Having participated in this discussion across a couple of threads, I think
the concern with tours is as below.
This is a genuine, good-faith attempt to understand the argument - so, if it's not correct, I'm happy to fix.
1. A new optional feature will either be net advantageous to use or net disadvantageous to use - either generally or in specific situations.
2. If the optional feature is advantageous, it will be farmed by players to increase their power.
3. All things being equal, a new, advantageous optional mechanic will therefore result in players acquiring more power, making the game easier.
4. This reduction in game difficulty can be countered either by (a) making the game more difficult in other areas (resulting in no net decrease in game difficulty) or (b) a specific counter mechanic that causes the player problems unless they use the optional advantageous feature to offset it (i.e it "soaks up" the additional power gained from the new mechanic).
5. If the optional feature is disadvantageous, it will either (a) not be used by the player or (b) requires the game to incentivise or force it's use.
So, applying the above to tours specifically, I think the concern is that:
1. Tours are set up to exchange upfront gold for a higher amount of gold, stress reduction or vassal opinion buffs and so will either be net advantageous to use (if they provide a better return on gold investment in gold/stress reduction/vassal opinion than using existing mechanics) or net disadvantageous to use (if they provide a worse return on gold investment in gold/stress reduction/vassal opinion than using existing mechanics) - either generally or in specific situations.
2. If they provide a better return on gold investment in gold/stress reduction/vassal opinion than using existing mechanics they'll be used/farmed.
3. All things being equal, this will mean player characters acquiring more gold, having less stress and having happier vassals than prior to tours being added to the game - making the game easier.
4. This reduction of game difficulty seems unlikely to be countered by (a) making the game more difficult in other areas (as that would either make the game harder for non-DLC owners or would require Paradox to maintain two different underlying balances (one for those who own the DLC and one for those who don't) and they won't be countered by (b) a specific counter mechanic as devs have stated that the use of tours in optional, implying that no such counter mechanic exists.
5. If the tours are disadvantageous, they will either (a) not be used by players unless (b) incentivised or forced to - and, since devs have stated that tours are optional, we can assume there's no incentive or "forcing" mechanic.
Hopefully the above is a decent, honest approximation of the concerns. Certainly none of it is a ridiculous argument. However, I think there are few underconsidered things that could
paint a rosier picture:
- Non-quantifiable aspect of tours compared to other mechanics could interfere with (1): Since tours appear to come with risks (of kidnapping, of death on the road, of leaving a regent in charge etc.), it may not be so straightforward to quantify whether tours are a more advantageous or less advantageous way of aquiring gold/stress reduction/vassal opinion boosts than other mechanics. i.e. while it's easy to compare a mechanic that costs x gold for y stress reduction vs one that costs x gold for 10y stress reduction - it's less straightforward to compare a mechanic that costs x gold and a 5% chance of death for y stress reduction vs one that costs 10x gold and a 0% chance of death for y stress reduction. The risk introduces player choice without necessarily making the game easier. Of course, whether it does make the game easier or not would be down to balancing those values - but, in principle, it's certainly possible and wouldn't require two different balances for DLC owners vs non-DLC owners.
- Paradox's willingness to balance across DLC owners vs non-DLC owners and the ease of doing so (4a) may be higher than assumed: There may be relatively straightforward DLC-owner-specific balance adjustments that are relatively self-contained and offset the extra gold/stress relief/vassal happiness gained from the use of tours. Some examples could be adjustments to hunt and feast cooldowns, flat vassal opinion modifiers, changes to the piety cost of getting money from the pope etc. This could allow tours to not result in the game becoming easier while also not making the game harder for non-DLC owners.
- There may be new mechanics contained in the DLC that incentivise the use of tours (4b): We know that players won't be forced to use tours, but there may be mechanics in the DLC that incentivise their use, even when it's not to the advantage of the player in other areas.
- There may be new mechanics contained in the DLC that offset the net benefits of tours (5): The DLC could contain mechanics that act as gold-sinks or cause additional stress or vassal unhappiness, offsetting the additional gold, stress reduction or vassal happiness delivered by tours.
- The patch could contain long-asked-for additonal difficulty settings and game rules: CK3's difficulty settings - and the ease of the game itself - have always been a bit weird and it's a regular ask on the forums for that to be addressed. Devs have mentioned in the past that it's something they've considered. Perhaps they'll be contained in the free patch, allowing players to offset any tour-driven changes to default game difficulty to match their own preferences.
I'm certainly not saying the above will
happen. It's absolutely possible that tours make the game easier - and that'd be really
disappointing, as I'd like to see the opposite happen.
This is just my view on why, given how much we know about the DLC and patch right now, I certainly don't believe that "Tours [are] already confirmed to be meaningless" or a nailed-on disasterfor game balance.
(crossposted to the main DD thread)