
That is effectively what happened, I actually feel sorry for Bob if he had suggested a .14 loss per day I don’t think the reaction would have been nearly so severe.
Agreed, my bad. Should have crunched the numbers a bit more before writing up the original post.

Kenton Stone
Why would a new company need an influence buffer? They couldn't have any holdings so no daily loss.
True, they don't really need it, but it will be nice to have the buffer when the first holding is placed. Also, it's there for a purely technical reason, to keep the code for "set the initial Max Influence value" the same whether it's being set for a new company or an existing company that hasn't had the value set yet (or, worst case, forgot it somehow).

Kenton Stone
As stated most hexes have been claimed with the exception of the ring of hexes around Fort Inevitable that Bob has never gotten around to adding pads for holdings and outposts.smile
Thankfully, this is now higher on my list of things to tackle since I'm largely restricted to content fixes. It's probably not feasible for me to give those hexes permanent holding locations, nicely centered and always close to the roads, but I believe I can convert the most promising 30m encounter site in each of those hexes to a holding spot. Those hexes don't have as many 30m spots as other hexes, so it's not ideal, but it will work for now, and won't be that big of a problem until escalations can spread. When we get a chance to do a more permanent fix, holdings should just magically move to the final holding location.

Kenton Stone
For the Love of GOD Bob, make this game more fun to play, give people a reason to log in every day and play, not just check queues.
My options are a bit limited for now, but content changes can be surprisingly effective. The Home Sweet Home Event, for example, is entirely built on content additions and GM-adjudication. Had a lot of takers on Choose Your Own Escalation as well. I'm working on more ideas, and will start another Crowdforging thread for suggestions/discussion.

Kenton Stone
For my last slightly off topic point, Give me a way to reassign a Hex(Holdings and Outposts and influence intact) to another company so distribution of Hexes among companies can be achieved, Make them a marketable commodity. Right now the cost to move a hex to a new company is Hideous and therefore almost never happens.
This is absolutely something we want to do. It's a bit tricky to code, because we'd need to link up requests from company leaders of both the current owner and the desired owner, then unbank the influence in the first company and re-bank the influence in the second company while switching ownership of the holding and any connected outposts. Or maybe we'd just transfer the banked influence, though that does feel a bit fictionally weird. For now, maybe we can justify treating this as a GM-adjudicated thing, with a more minimal cost involved, as long as its use was relatively limited.
Bob
Paddy Fitzpatrick
It would not be virtually identical if I may be straight with you, because when tracking influence generation you can also track influence spending. If a company is spending influence on say feuds it is certainly an active company.
Good point, influence spending is a form of activity. I think it could actually be incorporated into either variant, either by increasing Max Influence by the same amount that gets returned whenever influence gets unbanked, or recording it in the influence history so that the calculation is based on both influence generation and spending.
Bob
Paddy Fitzpatrick
Also personally I do wonder if we are letting the perfect get in the way of the good on this.

Make as robust a system as you can but it wont ever be completely foolproof.
Very true. We just don't want to introduce a system that's as easily bypassed as the original implementation of Max Influence was, though I should point out that it wasn't quite as broken before we introduced Free Trials.

Paddy Fitzpatrick
On a different note I do think streamlining some of the day to day tasks and just small quality of.life improvements can be a good start for the existing playerbase. Just little things like that can go a long way in player retention.
One of the other things I'm working on is revising the Roadmap to reflect what we're likely to be able to achieve while Cole is focused on the cloud and Unity upgrades. I'll try to include what changes I can along these lines, but a lot of the ideas we've had along these lines either require too much code for now, at least in the variations we've considered so far. May be able to find simpler solutions that we could do one or two of, or perhaps ways to achieve partial improvements through content-only changes.
 
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