Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #54: The Tyrannosaurus: Update Economy

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Tombles

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Hi everyone!

As you all know the Tyrannosaurus Update is coming tomorrow, on February 18th! As a bit of a warm up I thought it would be interesting to do a deeper dive into the changes we made to the economy system.


Sector Levels

Sector levels are one of the more unique parts of Planetfall’s economic system. The idea is that by investing more production into sectors, and by placing them in good locations, you can increase their level, which in turns boosts the amount of income and the bonuses that you get from them. Although most players like the system, many players were having trouble understanding how it worked, or found that it was quite fiddly and demanded too much of their attention.


To begin with we decided to take a look at the bonuses that the sectors gave themselves, to see if there was anything we could do to make it clearer.

BasicSectorLevels.png



The above screen shot shows a sector exploitation before and after the update, they are quite different!


  • Clearer opening description - The initial description now contains information on why the player would want to choose this exploitation (because it speeds up production of units and structures). This is important information for new players, who may not understand what production does or the effect that it has.

  • Simplified Incomes - The actual impact of each level is now much simpler. The original design was giving multiple bonuses of different types at each level, this made it hard for players to judge what effect getting a new level would actually have on their economies. The new versions now always give an extra 5 income per level, and 1 colonist slot, which is much easier to predict.

  • Starting Levels - A sector can now start on a higher level than 1, this is due to terrain change which I’ll also get back to later, but the main impact is that by starting a sector at level 3, players are introduced to the system in a more natural way. Where before they needed to go through multiple steps to level up a sector, it now happens immediately and seamlessly.

We also had a look at the specializations that can be built to enhance these sectors:


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Although the functionality here hasn’t changed, we’ve done a pass on all of them shortening the text, so that the effect of each level is easier to understand.



The Income Curve


In the base game, there were a lot of multiplicative bonuses that stacked in such a way that meant that bigger cities would produce a lot more income than smaller ones. For example, level 5 sectors would give a 10% income bonus to the whole colony, while levels 3 and 4 would give bonuses to each colonist working on a particular income type. For small colonies, these bonuses are small, but for large colonies, with a lot of colonists, the bonuses can grow out of hand, especially when players start stacking multiple sectors of the same type.


This led to an issue that early game cities had quite low income, slowing the game down, while late game cities had too high income which was hard for us to balance around.


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The new design gives far fewer of this type of bonus, which flattens out the income curve, speeding up the early game and slowing down the later game for a better overall gameflow.



The Effect of Terrain

We always wanted the type of terrain in a sector to have an important impact on the game’s economy. This helps give shape to the world by making some areas more useful than others, and encourages players to explore and expand into new areas to gain advantages of economic resources their starting location does not provide.


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In this sector the Mountains are granting a bonus level to Energy and Production sectors, the Arid climate is also giving the same bonuses. In order to gain these bonuses the player must research a tech for the necessary terrain, and then build a structure in their colony. Although this approach has some advantages, many players found that it was quite a cumbersome system which had a lot of steps and investment for a fairly minimal return. There was also an issue that the research for Terrain types came much earlier than the research for Climates. So in this sector, the Mountain bonus is much more relevant to the player than the Arid one, since the research for the Arid bonus comes at tier 8 while the Mountains are at tier 4.


In the Tyrannosaurus Update we’ve removed the research and building requirements entirely, so if the player were to build an energy sector in the sector above, it would instantly become level 3, giving better bonuses.This means:


  • What you see is what you get - When a player sees that a sector is good for an energy sector, then it is straight away, no extra steps are required.

  • Less to build and research - So players can focus a bit more on the interesting bonuses, such as doctrines and operations

  • Faster early game economy - Higher level sectors early on give more income, speeding up the game

  • Better advantages from specializations - The buildings that players can make in structures give leveled bonuses, and these structures often give something special at level 3.

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For example, this specialization that can be placed in production sectors, grants units bonus armor at level 3. This used to be a mid game bonus, but can now we accessed close to the game start with the new terrain rules.


Impact on the Tech Tree

After the above changes, 8 techs had to be removed from the tech tree, one for each terrain and climate type. When we did this we had to evaluate what else was in those techs to try and judge what impact it would have on the game.


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The terrain skills look like this. As well as the sector level they unlock:

  • Navigation - Units on that terrain type get a movement bonus

  • Extra Structure - A structure that gives an economic bonus that scales with how many sectors with that terrain are in a colony.

The extra structure gives a bonus type we were trying to get rid of anyways (see The Income Curve) so it could safely be discarded. The movement bonus was trickier though, since some terrain types are very annoying to move through without this bonus unlocked. Around this time, our multiplayer team was reporting that another tech “Colony Infrastructure” was causing balance issues. This skill gave a huge move speed bonus to players in their own domain, and it was being unlocked very early in multiplayer (at tier 3), leading to a huge advantage to defenders in wars.


We decided to try and fix both issues at the same time by creating a new, higher tier tech that would contain both the Infrastructure tech as well as Mountains and Ruins navigation. Moving the tech later would help the multiplayer issue and give players the option to get the most important terrain bonuses. The Forest movement bonus was left out since it’s built into the Amazon race, and removing it from the main tech tree made Amazons more interesting. There was also a Fertile Plains movement bonus, but movement on plains is already quite fast so we could safely lose the movement bonus there.


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The tech was also given a slightly higher cost than other tier 5 techs to try and reduce its impact on multiplayer games further.


The climate skills were much later in the tech tree:


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As well as a level up structure, they unlock:


  • Recovery - Units in that climate heal faster than normal

  • Habitats - Colonies gain a happiness bonus for each sector of that climate they contain.

We decided that the recovery bonus was safe to ignore, since that late in the game the need for constant healing on the world map wasn’t that great. The happiness bonus was trickier, but since we’d already decided to rebalance the happiness economy, we decided it was safe enough to remove that as well and deal with the fallout in another way.


Happiness

Yes, we’re still going. Yes, we really did change a lot! Here’s a picture of a christmas dinosaur to make up for the incoming wall of text:


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The happiness system acts as a brake to growth, so that something other than Food is important when letting cities grow. It also gives us another value to play with when we design doctrines and operations for the player to use.


In the base game, a city starts with 10 happiness income, with an extra 2 for your racial happiness bonus. This means you can grow a city to 6 colonists before you need to start acting (each colonist needs 2 happiness), meaning you need to unlock the Recreation dome quite fast to avoid rioters. Many people felt this was quite restrictive however, so we decided to allow a city to start with 2 happiness slots, giving a potential happiness income of 22 (or 11 colonists). This gave the player more freedom to choose how they wanted to act in the early game, and made the system more forgiving for new players.


Another effect of the economic changes we’d made was that players had a lot more colonist slots, and testers wanted the system to be able to potentially support very large cities without suffering from chronic unhappiness. We’d already 10 happiness to the system with the extra slots, but we decided to rebalance the happiness structures as well to push the limit higher. To this end, we increased the happiness income of the recreation dome to 6 (from 4), and the number of slots from the Virtual Entertainment Plaza to 5 (from 2).


Basic Colony: 10 income, 2 slots

Recreation Dome: 6 income, 2 slots

Botanical Garden: 6 income, 2 slots

Virtual Entertainment Plaza: 5 slots, +2 happiness per slot


Total: 22 income, 11 slots, 7 happiness per slot = 99 happiness or 49 colonists!


Finally, Happiness Events in Planetfall boost the income of a city by 100% for a turn, we’d gotten feedback that players felt forced to rearrange the colonists in their colonies to maximize this income, which lead to annoying micromanagement. To fix this, we changed the system to just give a fixed amount based on the colony’s current income, with an enforced minimum to prevent low income cities giving pointless tiny rewards.


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As a last touch, we also added support for happiness events to give cosmite and influence as well as the other 4 resources, since those tended to be the resources people wanted the most. These would only be given in colonies that naturally had an income in those resources however.


And that’s it!

I could keep talking about the other changes we’ve made, such as the rebalancing we did to the sector specializations, changes to unit costs and other tweaks, but I think that’s enough for now!


The Tyrannosaurus Update will be released TOMORROW on February 18th! We hope that you all will enjoy it!
 
Last edited:

Picrasso

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Thanks Tombles! I do hope these changes will make the game more streamlined and not too easy. Any indication on what time the update will be live?
 

Smertnik

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Thank you for the lovely game and updates, didn't play enough of it, but recently had a fun hotseat version with my friend.
Well try doing some online multiplayer after the update.
 

DragonZee

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Woah, a lot of thought went into these changes. Those seem to be meaningful, I'm just a bit skeptic if too much content wasn't cut out in the process (for example if I understand correctly you removed some of the resource generating structures?). True, there were too many research options before when it comes to economy (too many tiers?). Limitations and time/resource constraints led to situations in which I passed many of the terrain related techs, because at some point their potential benefits are not impactful enough to consider them or my empire simply "jumped over them" technologically. I trust these changes were tested properly as from where I stand they might change the flow of the game drastically, hopefully not dumbing it down too much.

Streamlining the game is a great idea, but I hope it'll still retain the "build as you see fit" feel, because customization options are what l like very much about this game.
 

TibblesTheCat

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(for example if I understand correctly you removed some of the resource generating structures?)

If you mean the visit site resource structures, 7 of those were turned into dungeons with new combat maps, they still give resources but now also give a bonus to units build when in your domain, basically like the Mystical City Upgrades in aow3.
So it's extra content, not less.

Edit: Nvm, I think you mean stuff like the high altitude wind farms
 
Last edited:

DragonZee

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No, 7 useless visit sites were turned into dungeons with new combat maps, they still give resources but now also give a bonus to units build when in your domain, basically like the Mystical City Upgrades in aow3.
So it's extra content, not less.

Are you sure these are the ones? The ones you mean are redesigned Visit Sites, what I'm referring to are economic structures, previously enabled via tech research, that you can build in your city like the High Altitude Wind farms.

@Tombles
Can you clear this out please?
 

Tombles

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We removed 4 city upgrades too, they were in the Terrain Tech tree. They usually gave something like:

"The city gains +2 production per colonist in a production slot per Mountain sector attached to the city"

But they're not really interesting pieces of content, beyond letting you get a big income boost with a with late game, big city placed in a certain way.

The things that give interesting economic bonuses are still there, such as the ones which boost health of extra units, or grant a bonus to food sharing.
 

DragonZee

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We removed 4 city upgrades too, they were in the Terrain Tech tree. They usually gave something like:

"The city gains +2 production per colonist in a production slot per Mountain sector attached to the city"

But they're not really interesting pieces of content, beyond letting you get a big income boost with a with late game, big city placed in a certain way.

Yep, but still this is content removal :p You better make it up to me with that Tyrannodon NPC/neutral unit :p
 

Snorro Soliman

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@Tombles first, thanks for the notes and incoming update. I am very excited!
Second, if I may ask. Are there any plans to add 'tavern' like structures to the game, or other ways of acquiring non buildable units/critters, such as RPR units, the various bugs and the mighty piglets of doom?
 

Apoplekt

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As much as I'm happy about having updates, I really, really don't like this change.

In the current (pre-update) economy system, already the most efficient way to develop is to spam cities with no regard to quality, in part because of the ~90 free yields from the city center (20 food, 60 prod, 10 happiness), +25/30 from central structure+economist, and the first few pops basically generating themselves for free.

Now, with the removal of nearly all scaling bonuses, trying to build large, well-developed cities will be even more inferior of a plan. And with terrain bonuses given for free, small cities will come online with almost zero investment apart from the colonizer.

Think of it this way, in the previous system a 16-pop city with two level 4 prod-exploits, whose worker bonuses are boosting each other, could have 72 production from colonists, without any other bonuses. And two 8-pop cities with one exploit each could have 84, which is already superior, and you have two city centers and two central structures. (We only count workers because the flat bonuses would be the same if we have the same total number exploitations.)
Proportional difference: 17% in favor of small cities

In the new system, the big city would have 55 (you need 3 food, 2 happiness workers to maintain pop, leaving 11) and the small cities would have 80 (pop small enough to be supported by base income and building flat income). The gap has gotten much wider, and becomes even more egregious when you add various other factors that used to help big cities more, like landmarks, the forest production building, or worker-income doctrines.
Proportional difference: 45% in favor of small cities

On the one hand I'm ignoring the setup cost of one extra colonizer and one extra levelup building. On the other, I haven't counted the 90+25 free yields from the city center either. Not to mention, it's a one-time cost versus permanent yields, and cities reach 8 pop much faster, especially without food assistance or investment.

So it's really not looking good for any kind of economic strategy that involves brain cells. The mindless cityspam is so far and above, that perhaps every game from now might be cityspam + straightaway units from the new cities because they don't need any economic upgrades anyway. Just cram your cities close together because it doesn't matter if they can't get well planned sectors, since sectors don't combo with themselves anymore.

Now I do understand the need to remedy the slow economy of the midgame (I even made a mod for it, though it only scratches the surface of the problem). But this isn't the way.

---

On a separate note, the removal of forest/plains expedited movement will make any walking units even more of a chore to use, and your opponent might have teched up by the time you limp over to their city. Maybe consider a movement cost reduction across all terrain types, so that float-stacks aren't so hugely advantaged?
 
Last edited:

Pobez

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@Tombles first, thanks for the notes and incoming update. I am very excited!
Second, if I may ask. Are there any plans to add 'tavern' like structures to the game, or other ways of acquiring non buildable units/critters, such as RPR units, the various bugs and the mighty piglets of doom?

THIS ive been feeling the same way since launch I miss the aow3 inn
 

TreborTheTall

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Lol thanks for making the dev diary fun to read!

Yes, we’re still going. Yes, we really did change a lot! Here’s a picture of a christmas dinosaur to make up for the incoming wall of text:


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I'm so eager to see all the changes tomorrow! For one, I'm not sure what u would change on unit costs. My guess is that t1 and t2 units are going to cost less production to make, and t4 unit will have their cosemite upkeep removed
 

VintageDot

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@Tombles first, thanks for the notes and incoming update. I am very excited!
Second, if I may ask. Are there any plans to add 'tavern' like structures to the game, or other ways of acquiring non buildable units/critters, such as RPR units, the various bugs and the mighty piglets of doom?
I agree but what I hope not all unit types are available at the tavern. It'd be cooler if players attracted units based on their tech or what faction they were. So Amazon attracts animals while Vanguard attracts RPR and random units. I also just want more diverse marauder units so maybe those could be added together in an update so that it makes more sense to attract specific units.

Edit: I'd just like to clarify what I mean by more diverse maraders. Yes more wildlife would be cool, but I also want marauder specific pirate units or something. Maybe a soldier unit that has an Amazon, a vanguard, and a Kir' ko in it that are wearing stolen armor or unique outfits. Essentially marauder units that are specific to Marauder's and not just bog standard units from other factions.
 
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Cainist

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As much as I'm happy about having updates, I really, really don't like this change.

In the current (pre-update) economy system, already the most efficient way to develop is to spam cities with no regard to quality, in part because of the ~90 free yields from the city center (20 food, 60 prod, 10 happiness), +25/30 from central structure+economist, and the first few pops basically generating themselves for free.

Now, with the removal of nearly all scaling bonuses, trying to build large, well-developed cities will be even more inferior of a plan. And with terrain bonuses given for free, small cities will come online with almost zero investment apart from the colonizer.

Think of it this way, in the previous system a 16-pop city with two level 4 prod-exploits, whose worker bonuses are boosting each other, could have 72 production from colonists, without any other bonuses. And two 8-pop cities with one exploit each could have 84, which is already superior, and you have two city centers and two central structures. (We only count workers because the flat bonuses would be the same if we have the same total number exploitations.)
Proportional difference: 17% in favor of small cities

In the new system, the big city would have 55 (you need 3 food, 2 happiness workers to maintain pop, leaving 11) and the small cities would have 80 (pop small enough to be supported by base income and building flat income). The gap has gotten much wider, and becomes even more egregious when you add various other factors that used to help big cities more, like landmarks, the forest production building, or worker-income doctrines.
Proportional difference: 45% in favor of small cities

On the one hand I'm ignoring the setup cost of one extra colonizer and one extra levelup building. On the other, I haven't counted the 90+25 free yields from the city center either. Not to mention, it's a one-time cost versus permanent yields, and cities reach 8 pop much faster, especially without food assistance or investment.

So it's really not looking good for any kind of economic strategy that involves brain cells. The mindless cityspam is so far and above, that perhaps every game from now might be cityspam + straightaway units from the new cities because they don't need any economic upgrades anyway. Just cram your cities close together because it doesn't matter if they can't get well planned sectors, since sectors don't combo with themselves anymore.

Now I do understand the need to remedy the slow economy of the midgame (I even made a mod for it, though it only scratches the surface of the problem). But this isn't the way.

---

On a separate note, the removal of forest/plains expedited movement will make any walking units even more of a chore to use, and your opponent might have teched up by the time you limp over to their city. Maybe consider a movement cost reduction across all terrain types, so that float-stacks aren't so hugely advantaged?
I'm worried about these changes further encouraging city spam as well. Perhaps a large cost and time increase to colonizer creation? Either way, I guess we have no colonizer mode.
 

nosepose9x

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Maybe I'm not thinking about it hard enough, but because of the scaling cosmite cost of colonizers, I'm not too worried about people rushing to build a lot of cities - it'll just mean more cities for me, as they'll have a hard time defending against my fully modded units if they've blown all their cosmite on colonizers.
 

Snorro Soliman

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The main advantage to having a load of cities to me seems to be additional parallel production. Given that all games tend to move into a phase of resource abundance, production speed and flexibility become key. How quickly a player can produce, say, 6 troopers, is very significant to me. While larger cities may produce overflow capable of spawning 2 troopers in a single turn, 6 low level cities might spawn the required number in 1turn. This leads to strategic flexibity. I believe the changes in Tyrannosaurus might make a conscious decision to focus on 3 or 4 larger cities worthwhile. Instead of 6 unmodded troopers, 4 modded tier 1 units may be created. If the math works, Triumph might have just made a 'tallish' playstyle more viable.
 

The Mentat

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I really like the changes. Planning cities according to sector terrain was fun but it only paid off in long games und climate had almost never any impact. With the update city planning seems to get more rewarding.

Now, with the removal of nearly all scaling bonuses, trying to build large, well-developed cities will be even more inferior of a plan. And with terrain bonuses given for free, small cities will come online with almost zero investment apart from the colonizer. [...] Just cram your cities close together because it doesn't matter if they can't get well planned sectors, since sectors don't combo with themselves anymore.

Founding 10 cities in an area that has only space for 5 fully developed cities imho doesn’t sound like an optimised strategy (if that was your point). In the short term you’re at a disadvantage because you can’t spend cosmite on your units, in the long run you get the issue that you cities can’t annex new sectors anymore (all of them are already connected to other settlements).

I’d say with the update the positioning of cities gets rather more important - as you want to get access to as many high level sectors as soon as possible.
 

Eelectrica

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Really like those changes. They seem to make things a lot clearer.
How save game compatible is it though? I'm just over 100 turns into the final mission and still have a bit of a ways to go before wrapping it up I think. Will we be able to roll back the update to continue on or should I just be able to continue on with maybe my economy change up.