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All posts created by Bob

Bob
Flari-Merchant
Seems like as with any complex design, the more things that you can generate or "build" with the system (in an unchecked way) the more out of control it can get.
Keeps my job interesting, that's for sure.
Bob
Flari-Merchant
I can understand your concerns about future issues in that area.
Sadly, this is no longer just a concern for the future, but something that's already causing problems in certain parts of the world. It's just not affecting everyone quite yet. We'd really hoped to have Spreading Escalations in time to slow it down just enough, but now have to find something simpler. On the positive side, everyone just being aware that we're looking at some limits and ways to implement them soon will probably help, since it nudges everyone to start thinking about whether or not they're overextended.

Flari-Merchant
Even though other issues (bug fixes like banking i.e.,) would require a deeper dive and more time than this Influence fix, I feel it would have more immediate impact.
We generally look at things in terms of "bang for the buck." If a 2-day task will make the game 1% more fun, and a different 10-day task will make the game 10% more fun, then we'll choose the 10-day task. Of course, we're trying to spread those improvements across different segments of players, so some features that make the game more fun for one segment of players can have little impact on others. Of course, making the game fun is also dependent on keeping the game running, which is why the cloud and Unity upgrades rose to the top of the list recently. Until those are done, the vast majority of game updates will need to be things that require no code changes. We'll make exceptions when they're important enough and/or when Cole could use a short break from those tasks, but those exceptions will be rare. This particular proposal is just barely important enough and easy enough to be worth considering as one of those exceptions.

Flari-Merchant
It is a shame that Influence has so few uses in game. Would be cool if it could be spent on in numberless interesting settlement/kingdom boons or decorations or special structures i.e.
More options would certainly be interesting, and worth considering at some point.

Flari-Merchant
Finally, you do deserve some "Hurrah!"'s for the recent thingy events like choose your Own Escalation" and other events. So I do see that you are not totally ignoring these things. Bravo! smile
Thank you very much. Wer'e hoping to be able to do more of that kind of thing in coming months.

Flari-Merchant
As I stated, I don't really deserve much say in a game that I no longer play. I just find it hard to give up on the dream that I will be able to look forward to "wanting to play" this game again within a reasonable span of time.
We're happy to get constructive criticism from any source, and the perspective of a formerly active player is always helpful. Really, thanks to all of you who keep an eye on us and remain part of the community, even if not in-game.
Bob
Azure_Zero
Just change the Influence Max from 1,000,000 to say 20,0000.

We considered that, and it is just a spreadsheet change, but unfortunately it's too easy to work around by just forming new companies whenever the limit is hit. To get a similar effect that's not gameable, we'd probably need to return to something more like the original Max Influence, where it's determined by company membership (with the numbers adjusted to reflect current player levels), and add in a requirement that the characters be active to avoid all the problems we had the first time around. Adding in that requirement probably gets us back to at least the same level of work, if not more, and we'd hoped to take into account levels of activity rather than just being a technically active character.

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.
Bob
You make several good points, Flari. We're very limited in what we can work on, particularly while Cole's time is monopolized by the cloud and Unity upgrades. We wouldn't even be looking at this if we didn't think it was both important and relatively quick.

Your point that this sounds like we're back to pushing players toward more chore-like behavior is well taken. I focused a bit too much on some of those aspects when I should have made clearer upfront that our goal is for the vast majority players to find that their current activity levels are just fine. We mostly want companies to feel this is a factor they should take into account when deciding how far to expand, that it's best not to take on too much territory without good reason.

That's basically the main driver in looking at a change like this. There's currently very little strategic disadvantage to expanding as much as possible, and without mechanics that make it easier to maintain a shrinking amount of territory and harder to maintain expanding territory, any entity that starts expanding will simply keep expanding indefinitely. This wasn't happening until now because everyone was still too busy using what influence they earned just building up to support their settlements, but now all that earned influence has nowhere to go but toward expansion.

We'd meant for Spreading Escalations to act as the first brake on indefinite expansion, but that will take far too much time for us to tackle right now. Even with that, we were going to have to adjust things so that it didn't feel like we were turning escalation clearing into too much of a chore, more something that just naturally got taken care of as long as you were minimally active and didn't overextend. Adding a brake through Max Influence is much quicker, but again it's clear that we need to adjust things so it mostly feels like something that just gets taken care of if you're minimally active and don't overextend.

One possibility I'm considering is increasing the rate that influence is generated just enough to balance out the added daily influence cost for typical characters controlling a not-outlandish amount of territory. That should keep this from feeling like an added chore, while still adding a mild incentive not to overextend.

Many of the improvements you listed are things we'd love to tackle, but unfortunately most would either take too much of Cole's time at the moment or would require an actual artist, not my simple copy/paste/tweak art skills. Tutorials are an exception, at least if they don't call for new code/art, and I'll be getting to the Combat Alchemist tutorial soon. Even there, that single tutorial will require far more of my time than this will, so they're not really competing. This is honestly one of the quickest changes we could make outside of basic bug fixes, since we're leveraging so much existing code.
Bob
It all comes down to the exact details of any implementation. For example, we could set the cost per holding per day so low that we're charging the equivalent of killing one mob per day per holding, or showing up once a month and killing 30 mobs per holding. I suspect a cost that low wouldn't give us some of the other benefits we're looking to gain, so the trick is finding the sweet spot where the price isn't really painful for all the groups adding value to the game through their current activity, but is noticeable enough to be worth taking into account when deciding how far to expand.

We have multiple levers to tweak (daily holding cost, influence generation/return rates, feud costs, … ) and definitely don't want the result to be a drastic increase in abandoned settlements. That said, we're also starting to see some of the consequences of unlimited influence arising, just as we expected, and need to put a lid on that soon before it starts to damage the game just as much as a heavy-handed Max Influence could. I think we've done pretty well on that front when adding things like DI and the settlement abandonment rules, and believe we can find the right balance again here. An important part of that is hearing everyone's concerns so that we can take them into account.
Bob
Azure_Zero
Some settlements only have a few active and dedicated players who are also casual players in a mid to high teens supporting level settlement with a number of buildings running at +2 or better, so congrats, your bring in a broken system and it'll be killing off some actually active settlements and not just the one's in a settlement collectors collection.
The goal here is to keep the cost small enough that active settlements can easily generate enough influence to maintain a settlement that's at least somewhat reflective of their activity level. Off the top of my head, I think right now that means something like a few casual characters could keep a +2 settlement going pretty easily, but running a +5 settlement requires either a small number of very active characters or a larger number of less active characters.

Assuming I'm doing all the calculations correctly, a fully developed +2 settlement can generate all the required DI with just 8 +3 holdings (or 7 +4 or 6 +5, though those are significantly more expensive), and with the right infrastructure that could drop even lower (I think it might be as little as 2 holdings, but don't quite trust my math on that). We just need to set the right numbers so that the amount of activity required feels reasonable given the overall activity level throughout the game. A cost of .5 influence per day per holding might be a little high or a little low, but I think it's at least in the ballpark to say that a small, somewhat casual settlement could generate 1-4 influence per day on average.

Azure_Zero
also that formula still favors settlement collectors since they only need a holding to keep there absolute minimum of DI and bulk for a settlement running at a low level.
This certainly doesn't present an overwhelming difficulty for someone who just wants to hold onto a minimalist, but largely unused settlement. However, it does require dedicating some time to earning influence for that company, which in turn means either playing a character with the minimal support offered by that settlement or accepting the DI loss for bouncing a company between settlements (meaning a need for more territory, so a need for more influence, and so on). To some degree, this change falls heavier on a minimalist settlement. They generally have to have at least one holding (there may be an exception for a settlement that's almost entirely composed of infrastructure, can't remember offhand if we dealt with that issue yet, but there's probably a quick fix to require at least one holding), and that single holding is providing far more DI than the settlement is putting to use.

Azure_Zero
If holdings need to be cleared, why not do a timer on the holdings counting the days since the Holding vault was accessed, if the count exceeds say a year then tear it down.
This is less about clearing out literally inactive holdings (though that's a nice side-effect) and more about saying that continuously holding territory should be at least somewhat reflective of continuous activity in the game, just as initially taking territory is at least somewhat reflective of past activity.

Azure_Zero
This game is built on PVP and the rule, "You have What You Hold."
Now I play more casually then I used to, but every week I still watch my PVP window(s), and do the weekly holding management for two settlements, so why are you killing off the dedicated casual player settlements?
PVP is indeed central to taking and holding territory, but the influence system was always intended to provide a base level of tension between the need to interact with the game's other systems (adventuring, gathering, crafting) and purely focusing on PVP. Admittedly there are other factors that make a pure PVP force difficult (it's very hard to steal every single supply required to maintain a PVP fighting force), but influence puts a more formal requirement at the bottom of that. Without the limits provided by Max Influence, the balance swings too far back toward PVP. We could get away with that for a while while companies built up influence, but we always knew we'd eventually need to put some limits back in, and this feels like a good time to do that now that we've figured out a pretty simple implementation, assuming it holds up to scrutiny.

Azure_Zero
We have the PVP system for clearing and claiming hexes, and what this'll do it make feuding even harder to do since the influence you earn for getting a feud ready is now being eaten for holding upkeep,
[sarcasm]what a great idea giving another hit to the feud system that needs more nerfing and butchering[/sarcasm]
This would undoubtedly make it a little more difficult to build up the influence required for feuding, and make influence a more valuable commodity that companies may be less willing to expend on feuds. I think there's some other fiddling that could be done to mitigate that, most of which wouldn't require any code changes (just spreadsheet changes).
Bob
BlackMoria
I predict this is going to be controversial and contentious. There will be supporters and detractors for this. Single character companies are not going to like this at all and there is quite a number of those.

Hopefully we can figure out the right daily cost numbers, and possibly some other tweaks, to keep this from being too rough on small-but-active companies. A cost of .5 per holding per day is really just a rough guess, and a fairly active character should be able to maintain quite a few holdings at that cost, but I need to do some more number-crunching and get some more feedback to figure out the ideal number.
Bob
In the before times, Influence was limited by a company's Max Influence, which in turn was based on the number of members a company had. We decided a while back to temporarily override those limits by setting everyone's Max Influence to 1,000,000 until we had an opportunity to revisit that system, in large part because we wanted Max Influence to be based more on activity levels than just on membership numbers. We've now come up with a plan that should be easy enough to implement that we can probably fit it into one of the upcoming releases.

The basic idea is that Max Influence would increase as a company earns influence, but would decrease a little bit each day during Daily Maintenance. The increase would be equal to the amount of influence earned, meaning that Max Influence would no longer limit a company's ability to earn influence, except when Max falls below Banked (and even then newly earned influence would be pushing Max closer and closer to Banked, so earned influence isn't simply lost).

The daily decrease would be based on the number of holdings a company owns (perhaps .5 per holding), so each company's ability to retain influence banked in holdings would be limited by its ability to earn new influence regularly. Over time, companies would reach a point of equilibrium, earning roughly the same amount of influence each day as is lost from their holdings.

Companies would start out with Max Influence set to Banked Influence plus Available Influence plus a buffer amount (perhaps 25), meaning new companies would start out with Max Influence set to just that buffer amount (since Banked plus Available would equal zero for a new company). There would also be plenty of warning beforehand so that companies can start building up their Available Influence and figuring out where their equilibrium point might be.

Our existing Max Influence code would kick in and start shutting down holdings and outposts whenever a company's Max Influence drops below its Banked Influence, with holdings and their outposts being torn down any time a holding stays shut down for more than 7 days. Companies could correct this by earning more influence, or by unbanking some influence (downgrade or tear down some holdings or outposts, end some feuds).

As our player population increases, we would steadily raise the daily decrease per holding, or might even come up with a formula for scaling that number dynamically. The goal is to set that number such that each company's ability to take and hold territory is at least somewhat reflective of that company's ability to regularly generate influence relative to the same ability in all the other companies, while still recognizing that the ultimate limit is each company's ability to defend their territory against those who would take it from them in territorial PvP.

With that, I open the floor for discussion.
Bob
Update 6 to original post: University Commons cleared its requested escalation.
Bob
Update 5 to original post: Oak Knoll cleared its requested escalation.