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All posts created by Bob

Bringslite of Staalgard
For REAL: Thank you for taking all of this time to discuss all of this with us, Bob. It isn't normal in the industry. At least not in my middling experience.

If I grasp what you are trying to get across, you are still concerned that with Universal Support a settlement would not need to build structures at all? Does that mean that eventually if you do not have the right buildings you will not be able to support certain skills?

Happy to oblige. We've got a tough road ahead, and lots of tough choices to make, but talking them through is always helpful. At least until the point where we just need to buckle down and get things down.

As for Universal Support, we're more concerned with the aspect that settlements are currently universally given support level 20 than with the idea that settlements grant support at varying levels but universally across all specialties. Having specific structures provide support for specific skills gives us more granular control, but introduces lots of social problems and technical complexity, so we don't really want to go down that route unless we find some relatively easy ways to mitigate those problems. On the other hand, sticking with the more overall support level concept that's currently in the game definitely means that the value propositions for certain buildings as currently planned are way off, so we don't want to go down that route unless we can find relatively easy fixes for that. We've got ideas along both lines, but we're still fighting it out over exactly which direction is the best choice given our current resources.
Maximum trade good production is 75% fish or herds, 50% game. All of those counted above are exactly 600; global trade goods efficient production caps at 75 hexes worth. At +5 that's 4950 maximum per day, 3600 per day at +3 (gross trade good production, serverwide; some food would be produced as well, but never enough to supply an inn without imports in a good fishing or ranching spot.

The math does get dicier once you start figuring out the maximum production numbers for individual bulk resources, but at that point a lot more things also come down to individual choice. If trade goods are the hardest to come by, then maybe those hexes get controlled by more active players willing to place holdings that don't use trade goods. They'd have to manually stockpile the upkeep, but in return for that effort they get a more valuable output.

At the very least, those numbers still sound to me like it's possible to produce enough trade goods to support all the really active settlements, though that may be the trickiest resource to produce in sufficient quantities.
Assuming sufficient ability to trade, that seems to almost create global scarcity. How many hexes are there on the map that can produce a resource at that level?

The long-run goal is to create a certain amount of scarcity. There shouldn't be enough bulk resources on the map to fully support every settlement. There should always be a temptation to take more than your "fair share" of the available hexes.

That said, using 487 as the number that can produce at least moderate resources, the production numbers for EE 12 could provide full support for 23 settlements using +1 hexes. I'm not sure more than 23 settlements currently are really up to taking the 21 hexes required, so that could already mean there are enough hexes to go around. If not, 28 settlements could be fully supported by +2 hexes, 30 by +3 hexes, and all 34 at +4. That's also not even counting the 50 or so additional hexes that could at least support minimal production, or taking into account that 167 of those 487 hexes would be providing maximum production. Taking a rough guess at that, I'm fairly certain there's enough hexes available to provide support to all the really active settlements even using nothing but +1 hexes. We're not trying to really push the scarcity angle too hard yet, so it's okay that there's enough to go around for now.

All these numbers will have to be reevaluated when upkeep for settlement structures gets put in. At that point, we'll be looking to really establish the scarcity of bulk resources, so we'll make sure there isn't a way to run every possible settlement with every possible structure in the settlement fully upgraded. That probably means requiring at least 17 moderate hexes at +5 to provide full support, which would make it almost possible to support all the existing settlements, but not quite.
Or is the intention that we just have less resources per 1000 influence and so we keep the towns at lower levels of development?

The intention is definitely to lower the amount of resources produced per 1000 influence, so we do expect that some settlements will decide to run at a lower settlement level. We realize that's more likely to affect newer companies and settlements than on those that got stocked up on characters a while ago that have since gone inactive, but hopefully the impact won't be too large for reasonably active settlements. Dropping your settlement level by 1 would grant pretty significant savings and would have a fairly limited impact, and you can further reduce the impact by focusing on taking more territory using +0 holdings and outposts. You can also trade for resources, particularly with those settlements that may be producing a lot of bulk resources but aren't necessarily producing other resources at similar levels.
Added under General Information.
I've filed a bug report to look into this further.
Bringslite of Staalgard
@ Bob

Can you elaborate on what systems are reliant on a support mechanic?

What happens to support when individual buildings are set to individual levels? Seems like that could get messy with all of the skills that you can't have without this or that pre req skill.

We're still debating what happens with support and individual buildings. The original plan was that you got specific support from specific buildings, but we blogged as long as two years ago that we were concerned about that system and exploring alternatives. We have some thoughts on it, enough to be convinced that we'll be able to come up with something satisfactory by the time those individual structure upgrades go in, but don't have anything you'd call a plan at this point. Fortunately, we've got some time before we need one.

As for systems that are reliant on support, to be clear, it's not like the systems have a technical reliance on it. Instead, the need to obtain support is an integral part of the balance calculations for those systems, and is often a major part of the value proposition that certain things offer. As a simple example, consider the structures that only train combat skills. With the original support plan, those were incredibly valuable because they offered specific combat support, something obviously of extreme importance to a great number of settlement members and that could only be obtained at the highest levels from those buildings.

Remove support entirely and it's difficult to make those buildings worth the space and the upkeep. We'd either need to rethink the abilities at all the structures, or implement other benefits to add to structures that provide similar value propositions. I don't doubt that there are possibilities that would work, but they'd all require a lot of effort.

Leave in some form of support and then we get to leverage an existing system in various ways to provide balance. We may not do it the exact way originally planned, but it remains a lever we can push and pull in various ways to balance the value propositions for all the structures. It's much easier to just change the way the lever drives the existing support system than to replace the system entirely.

Again, that's just one specific example. Value propositions throughout the game are driven by the value of support, and there'd have to be a lot of rethinking to do if it disappeared.

All that said, that doesn't mean that it's essential for settlements to be the only method for getting support. It's more like we want that to be the most cost-effective way of providing support in bulk. We're very interested in eventually providing other ways of gaining support, and some of those methods nearly made it on to the roadmap (not necessarily just for support purposes in each case, but that was part of the consideration).
Given the Road Map, and the current discussions on the "support threads", I'd like to know what Bob thinks of the OPs recommendation​ on reducing influence.

We have an ongoing internal discussion on influence, and have explored some of the ideas here, particularly removing various kinds of inactive characters from the influence calculations, but we're concerned about the consequences of all the changes we've considered. When it comes down to it, the influence system as originally designed scales up fairly well, but was never designed to scale down like this, and that's complicating our search for a feasible alternative to just leaving those inactive characters in the calculations for now, as obviously imbalanced as that is.
Bringslite of Staalgard
We probably have convinced Bob that support is probably not needed as an anti-grief tool.
We may have convinced Bob that support is not needed as an incentive to build our settlements up.
Let's see if we can convince Bob that without support, new players will be encouraged to join existing settlements.

Those seem to be the three most common Key Phrases that I see in his replies. But I have to wonder, why is the third part so important? Seems to me that taking away the drive to build something yourself would be counter productive for all the Would-Be-Kings out there.

The general assumption was that most players won't have territorial ambitions, and will instead be focused more on the advancement of their own character. However, we still wanted to draw them into the territorial aspects of the game, and push them to pick a side to battle on. Giving settlements the ability to train better feats or ranks than NPC settlements would get characters to visit those player settlements, but we wanted a compelling, continuous advantage that would get them to actually join a settlement and throw their efforts into helping that settlement expand and upgrade, and the mechanism chosen for that was support. Characters pretty quickly rise to the point where they can benefit from the lowest levels of support, so they do want to join a settlement early on, but almost any active settlement can offer support at a level that will let characters fully support their feats/ranks for a year or so, and the EE 12 tweak makes that time last even longer.

For those who do want to make a go of it on their own, the idea was always for them to join existing settlements at first, get trained up while also building up a company and stockpiling some goods, then go out and claim some territory with or without the blessing of their current settlement. A company of nothing but newer characters that tried to strike out on its own too soon would be easy pickings unless they had powerful friends anyway. There's also ultimately supposed to be a mechanism whereby support drops off more slowly, to give characters a little time to take advantage of full support while starting up a new settlement, but this tweak already blocks characters from losing about half of their support anyway, so there's less of a rush to add that cushion at this time.
Duffy Swiftshadow
Have you tried entertaining as a thought experiment that the root idea of support (in reference to player capabilities) may just a bad idea? If it was gone what 'bad' things would potentially happen that aren't solvable with another system?

My designer side loves nothing better than challenging all the assumptions of the design, exploring alternatives and variations, and generally just analyzing everything into little pieces. If it weren't for my producer side smacking me around regularly, screaming about silly things like available resources, looming deadlines and other practical considerations, I'd never get anything done.

I suspect I've run through upward of 20 different explorations of the support system over the last couple years, ranging from minor tweaks to full-blown replacements. Most get shut down when designer me concludes the change doesn't really solve the problems I'm concerned with at that time, or just causes more problems in other areas. Producer me kills another good chunk of them by pointing out that they're just not feasible right now. Those that survive I bring to Cole and Lisa, who helpfully ground my hopes and dreams into a fine powder, the black market sales of which is what's actually keeping the servers running.

The only idea to survive that process so far has been this tweak, moderating support to make it much less punitive than the original design. That's not really surprising, since support has been in since the beginning and was debated repeatedly back when we had an even larger team. It's a survivor.

We've all felt for some time that support (or some alternative) needed to return soon, and some of the systems coming online soon (e.g. settlement takeovers, settlement structure upgrades, changes to bulk resource production) added to the time pressure. The easiest way to cover this need would have been to simply turn support back on, since literally all we had to do for that was make support level start come from settlement level again, instead of just setting support level to 20 for all settlements. All this tweak required was a slight change to the math that previously limited active rank to supported rank, to instead have it limit active rank to a point between learned rank and supported rank. Then we threw on a tiny UI change to make the results of support clearer, which honestly we kind of needed even with the original support system because we regularly got customer support questions asking ranks had been lost. We also fixed a bug where settlements failing to pay upkeep dropped to settlement level 0 instead of 9, something we wanted to fix anyway but that really needed to be fixed before anyone found their support level dropped to 0 as well. All of that was a very minimal amount of actual work, largely because so much work was done in the past to implement the support system in the first place.

There are certainly other alternatives that could replace support, but none remotely as easy to design and implement as what we've done for EE 12, and none that we've yet found so compelling and likely to work that we'd even want to talk about it as a long-term goal to tackle sometime after we complete the roadmap. We're not against changes where needed, even for systems as central to the original design as support is, but we don't want to give the impression that we're likely to head in a direction when we don't have a plan that we're convinced will eventually work. And right now we have to focus on getting all the aspects of the roadmap working together, so there's not a lot of time to explore things beyond the roadmap in depth, and support is definitely one that calls for a deep exploration before committing to any big deviations from the original plan.