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Tannhäuser Cake

First Lieutenant
Nov 22, 2020
242
681
Edit - version 2.0: overhauled, improved and rebalanced after feedback
(Note that this new version retains downvotes inherited from the original version, but has been significantly changed.
Please read the proposal and make up your own mind before voting on it.
If you see anything that you think can be improved, changed or clarified, please take a minute to share that thought.)


"The race for the L-Cluster" can be an exciting part of the game, and if the AI gets there first it can really spice things up. The random distribution of L-Gates inserts some randomness, giving some empires a headstart and others a greater challenge. However, there are situations where the randomness can go so far that it effectively breaks the race for some empires, and sometimes going so far off the rails that the L-Cluster may as well not have existed in that game as it will not be reasonably accessed before the midgame is over and any excitement from the L-Cluster has long since faded. For gameplay enjoyment, balance and AI performance reasons, there should be a safety net that enables a determined empire to still complete the L-Cluster chain under such circumstances.

As a reference, the L-Cluster chain currently features these steps, the main bottlenecks being #2 and #4:
  1. Discover an L-Gate
  2. Collect 7 L-Gate Insights
    • Method 1: find anomalies (free of costs and cooldowns, highly dependent on luck)
    • Method 2: minor artifact action (50 minor artifacts, 10 years cooldown until the next, indirectly highly dependent on luck)
    • Method 3: research repeatable "L-Gate Insight" technologies (starting at 2,000 engineering points, no luck required)
    • Method 4: buy from curators (5,000 energy, 10 years cooldown until the next, no luck required)
  3. Research L-Gate Activation technology (12,000 physics points)
  4. Secure an L-Gate
    • Method 1: build an outpost in its system (highly dependent on luck, can be done in advance during #2 and #3)
    • Method 2: take one from another empire (difficulty depends on luck, can be done in advance during #2 and #3)
  5. Complete the L-Gate activation project at an L-Gate you own
  6. ???
  7. Profit

The circumstances mentioned above revolve around step #4, and how bad luck can screw some empires and the AI so badly that they have no reasonable way of completing the L-Cluster event chain despite being the first to complete steps #1-3. For human players, it may be that they are playing as a (fanatic) pacifist empire that neither got an L-Gate for free nor can conquer one, or that they are playing as an empire that got really unlucky with the L-Gate distribution and all of them are unreachable on the far side of the galaxy. You can be the galaxy's leading, preeminent experts on the L-Cluster, L-Gates and L-Gate Activation, yet have nothing to show for it as an empire on the other side of the galaxy complacently sits on its two L-Gates, making no extra efforts as they are arrogantly secure in the knowledge that you can't possibly beat them to the L-Cluster while they slowly buy more Insights from the Curators when they remember to do so. If an empire possesses an L-Gate, but is complacent and lazy about reaching the L-Cluster, it deserves to be beaten by a less gifted/lucky but more determined competitor - as in Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare. This is also not just an issue about gameplay enjoyment and balance, but about AI performance as well (which, arguably, does feed back into gameplay enjoyment and balance). While AI empires may be able to reach the number of Insights needed, it does not matter if the AI lacks sufficient "I" to be able to secure an L-Gate.

Similar to how L-Gate Insights can be gained through alternative but weaker paths that don't depend on luck, there should be a fallback mechanism that helps the L-Cluster chain progress and not get stuck at step #4 for 100+ years. One such way could be allowing us to construct an L-Gate of our own at a black hole, by spending enough time and resources towards that goal. The proposal is basically the addition of a third method under step #4 above, a method that would not be quite as dictated by luck but would also not be possible to do in advance, thereby involving an extra delay relative to the two current methods. A fallback solution that would only be used and useful when none of the other methods to access the L-Cluster are available.
  • L-Gate construction would involve a new technology, L-Gate Construction.
  • Prerequisites:
    • L-Gate Activation technology, or the L-Gate network already being activated.
    • Mega-Engineering technology.
    • Additional prerequisites could also be used, see "Balancing" below.
  • The technology should probably cost 24,000 or 48,000 physics research points.
    • Gateway Activation costs 24,000, Gateway Construction costs 48,000.
    • L-Gate Activation costs 12,000, L-Gate Construction would cost 24,000 if we want symmetry.
  • Construction:
    • L-Gates can only be built near black holes.
    • Steps and costs
      1. L-Gate construction site: 2,500 alloys, 100 influence, 3 years (same as Gateways)
      2. L-Gate completion: 2,500 alloys, 6,000 energy, 3 years (same as Gateways)
    • The L-Gate would be dormant upon completion, unless the L-Gate network has already been activated.
  • Balancing:
    • An alternative could be to put L-Gate Construction at the end of a nanite technology line.
      • Nanite Assembly
        • A new technology
        • Requires Nanomechanics technology and one of the following: L-Gate Activation technology or the L-Gate network being active
        • Costs 4,000 engineering points?
        • Adds a new building, perhaps also a new specialist job: turns minerals into nanites at a rate of 60 to 1
        • Unlocks Nanite Transmutation research
      • Nanite Transmutation
        • An already existing technology
        • Requires Nanite Assembly
          • (instead of the current requirement, ownership of a nanite deposit)
        • Costs 6,000 engineering points
        • Allows construction of the building Nanite Transmuter: converts 1 nanite into 2 rare crystals, 2 exotic gases and 2 volatile motes
        • Allows research of L-Gate Construction, or a new technology preceding it
      • L-Gate construction could then also involve a nanite cost, possibly as a third step where the L-Gate is "synchronized" with the rest of the L-Gate Network.
    • The potential extra burden on the CPU is limited by the number of black holes.
    • As a side-effect, allowing us to construct L-Gates would also allow us to choose to generate galaxies where the black holes of the galaxy are the only means of long-range transportation (by turning off normal Gateways and wormholes).
    • Mega-Engineering may turn out to be overkill as a prerequisite, as highlighted by the observations listed below. Whether it should be kept would ultimately be up to playtesting observations and the design goals of the developers.
      • L-Gates have significant shortcomings when compared to Gateways.
        • L-Gates are dangerous, two-way gateways that others can attack you through, which is a liability when going up against strong empires, the khan, Awakened Empires and Crisis factions. And while L-Gates could allow you to attack empires on the other side of the map, this is already the normal case with more normal distributions of L-Gates.
        • L-Gates do not allow you to eliminate trade routes entirely (unless all your systems are black holes).
        • L-Gates cannot be placed as conventiently as Gateways for long-range transportation.
      • The likelihood of AI empires using this safety net decreases, as the AI does not beeline for Mega-Engineering the way many players do.
      • An empire that has developed Mega-Engineering may also have become so strong that the L-Cluster no longer offers any great challenge.
  • Optional further changes/modding, theoretically made possible by the proposal:
    • Awakened Empires could be made more dangerous by giving them the L-Gate Construction technology, and even more dangerous by giving them a black hole.

So, how should the suggestions above improve the state of things?
  • It would not give us any new "L-Cluster speedrun" records.
    It would not add any extra-fast shortcut to the L-Cluster.
    The game would just punish AI empires and pacifists less severely
    when they are really unlucky with L-Gate placements.
    • Those who get lucky with L-Gate placements, or conquer one from their neighbours, would still be able to open the L-Cluster immediately after researching L-Gate Activation.
    • Those who resort to L-Gate Construction will face several more steps after researching L-Gate Activation, and will spend more time and resources.
    • L-Gate Construction would just be a safety net for the most disfavoured empires, a lesser disadvantage rather than an advantage, to ensure that the L-Cluster race does not get stuck and has at least a minimum of competitiveness to it.
  • It would be consistent with the game design for collecting L-Gate Insights, where there are many alternative ways to progress if one or more paths are blocked to you.
  • While it would not completely reduce the issue of L-Gate depravation for (fanatic) pacifists, it should at least lessen it; black holes are reasonably common in the early landgrab, and if that fails the marauder empires usually have one each.
  • It should help AI empires reach the L-Cluster without adding AI cheats to do so (though this may depend on how much research L-Gate Construction would be locked behind, and whether the AI gets any improvements to its economical priorities where research is concerned).
  • It should reduce the issue of L-Cluster access being delayed until the endgame due to L-Gate maldistribution(how much this issue would be reduced would depend on how extensive the steps to L-Gate Construction are made).
    • A side-benefit of this modest proposal is that playthroughs featuring the Gray Tempest tend to have less late-game lag.
  • It would flesh out the game content surrounding the L-Cluster.
Adding L-Gate Construction to the game could be a win-win-win-win proposition.
 
Last edited:

Ninjamestari

Banned
Nov 16, 2016
136
138
Working for this tech should be some sort of journey in an on itself, just getting a tech that allows you to bypass the whole having an L-gate thing is quite huge. Make it a more involved process and it could work and actually be interesting.
 

Tannhäuser Cake

First Lieutenant
Nov 22, 2020
242
681
Working for this tech should be some sort of journey in an on itself, just getting a tech that allows you to bypass the whole having an L-gate thing is quite huge. Make it a more involved process and it could work and actually be interesting.
The proposed system would be a safety net for the most disfavoured empires, a lesser disadvantage rather than an advantage. A new way to get an L-Gate may be 'quite huge' for AI, pacifist and/or "really unlucky" empires, but for everyone else it should not be a huge deal when considering:
  1. the primary time-consuming obstacle of collecting the 7 L-Gate Insights (which already takes a lot of time and resources)
  2. the fact that "lucky" empires that start near an L-Gate, and empires that conquer an L-Gate, can already open the L-Gate immediately upon getting L-Gate Activation
  3. that the proposed workaround for "really unlucky" empires would involve two additional steps and delays after getting L-Gate Activation:
    1. spending a lot of physics science points and time (24,000? 48,000?) on L-Gate Construction research, instead of researching something else
    2. spending a lot of resources and time (2500 alloys, 100 influence and 3 years?) on L-Gate construction, instead of using those resources elsewhere
Allowing L-Gate construction would be consistent with the game design for the collection of L-Gate Insights, where there are many different ways to progress - pure luck (anomalies), research, or spending resources after time intervals. Those who are lucky can get ahead fast and for free, but everyone else is still offered alternate ways to progress - at a cost and at timed intervals.

Allowing L-Gate construction would similarly not give us any new "L-Cluster speedrun" records. The game would just not punish AI empires and pacifists quite as severely for being "really unlucky" with L-Gate placements, by giving us a third alternative besides "luck" and "conquest". Having to spend additional years and resources on research and construction is still a significant cost and delay. The empires that would resort to using L-Gate Construction to reach the L-Cluster are the ones that are already the most disfavoured. A player desperate to be the first to the L-Cluster would still have a better shot at it by conquering an L-Gate ahead of getting the L-Gate Activation technology, because of the additional delays and costs involved with the L-Gate Construction path. (It can also be argued that if an empire possesses an L-Gate, but is complacent and lazy about reaching the L-Cluster, it deserves to be beaten by a less gifted/lucky but more determined competitor - as in Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare.)

All that being said, if you have any suggestions for additions or tweaks to the proposal, please share them.
 

Ninjamestari

Banned
Nov 16, 2016
136
138
Having a safety net IS a huge deal.

I'm not opposed to the idea in general, but the idea that you just get a tech seems so cheap and uninteresting for such a huge undertaking as essentially replicating an alien megastructure. Perhaps you should research more than one technology and complete a research project or two, divide it into multiple parts, make it an event path or something. As an added bonus this event path could involve you being able to research the gateway tech as well or something like that. I haven't thought about the subject enough to give you a definite answer, but I CAN definitely say that having a simple single tech to research would cheapen the whole concept of L-gates. L-gates are supposed to be valuable you know.

I'm not particularly interested in this idea, which is why I'm not going to elaborate on it much further and you'll probably have to do with these vague thoughts I've given you, but I CAN see the potential of the idea, and I can ALSO see that if not done properly it can not only become very unsatisfying but also cheapen the whole L-gate feature. I actually voted against the norm here and gave you an upvote; the idea has legitimate potential, but it has to be done properly so that it isn't too easy (and the immersive storytelling potential that the process of constructing your own L-gate has isn't wasted either). Other empires may have paid a huge price in order to gain control of an L-gate system, if all you need to do to construct your own is some simple tech, then the whole feature is going to suffer.

So all in all, I stand by what I've already said, I'm not opposed to the idea, I like it and gave it an upvote. It can work and be a good addition, provided it is done properly.
 

Tannhäuser Cake

First Lieutenant
Nov 22, 2020
242
681
Nitpicking: it would require two techs, the first being L-Gate Activation (which everone can research).
But anyway: I added Mega-Engineering as an additional prerequisite, and pointed out a way that could involve even more technologies being researched prior to L-Gate Construction.
 

Ninjamestari

Banned
Nov 16, 2016
136
138
This is I think bare bones, but would work. Additional steps and requirements and costs can be tweaked later if it is too easy or hard to construct one of those things.

The way I'd probably do it is divide it into several smaller projects and techs; Constructing the Gateway is one part, synchronizing it with the L-Gate network another, and finally activating the gate a third part of the process. Each of them could require a separate technology, so the overall tech cost of the process could be just divided into these partial techs.

It is a shame that this topic got into a negative feedback loop; people tend to vote the way they think other people have voted instead of relying on their own judgement. It is a good idea, and I hope PDX has the sense to understand that the whole voting system is simple garbage that doesn't help anyone.
 
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Tannhäuser Cake

First Lieutenant
Nov 22, 2020
242
681
This is I think bare bones, but would work. Additional steps and requirements and costs can be tweaked later if it is too easy or hard to construct one of those things.
I prefer keeping proposals as just outlines and bare bones - getting into too small details feels like writing fanfiction, usually means a lot of work for less and less added value, and can start obscuring the big picture and the big points. (There is also a risk that any discussions and feedback will focus on nitpicking the details rather than discussing the fundamental broad strokes. Additional details can always be ironed out later, if the core concept is solid enough.)

The way I'd probably do it is divide it into several smaller projects and techs; Constructing the Gateway is one part, synchronizing it with the L-Gate network another, and finally activating the gate a third part of the process. Each of them could require a separate technology, so the overall tech cost of the process could be just divided into these partial techs.
I added in a note about the possibility of a third construction step for synchronization, possibly using nanites if nanite production is added.
As of the last version, the simple version of the L-Gate Construction path looks like this:
  1. Discover an L-Gate
  2. Collect 7 L-Gate Insights
  3. Research L-Gate Activation technology
  4. If you already have an L-Gate, proceed to step #5; otherwise get one or go through these steps
    1. Possess Mega-Engineering technology (L-Gate Activation technology is already obtained in main step #3)
    2. Resarch L-Gate Construction technology
    3. Own a black hole
    4. Construct an L-Gate construction site
    5. Complete L-Gate construction
  5. Complete the L-Gate activation project
  6. ???
  7. Profit
And the possible expanded version looks like this:
  1. Discover an L-Gate
  2. Collect 7 L-Gate Insights
  3. Research L-Gate Activation technology
  4. If you already have an L-Gate, proceed to step #5; otherwise get one or go through these steps
    1. Possess Mega-Engineering technology and Nanomechanics technology (L-Gate Activation technology is already obtained in main step #3)
    2. Research Nanite Assembly technology
    3. Produce enough nanites for L-Gate construction (would be done in parallel with the following substeps)
    4. Research Nanite Transmutation technology
    5. Resarch L-Gate Construction technology
    6. Own a black hole
    7. Construct an L-Gate construction site
    8. Complete L-Gate construction
    9. Synchronize L-Gate
  5. Complete the L-Gate activation project
  6. ???
  7. Profit

It is a shame that this topic got into a negative feedback loop; people tend to vote the way they think other people have voted instead of relying on their own judgement.
Such is the way of democracy and internet fora.
 
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