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[RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Thu Sep 12, 2019 3:31 pm
by Corbeau
This is basically a personal rant, but it does contain strong elements of objective analysis. You have been warned. Also, it concerns the class of Longturn games, played online with many players and in a One Turn Per Day setting. I have no problems with this ruleset in single-player mode OR a RTS/shortturn mode because, this is what it was conceived for**.

So, as the title says: when playing one turn per day, the Multiplayer class of rulesets is BOH-RING! Why? Because in the first two months basically nothing happens (and if it does, then either you or whoever attacked you screwed up), and then, during the third month, things become hectic, all hell breaks loose and the game becomes borderline unmanageable.

This is the subjective part. Now for the objective: a Settler costs 40 shields. In the beginning, there is no way in hell a size 1 city can have more than 3 shields per turn, maybe, MAYBE 4 if you are extremely lucky AND slack on food. Once it grows to Size 2, it may get 5, again, IF you are lucky.

This means that it will take you approximately 10 turns to build your first settler. And usually another 10 to build the second one. You may shorten this by spending money which is usually a good strategy. Unless you need it for something else. Which is what usually happens.

And a longturn (Web or game usually lasts an order of magnitude od 100 turns. 120 may be an optimum, if it's 150, people call it long-longturn.

So just to make sure you got every detail right: it takes 10% of the game to grow your first settler and another 10% to grow your second one. This means that for the first month you are basically doing nothing else but watching the grass grow and watching your borders for a surprise incursion. You may build a military unit or two to explore and, potentially, make a surprise incursion. But if you get yourself involved in an early war without very clear and definite gains, the game is lost for you. It's a one-shot, really.

In the central part of the game (which is roughly between 60% and 80% towards the end) accelerated growth begins and then the mad part is that it doesn't pay to build any military units because alliances have been formed and tech exchange procedures have been established so that the technological progress is so fast that a unit becomes obsolete the moment you build it, and by the time it reaches the front, it is hopelessly outdated.

And in the last part, which is basically the last 20% of the game, you have dozens of cities to manage, possibly a hundred units to run and, if you have the time and if you are inclined toward that kind of game, you are having great fun. If you were counting, you found two ifs. I don't and I ain't. That's, again, the private subjective part.

So, to summarise: a longturn game consists of more than half of the time watching the grass grow, then a short accelerated growth and technical advance and then you need to take days off work to move all the units you have and manage all the cities. And then it's over.

And now the objective analysis.

This kind of game is sometimes interesting, but only to a small niche of people. Firstly, those who have the patience to wait out the first two months and keep being interested and who have the drive and, secondly, those with a lot of time to spend it playing, planning and communicating, in the last third of the game. Those are two pretty separate categories of players and I think their intersection is quite small. I believe this is the main reason the online longturn community on all three servers is so small. Definitely less than 100 active players on all three combined. And this is not a way to move forward. New people may come to the Web version and most of the time become bored or simply forget there ever was a game. Simply, the game doesn't have much to offer for their time, unlike the Single Player that all it takes to progress is to press "End Turn".

What is also making the game unattractive is the type of strategy that is played. Zoltan was right in one thing: a MP* ruleset game is decided in the first 50 turns. The purpose of the other half is simply for everybody else to get the memo.

And if you were following this, you may connect the dots: the game is decided in the phase where nothing is happening. Yes, there are people who will come to a new (style of an old) game, play it, get a surprise overrun, get up, wipe the dust off and play again. But the problem is that in this first half there are not many indicators telling you if you are doing well or not. It's just... slow. Now, some of you may flatter yourselves with being Grand Masters and take pride in being able to plan two months ahead, but something tells me this isn't really good for the community.

Simply, people who like this kind of pace and learning curve prefer to play chess. And sorry to break your bubble, but you don't get to outgrandmaster chess.

Basically, this rant was motivated by having a series of private discussions that didn't lead anywhere, but also by the fact that, instead of Web versions being improved and adapting to one-turn-per-day multiplayer environment, now LT50 is going to take a step back and use the MP ruleset, succumbing to the notion that "new players wish to play something they are familiar with so let's offer them something bad so that they never return again".

For the record, LT rulesets are not perfect either as I feel they also suffer from the second weakness, too hectic in the last stage of the game, but to a much lesser degree than MP rulesets. That's why I created the Sim ruleset anyway (LT48 starting in a week! Advertisment! Advertisment!), but it definitely addresses some of the issues mentioned here.

Ok, rant over. But I dare you to reply and unleash the 2nd level über-rant!

** for the record, Multiplayer ruleset was probably concieved for the, well, multiplayer games. But as everything else in life, here, too, pacing is everything. The kind of games MP ruleset was designed for were quick, semi-real-time with increased timeout (I played a few long, long time ago): starting time for a turn was 30 seconds and increased to 2+ minutes by the end. See where this is going? Turn time increased, as in, adapted to game progress. In the beginning it wasn't boring because the turn took only 30 seconds. However, stretch this to a whole day and you get the action-packed adventure of watching the paint dry. The Multi in Multiplayer simply referred to the fact that now the game isn't human against computer, so basically 1 on 1 (ignore several nations, it's still 1 on 1, if it hand't occurred to you, think about it), but several equal players. In this situation, you need to redesign Wonders. but that is another topic.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 2:45 pm
by Ignatus
Well, what is the problem with game pace? If you can do move for 30 seconds, you just do it and the rest of the day you live in the real world (I've heared it's cool!), or find another ways to have fun. If more time is needed, you spend more time; this can get uncomfortable in a very developed game against a strong and determined opponent, but managing not too bad in limited time is yet another challenge. In fact, on the first turns you more communicate, form alliances and discuss strategies, that is maybe less boring than move stacks of units by the cells; the game is more or less self-balancing so. What I like Longturn for, is that it still has lot of the fun you want from multiplayer games, but also it leaves enough time to plot things.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 5:52 pm
by Corbeau
I thought I answered it, but let me try to expand a bit. The problem is the (dis)proportion. The ratio of time you need to spend at the beginning and at the end of the game is bigger than 1:100. And the personal part is just a section of this rand. Ok, I am bored, so what, if it’s only me, I can always not play and nobody will miss me.

But I also believe this is not getting new people in. Even if MP rulesets are perfectly balanced and expert rulesets (which they are not, but this is not the topic), they are not well suited to attract newbies and less experienced ones. Sure, no need to pander to instant gratification, but a game where you see the result of your actions only three months after you do those actions, and then the game ends does not have much attracting potential.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:06 pm
by Lexxie
I think you just don't appreciate it's another game-within-a-game in this early stage. It is one of the most interesting phases of the game for me and there is a lot to do in the early game. It's the Dawn of Time and the decisions you make now will set the historical course of your whole civilisation! Every little choice of where to road, or irrigate, or plan to put a city, is an exciting thing. Knowing that this will differentiate you from the ADHD-impatient-war puppies who only want to rush out killing. Instead, you are the enlightened leader who sets the foundation of an empire to rise above the others and transcend the tests of time !

Most people I talk to have the opposite complaint, and want to see a longer Iron Age, Feudal Age, etc., and less of this paradigm which we might call "rush to gunpowder/fighters then go into a death orgy." Sure that phase can be fun too, but it is more as the culmination which shows the success of how carefully and intelligently you immersed yourself into the fabulously exciting early game.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:40 pm
by Corbeau
Lexxie wrote:ADHD-impatient-war puppies who only want to rush out killing

Ok, what did we say about taking those pills, darling? Now, be a good girl and do what the doctor said.

As for "wanting to rush out killing", your inability to see any other activity in Civ apart from mowing the lawn and going on a killing rampage is becoming a problem when it comes to game design because Civilization is so much more. It's a spectrum. (I'm sure you are familiar with that word from other areas of life.) Stuff like building, exploring, terraforming, engineering...

The Dawn of Time is cool as long as the dawn itself doesn't last for most of the game. I'm not a morning type myself, but even I usually get out of bed before noon.

As for your favourite argument, "most people I talk to", yeah, well, I'm not sure your... friends... count. You've been talking about them for years and nobody else saw them so can we skip that for now? And I'm not sure if you (or your... friends) read what I wrote: it's not about the length of a historic period, it's about the stage and pace of the game. I have no problem with the length of the Stone or Iron ages, but even then there were more things happening then than what is depicted in the game. There were migrations, battles, exploration, discoveries, conquering the wilderness. None of it is in the game.

But at least I'm glad you dropped the "immaculate perfection of the Multiplayer ruleset" speech. You probably couldn't stick to it after you started changing it yourself. Which version are you at, third? And it's still the same thing.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 12:35 am
by Lexxie
The early phase of all civ2-based rulesets is amazing for being a "different game within a game". No decisions you make at any time of the game have as much impact and importance as now. There is a huge amount of raw flexibility in what you do and there is wet clay to shape however you want. You are the founder of a civilisation that is constructing itself in one of countless possible ways. The actions and decisions you make have sharp and definitive impact more than any other phase of the game. There are so many possibilities, you can immerse yourself in the possibilities and the planning. You have a huge palette of colours to paint with. But it's not always the same painting, because in each game you are thrown into a new and random world with a different context. Unlike other rulesets, in MP rules, optimal play isn't just a routine to get through quick, the same way you always do. In MP rules, optimal play will always be different based on the reality you face!

Unfortunately, instead of rich debate and information interchange, some chose to insult. If my response to that doesn't interest you, consider this post done. No need to read further.


Corbeau -- Petty insults are a poor substitute for intelligently argued concepts and good forum conduct. You gave a public opinion of hating MP rules, why get so mad about letting people read the opinion of someone who loves it?

your inability to see any other activity in Civ apart from mowing the lawn and going on a killing rampage is becoming a problem when it comes to game design because Civilization is so much more. It's a spectrum.

You try to say I constantly promote the game as "mowing lawn" or "killing rampage", but I said opposite of that. I am arguing for the ENJOYMENT of the early game as a rich part of the spectrum. Apparently you see the "dawn of time" as ultra-boring. It seems to me you can't say it's boring but claim that you also grasp it as "the most flexible, distinctly interesting, and important part of the game." Well, it's designed to be that way, and I think you are playing it more in another way that would make it boring? No need to be upset.

"failing to appreciate the 'spectrum"
-- you should know very well I have ALWAYS argued that most rules-modders fail to see the spectrum and the 'zen holism' in how changing one part of the rules affects the rest of the spectrum. You were the loudest anti-spectrum voice on the forum, arguing with ferocity against any kind of "zen" or "holistic balance" as an important priority for modding.

The Dawn of Time is cool as long as the dawn itself doesn't last for most of the game.
I have no problem with the length of the Stone or Iron ages.
The Dawn of Time is an incredibly rich phase of the game and yet you say it's not, I tried to spark an information interchange where you -- and any audience, partakes in the main benefit of a forum, which is learning from other people's informational interchanges and debates. I feel like you are missing out on something and are unaware that you're missing it (therefore it doesn't exist!) You learned on rules that whip through this phase so fast, that your mind was already formed into habits. Sir James Galways says it so well, "Running through things breeds routine and this is the seed of boredom." If you see this phase as a routine, then the only way to make it MORE boring would be if you can't be "running", but instead go 23h per turn. Because of this habit of running through this phase instead of looking for a whole new "game within a game", the early phase bores you. You ADMITTED that to you it seems there isn't much to do. You are playing this phase of the game in the same way you play on rulesets that routinely run right past it. This means that instead of enjoying one of the things that's better about MP rules, you are actually experiencing one of its best characteristics as boring!

When I tell a person there is more to do in this phase, and maybe they are missing something, what response will I get? Well, different types of people will respond differently. An enlightened person sparks an interchange so full of interesting questions, giving concepts which teach,balances pros, cons, interesting differences; raises new questions that are seeds for future growth.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Tue Sep 17, 2019 12:40 pm
by wieder

We have pretty much solved the issues with the early game on the recent game with some help from someone who has actually been releasing commercial games and has been working professionally. Then again the help from the community has been massive and while only a fraction of it can be seen on the public forums, the amount of the feedback given in public is something that would take a person months to understand.

The early game for traditional games is balanced in multiple ways. I don't want to go into details because it's out of the scope from this thread and the mp ruleset. I'm simply pointing out that while early moves are really important on games, we also have multiple ways to compensate and balance the errors and lucky surprises the players may encounter when they make the first moves. This both allows the really good players to triumph on the early game but also makes it less likely to make truly devastating errors if you don't really know how to play or are only learning.

This guarantees a competitive and balanced but yet fair game to all the players and gives new and old players a decent chance to actually enjoy the game and learn to play. Yes, the good players will be doing better but they can't afford taking it easy for a while, like they can with the mp ruleset. That's maybe one of the features making traditional so fair compared to some design by the committee rulesets. You get advantage if you are good but that advantage is lost if you get sloppy.

That's not only fair but also realistic. And really fun.

And yes, it depends on a map too how much you have to do in the early game. On some setups there have been real wars before turn 3. On some maps and setups some players have been safe for 20-30 turns but then again today the players can choose over doing or not doing that.

Re: [RANT] MP* rulesets are BORING!

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:39 pm
by Corbeau
Ah, thanks for reminding me.

So, yes, the main problem with the early game being incredibly important is that we are not playing chess. In chess (and Go) the table is completely symmetric and there are only two players. With that in mind, it is obvious that the players are in an equal position and anything that happens throughout the game is the result of their skill.

However, this can't be further from the truth in Civilization.

We have:
- heavily asymmetric map, both location-wise and resource-wise
- different neighbours: different number of them, different skill, and some of them may even be idle

In this situation, it is more often than not the case that your early and mid-game will heavily depend on sheer luck.

And if you're out of luck in the beginning of the game, without the chance to get back on your feet later, the whole game is ruined for you.

This is why the the later game should be at least nearly as important as the early game.