Ruleset complexity discussion

Planning and discussing Freeciv Longturn gaming
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Corbeau
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Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:00 am

This started on Freeciv Discord channel. I would like to reply, but I believe the forum format is much more fitting for this kind of discussion for several reasons:
- on Discord this will sink under a shitload of comments (metaphorically speaking, it will actually disappear upward but.. you get the point...) never to be found again
- can't quote on Discord
- generally, very difficult to discern what you are repying to
- a mess; Discord is for real-time stuff, not thought-through and more permanent idea exchange

So, first, the post, and my reply after that:

qrtv wrote:Just a few days and not many comments ago, there was a discussion about which ruleset to use to learn the game. I left a very brief comment that civ2civ3 is terrible. I will elaborate. The reason for my hate (and many others too) for civ3+, civ2civ3-ruleset and all rulesets tweaked from civ2civ3 can be summarized in a design principle made by an accomplished game designer, who also happened to have made a civ-like game:

Principle 4: Focus on Strategy. It's the nature of a Civ-style game to be a simulation and a strategy game at the same time. This double-ambition causes serious conflicts in game design and the need for compromise. While Civ I and Civ II chose a middle course, newer Civ sequels are clearly directed towards simulation.

In addition, sometimes features are complained about by weaker players and this principle has some under-comments too that are interesting in this regard:

-Poor players will not be helped in order to keep the balance of power. (Yes, this means most games are decided before they end formally, but that's natural and common to almost all good games.)
-The fun you'll have playing the game without reading the manual is comparable to the fun it is to move pieces on a chessboard without knowing the rules of chess.

You can find the principles here: http://www.c-evo.org/text.html

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:06 am

qrtv wrote:In addition, sometimes features are complained about by weaker players and this principle has some under-comments too that are interesting in this regard:

False. Stronger players complain just as often as the weaker players. Do your homework.

-Poor players will not be helped in order to keep the balance of power. (Yes, this means most games are decided before they end formally, but that's natural and common to almost all good games.)

Firstly, if a game is decided in its first quarter, or sooner, it is not a good game. Civ is a complex game and people make mistakes. Naturally, whoever makes least mistakes will be the winner. The catch is that with exponential progression and "not keeping balance of power", early mistakes will be much more expensive than late ones.

So, basically, we are not talking about the "balance of power between poor and good players", but balance between early and late mistakes.

Also, I didn't know this really needs to be said, but I guess I was wrong: the game that is decided in the first quarter soon becomes boring and tends to lose players and I'm quite confident that we don't want that. So if there is a choice between balancing early and late mistakes and NOT balancing them, I'd say it's quite a no-brainer.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby qrtv » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:16 pm

Corbeau wrote:
qrtv wrote:In addition, sometimes features are complained about by weaker players and this principle has some under-comments too that are interesting in this regard:

False. Stronger players complain just as often as the weaker players. Do your homework.


This was specifically directed towards the complaints made by weaker players. A statement like "Sometimes x happens" does not entail "y never happens".

[
Corbeau wrote:
qrtv wrote:-Poor players will not be helped in order to keep the balance of power. (Yes, this means most games are decided before they end formally, but that's natural and common to almost all good games.)

Firstly, if a game is decided in its first quarter, or sooner, it is not a good game. Civ is a complex game and people make mistakes. Naturally, whoever makes least mistakes will be the winner. The catch is that with exponential progression and "not keeping balance of power", early mistakes will be much more expensive than late ones.

So, basically, we are not talking about the "balance of power between poor and good players", but balance between early and late mistakes.

Also, I didn't know this really needs to be said, but I guess I was wrong: the game that is decided in the first quarter soon becomes boring and tends to lose players and I'm quite confident that we don't want that. So if there is a choice between balancing early and late mistakes and NOT balancing them, I'd say it's quite a no-brainer.


Good thing that this isn't the case in Freeciv. LT.org seems to reduce the cost of the early mistakes compared to MP ruleset, which is exactly one of the reasons that dumbs it down. It reduces the consequences of strategic choice towards what we can call "simulation". This is what consumers prefer today, and the reason why purer strategy games like civ2 and colonization aren't made anymore.

Early mistakes being more costly is natural in this kind of game and not a problem. If someone doesn't like it, nobody is stopping them from reading the manual, reading guides and practicing the start until they nail it. After all it's a strategy game, not a family board game. People unwilling to learn should play one of the tons of other games more suitable for them. It's a sign of a good strategy game that you need to know the rules and game mechanics to do well, and strategy games shouldn't be dumbed down because someone doesn't want to learn them.

Because these pure strategy games aren't made anymore, and freeciv-web and now isotrident being the only online mulitplayer communities for such games, these two communities become special niches that are absolutely needed, and it's very important to not let them degenerate into something else, but keep them close to civ2.

A final comment, I'm not saying a place like LT.org is out of place, just that it caters different needs than freeciv-web and isotrident, and that's totally fine.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Lexxie » Thu Sep 13, 2018 2:39 am

Rulesets are like beloved babies to those who play them. So it's like being the child development counselor at the school, when you are asked to explain to the loving family about the cognitive disorders their child has. "How is Yanko dumb? Give me an example! Explain to us!" they ask you, with their passions and blood pressure high enough to distort the shape of the eyes which stare at you with a primal challenge that looks ready to ignite a flame-war. Love for the baby will always win no matter what you say, and it's probably better to avoid answering. You can only hope that a greater time and experience will help them discover a Eureka moment when they realize a fundamental principle: they don't need to modify civ2civ3 a hundred different ways to try escaping the inescapable principle: "Golden Path imbalances" will ALWAYS be created by the combination of reducing the consequence-impact of strategic decisions while simultaneously introducing a greater number of game elements. Qrtv tried to do a nice service to explain this phenomenon in the link for elementary Game Design Principles for strategy games. But Corbeau's response didn't engage a single valid point for or against those principles, and went straight to arguing something off topic.
It has been repeated countless times that they deliberately dumbed civ3 down to access more profit from a broader audience, and also to give the AI a chance to compete by removing a great deal of the strategic creativity that only a human can implement. Yes, Yanko is dumbed down. That's WHY the AI can do better. If Yanko were actually smarter/more complex/more diverse, then the AI would have more trouble. I would think that would be super obvious. If you were in this situation of school counselor and the loving family doesn't want to hear the news, you just don't have the heart to argue the details of the obvious to them. There is only one way to discover it yourself: I encourage people to explore getting better at pre-dumbed-down rulesets until you master it enough to discover that it is just the opposite of forcing a single Golden Path, that there is a much higher ceiling to it. Then go back to playing a civ2civ3-based ruleset. It will be like going from Mount Everest back to some little hill on a small island that the natives think is the highest mountain. The real discussion should be about fine tuning or micro-balancing the multiplayer-based rulesets.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:58 am

I'm sorry, but this can't even be called "discussion". I comment about a game not being good if one mistake early on throws the whole game in the garbage, and you start ranting about reading the manual and overprotectedness for someone's babies. Also, you pull stuff like "LT isn't strategy" out of thin air with absolutely nothing to substantiate it with and then claiming that Freciv Web is some divine remnant from ancient times When Things Were Good and that They Don't Make'em Like They Used To.

Well, everybody is entitled to an opinion.

However, adults are occasionally taken more seriously if they back their opinions with facts or at least some kind of analysis, not just throwing out the first thing that pops into their mind. So when you're ready to do this, don't hesitate, I'll be eagerly awaiting.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:05 am

And about Qrtv's "principles": Freeciv is not zen, it's more about math. Thise pruinciples are applicable for just about everything and you trying to stitch them into the same bag as claiming that one game is "strategy" and another a "simulation" is somewhat annoying.

And just in case you weren't aware: tic-tac-toe is also a strategy, just like checkers. So, do you have any point at all?

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby qrtv » Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:31 pm

I have no idea where you want to go with this discussion but I'll give some brief answers.

Corbeau wrote:I'm sorry, but this can't even be called "discussion". I comment about a game not being good if one mistake early on throws the whole game in the garbage ...


What game are you refering to? The multiplayer ruleset doesn't throw the whole thing in the garbage from one early mistake, unless of course it's grave mistakes like disbanding your settlers, starving your size 1 cities to death etc. You mentioned in the discord-channel that the game is pretty much decided 1/4 into it, which can't be true considering I joined g15 at turn27 with no cities built and finished second in score at turn120-130. 1/4 into the game, about turn 33, I only had 3 cities and were lower than top 40 in demographics. Considering how easy i beat you too, you can't have a very good understanding of the game mechanics and strategy in action.

Corbeau wrote: and you start ranting about reading the manual


I don't see me ranting about reading the manual, but I pointed out that rather to "dumb down" the game in response to complains about it being difficult, one could actually learn how to get a good start, reading the manual and practicing the start.

Corbeau wrote:... and overprotectedness for someone's babies.


This is directed at Lexxie, but she obviously has a point as you act emotionall like someone having criticized their child.

Corbeau wrote:Also, you pull stuff like "LT isn't strategy" out of thin air with absolutely nothing to substantiate it with and then claiming that Freciv Web is some divine remnant from ancient times When Things Were Good and that They Don't Make'em Like They Used To.


This is also directed towards Lexxie, but I think I am on firm ground claiming that there has a been a shift in the essence of strategy games from the mid 90s and until today, a shift that hasn't been welcomed by the whole fanbase of the 90s classics like civillization 2 and colonization.

Corbeau wrote:And about Qrtv's "principles": Freeciv is not zen, it's more about math. Thise pruinciples are applicable for just about everything and you trying to stitch them into the same bag as claiming that one game is "strategy" and another a "simulation" is somewhat annoying.

And just in case you weren't aware: tic-tac-toe is also a strategy, just like checkers. So, do you have any point at all?


They aren't my principles, these principles were used to design a civ-like game, therefore I find them very relevant. One can agree to these design principles for how (this kind of) strategy game should be, or you can disagree. For my part, I agree with them. You would be better off to criticize the principles, propose own principles for game (or ruleset) design, criticize the use of design principles for games or explain what is wrong with the strategy vs simulation-dichotomy rather than to just state it annoys you.

I can conclude with that I hope that freeciv-web (and isotrident) would stick to c-evo's design principle 4 about strategy, rather than to "dumb down" and lessening the impact/consequences of choices made during the game.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:54 pm

qrtv wrote:I have no idea where you want to go with this discussion but I'll give some brief answers.

Corbeau wrote:I'm sorry, but this can't even be called "discussion". I comment about a game not being good if one mistake early on throws the whole game in the garbage ...


What game are you refering to? The multiplayer ruleset doesn't throw the whole thing in the garbage from one early mistake, unless of course it's grave mistakes like disbanding your settlers, starving your size 1 cities to death etc. You mentioned in the discord-channel that the game is pretty much decided 1/4 into it, which can't be true considering I joined g15 at turn27 with no cities built and finished second in score at turn120-130. 1/4 into the game, about turn 33, I only had 3 cities and were lower than top 40 in demographics.

Then I'm afraid you'll have to discuss it with Lexxie because she's the one who said "most games are decided before they end formally, but that's natural and common to almost all good games" (check above, this is c/p).

Considering how easy i beat you too, you can't have a very good understanding of the game mechanics and strategy in action.

Well, learning is the best part of life.


Corbeau wrote: and you start ranting about reading the manual

I don't see me ranting about reading the manual

I was replying to Lexxie.

, but I pointed out that rather to "dumb down" the game in response to complains about it being difficult, one could actually learn how to get a good start, reading the manual and practicing the start.

And I keep asking for someone - anyone - to explain how civ2civ3 and derivative rulesets have been "dumbed down" and I can't seem to get a reply from you guys.

Corbeau wrote:... and overprotectedness for someone's babies.

This is directed at Lexxie, but she obviously has a point as you act emotionall like someone having criticized their child.

Feel free to elaborate because you just wrote something that I can't connect with reality.

Corbeau wrote:And about Qrtv's "principles": Freeciv is not zen, it's more about math. Thise pruinciples are applicable for just about everything and you trying to stitch them into the same bag as claiming that one game is "strategy" and another a "simulation" is somewhat annoying.

And just in case you weren't aware: tic-tac-toe is also a strategy, just like checkers. So, do you have any point at all?


They aren't my principles, these principles were used to design a civ-like game, therefore I find them very relevant. One can agree to these design principles for how (this kind of) strategy game should be, or you can disagree. For my part, I agree with them. You would be better off to criticize the principles, propose own principles for game (or ruleset) design, criticize the use of design principles for games or explain what is wrong with the strategy vs simulation-dichotomy rather than to just state it annoys you.

You're funny.

I wrote "These principles are applicable for just about everything and you trying to stitch them into the same bag as claiming that one game is "strategy" and another a "simulation" is somewhat annoying."

Let me dumb it down for you: the quoted sentence does not criticise those principles. Instead, it criticises Lexxie's use of those principles to prove her point. Which is a problem in itself because the principles themselves are extremely abstract and applicable on a million other fronts while Lexxie's point itself is unclear with her unable to explain it, let alone make a case out of it.

I can conclude with that I hope that freeciv-web (and isotrident) would stick to c-evo's design principle 4 about strategy, rather than to "dumb down" and lessening the impact/consequences of choices made during the game.

And yet again you fail to explain - or at least give an example - what you see as "dumbing down". I will gladly accept a dumbed down explanation.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Corbeau » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:15 pm

And only now I realised that you actually wrote a reply before Lexxie and I completely missed it. Ok, let's have a look.

qrtv wrote:
Corbeau wrote:Also, I didn't know this really needs to be said, but I guess I was wrong: the game that is decided in the first quarter soon becomes boring and tends to lose players and I'm quite confident that we don't want that. So if there is a choice between balancing early and late mistakes and NOT balancing them, I'd say it's quite a no-brainer.


Good thing that this isn't the case in Freeciv. LT.org seems to reduce the cost of the early mistakes compared to MP ruleset, which is exactly one of the reasons that dumbs it down. It reduces the consequences of strategic choice towards what we can call "simulation".

Why is that "dumbing down"?

Please explain what is a "strategic choice"? (No, not what the term means, but how it applies to this situation.)

Early mistakes being more costly is natural in this kind of game and not a problem. If someone doesn't like it, nobody is stopping them from reading the manual, reading guides and practicing the start until they nail it.

So, "not reading the manual" is the only reason why someone makes early mistakes? Are you saying that early game has an absolutely straightforward winning path and the only way you can diverge from it is because you "haven't read the manual"?

Because these pure strategy games aren't made anymore, and freeciv-web and now isotrident being the only online mulitplayer communities for such games, these two communities become special niches that are absolutely needed

I hope you have attached weights to you feet, I'd hate to see you float into stratosphere and suffocate for lack of oxygen. When your self-complacency bloats like that, uplift can become a real problem.

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Re: Ruleset complexity discussion

Postby Lexxie » Thu Sep 13, 2018 10:51 pm

With all due respect, Corbeau conveniently ignores that qrtv joined AFTER the first quarter of the game and defeated him. Always take it with a grain of salt when someone less competent is getting on his high horse to critique someone more competent. When pride is at stake, people often aren't really discussing the subject they claim to be, but there can be invisible motives going on. Ideally, public discourse should be civil, social, and discussion should excite interest in digging deeper into the main topic. This is probably why qrtv so patiently pointed out all the different optional response paths Corbeau could have taken to make it a productive discussion.

The game design principles qrtv showed us were the key topic that started the entire discussion, and designing according to principles is core to any well-balanced rules. It's ironic that Corbeau flees from this key topic, yet complains other people won't engage his proud attempts to distract away from the main topic. Corbeau, here is a hint to help you get started on the topic: the whole subject is about mathematical principles. They directly engage the ruleset domain with concepts such as magnitude of the impact of strategic decisions, quantity of game components, a priori theorems about what kind of "game space" is created by altering ratios such as impact/components. Magnitudes, quantities, a priori theorems, ratios. That's the mathematics you avoid, and "Zen" or "holistic perspective", or whatever we want to call it, is the key to mastering it.

To rescue the topic, the interesting subjects that were brought up and waiting for focus were: diversity of effective paths vs. single Golden Path, and how these Game Design principles are the only way to overcome an apparent contradiction-- attempts to eliminate Golden Path by making 'all possible paths more equal' almost always has the effect of reducing 'strategic ceiling'. Some rulesets to some degree transcend this contradiction by how well they follow these Principles. (Whereas any motion toward "equalization of all possible paths" will by its very mathematical nature reduce the strategic ceiling. Ergo, it's "dumbing down". QED.) In the ideal game space of this type of game which tries to simulate the reality of leading a Civlization, we would like, just like reality, for there to be almost infinite creativity (high diversity of possible paths), with many different paths doing amazingly well (but being a very small proportion of all possible paths), many different paths doing quite well (a small proportion but larger), many more paths doing decent (a decent proportion but still small), many paths doing average (still a small proportion of all total paths), and yes, a million ways to fuck it all up, some of them really really badly (just like reality).

I sense a type of non-holism (atomism) in your perspective that may currently be preventing you from advancing in this subject. "Balance" by its very nature is a relation between multiple elements. Changing one element creates a ripple effect that spreads into every other element of the game, changing their relative values and relations to everything else. As you know, reducing the cost of a horseman relatively increases the cost of a chariot...that's an elementary example. The Eureka-moment comes when you realize this applies to every element at every level in the ruleset. Thus, it's holistic, a "field effect", and yes, it's "Zen". On the other hand, the atomistic perspective that considers elements in isolation as if they were absolute and not relative, it leads to errors. For example, please recall the time when you insisted in some atomistic change to Turn Change sequence yet were completely unaware of the Zen consequences: the gross mathematical recessionary effects it had on the economic growth rates.

Thus, we have a holistic Zen-like "field nature" of the inter-relations of ruleset elements. This makes ruleset creation one of the most Zen-like arts I can think of. We might let ourselves call it "Zen math", since indeed, and for sure, it's the "Art of Mathematically Balancing the Whole". Since that's what it is, the principles, theorems, and design dicta from the academic discipline of Game Design are our rich inheritance and guide to assist us. This elementary curriculum is perhaps the most relevant topic on the subject of ruleset complexity, and I congratulate qrtv for finally bringing all the thirsty horses to the water well. These elementary principles are foundational. As with all foundations, at higher levels more complexities and exceptions can occur. But before the master lets the apprentice break the rules, the master first requires the student to study, learn, copy, understand, and then finally break them. The master breaks the laws of harmony and plays discordant notes, and it's jazz -- while the student only makes annoying noise and clanging of the piano keys.

When you ask someone a question merely as a way to elicit content to criticize, people stop answering. That's one paradigm. There's a second paradigm: asking questions, getting answers, asking more questions, and gradually gaining understanding and learning. I humbly propose that this would serve you much better. i will explain why I have that opinion. You have used the first paradigm since I met you in my first game of freeciv web (G2), while I have seen those who use the second paradigm rocket past you.
Last edited by Lexxie on Thu Sep 13, 2018 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.