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-   -   500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd? (http://forum.shrapnelgames.com/showthread.php?t=32376)

Ming December 16th, 2006 05:33 AM

500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
I am from the Far East and with my time zone I doubt if I'll ever get to play on-line. So my comments are based entirely on SP - usually testing ideas against myself.

First it seems that 500G is insufficient to compensate for moving second - I win over 80% of the games playing first against myself. The exception is Gnomes. I note that the the 500G figure might be arrived at by dividing the initial city's income by 2. If that were the case Gnomes are getting an extra 100G for playing second. If all other races also get an extra 100G for playing second i.e. 600G, it would make things more balanced (at least for me). What do everyone else think?

Second, I had a terrible time playing Arcatta against Gnomes. Even though the Archmage is excellent against Legendmaker and the Sorceress is excellent against Wolfriders, the Gnome player can usually dictate the match-up because Legendmaker enters play unspent and gnome units have high movement - especially if herbally enhanced. Wolfriders against Archmage and Legendmakers against Sorceress will result in disaster for Arcatta. Also, I find that the archmage's armor bonus hardly ever get used as the Arcatta player usually need all the firepower from the Archmage to keep the Gnomes at bay. Am I missing something?

Ming the Terrible

ichbinsehselber December 17th, 2006 12:01 PM

Re: 500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
I agree in most parts. Going first is better than going second in most cases.
But my observation about gnomes is different. If I go second with gnomes I have got 1200 gold, this is 400 extra fro going second, so it is exaclty as you are suggesting. Maybe it depends on the version?

Hiro_Antagonist December 18th, 2006 12:07 AM

Re: 500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
Hey there,

A couple of comments:
-The Gnomes as Player 2 should only be receiving +400 gold (i.e. +50%) on their first turn. If you're seeing something different, please take a screenshot and post it, as this would definitely be a bug we'd want to look at.

-The Arcatta is definitely a tricky race to use to its full capability, and they're definitely classified as one of the 'advanced' races. We worked very hard to balance all of the races against each other, but only when they're used to the absolute fullest of their abilities. This does mean that for many players, the Arcatta and Afflicted can have a harder time against Gnome and Human players (for instance), except in games between tried and true veterans.

As for some specific tips with the Arcatta, their strengths don't lie in brute force as much as the other races. In fact, Levitate can become one of their strongest assets, as it can make all the difference between killing a unit or taking over a city when the enemy least expects it. Also, you may notice that while some abilities (like the Archmage's armor ability) aren't necessarily game-changing on their own or during battles in open areas, the Arcatta's abilities can all be used in one way or another to help a unit of yours get to and defend a city that you're trying to capture. In fact, when the Arcatta work together and focus on helping a friendly unit capture an enemy town, there's very little an opposing player can do about it. Usually this will just help set you up for an income advantage, but it can often win you the game by getting you that one last city!

The Arcatta also have the most efficient healers in the game, so make ample use of them!

Ming December 18th, 2006 05:46 AM

Re: 500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
Thanks Hiro. It is unusual to have the designer of the game answer personally to one’s questions, and with playing tips too! It is obvious that you care for the game and are proud of your creation. You should be proud as LOL is a great game. I checked out the other games in the top 5 strategy game award for 2005 (from the post elsewhere in this forum) and would personally rank LOL ahead of the other 4.

I was mistaken in thinking Gnomes get 500G when playing second. I stand corrected. Thanks also to ichbinsehselber for pointing this out. The fact remains that Gnomes can recruit Gardeners on T2 and 3 when playing second as opposed to T2 and 4 when playing first. As far as I can remember none of the other races has similar compensation in terms of recruitable units when playing second. Maybe you could illuminate me (and probably others as well) why you think 500G is sufficient compensation for playing second?

On my problem of Arcatta vs. Gnomes, I did use Arcatta healers to back up the Sorcerers and Archmages and almost always attack at full strength, but as Gnome player I almost always ensure that the Sorcerers/Archmages are killed even if it leaves others at full strength, so the high healing power is not very relevant. I also find that the flight ability can be extremely useful in some maps (e.g. Arcatta vs. Afflicted in the campaign) but not that relevant in others. Maybe I am missing a few tricks?

Two other comments:

1. In the spirit of your minimalist approach, shouldn’t you reduce all gold amounts by a factor of 50? That is, Cutpurse gets 1G per damage and cost 16G to recruit, Gnome cities generate 16G per turn and other cities get 20G per turn, etc.
2. Is there a keyboard command that cancels an action? Right now I need to click on the unit itself to cancel an action and clicking on the wrong square could end up having the unit cast a spell/ability on its adjacent ally. This could be disastrous as every mistake could become a game loser in LOL.

I hope I am not nit-picking. Like most gamers, I just hope that a great game can become even greater.

ichbinsehselber December 19th, 2006 05:43 PM

Re: 500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
I agree that the races are very well balanced. At least to the extent, that this is possible at all, given the goal that the races should differ a lot from one another. Which they do and I like it.

Still there are differences in the capabilities of the races. At least some terrain is favourable for some races. Distance between cities of 5 squares favours other races than distance 6 etc.

I only play vs Computer (I did not try to play against myself, I do not think this is fun for me).
My standard handicap is going first and doing nothing for 3 turns. This means I restrict myself on buying the first unit in turn 4. I tested Arcatta vs Gnomes and I won on turn 15. I had tougher times in other matchups. On the other hands I won also in a match where I went second and did nothing for 3 turns. But this was humans vs elves.

I do not know how Arcatta would perform in expert human vs expert human matchups. But I do think that the starting player will likely win. On the other hand going second may not be so tough for the gnomes as Ming nicely points out (T2 gardener, T3 gardener)

ichbinsehselber December 19th, 2006 08:36 PM

Re: 500G not enough compensation for moving 2nd?
Arcatta vs Gnomes going second and getting first move on turn 4 is also beaten and I feel a bit proud :-)

Ming December 20th, 2006 05:53 AM

Re: Aecatta vs Gnome against the AI

I tried out your idea to make sure it is not just me having problems with Arcatta.

I went second with T4/5/6 Apprentice. Used random map (turned out to be Gold Mountain) and won on T17 losing 6 (1 sorceress, 1 apprentice, and 4 initiate) out of 22 units against the AI's 22 (all killed). The AI simply build too many Legendmakers and wasted money on Gardners/cutpurse) when it should concentrate on Wolfriders. I am afraid I had a much rougher time against myself as Gnomes.

ichbinsehselber December 20th, 2006 09:59 AM

Re: Aecatta vs Gnome against the AI
very nice, Ming!
... and another weakness of the AI is, that you usually know, that the AI will attack your unit on the city even if attacking a different unit would be much better.

Ming December 20th, 2006 12:54 PM

Re: Aecatta vs Gnome
I finally won my first game of Arcatta vs. Gnome against myself.

Hiro is right about Arcatta. I finally found the missing piece in Arcatta's arsenal: attack with apprentice! While not immediately obvious unless one studies the stat carefully, the one point reduction in skill in selected opponent's units can turn a battle and the 2 influence point reduction usually delays opponent's city capture by a turn - not earth shattering but enough to turn a close game in Arcatta's favour. Apprentices also have the lowest cost per HP amongst the Arcatta and therefore cost effective in soaking up enemy fire, posing a real dilemma for opponents. I have been mislead by countless years of conditioning in virtually all other strategy games that healers need to stay away from the front line.

Great design, Hiro.

P.S. I still suspect the player moving second does not get sufficient compensation. Would I be proven wrong again?

Hiro_Antagonist December 21st, 2006 04:56 PM

Re: Aecatta vs Gnome

Ming said:Great design, Hiro.

Thank you! It means a lot when a customer says that. =)


Ming said:
P.S. I still suspect the player moving second does not get sufficient compensation. Would I be proven wrong again?

Well, of course the problem is that in a complicated game like this, it's hard to prove either way. If it were completely straightfoward, I certainly would have done it the obvious way -- whatever that might have been. So the best I can really offer are my philosophies and experiences that led to the decision I made.

I suppose the biggest point I have is that LOL is a game of 'thresholds', which means that with all sorts of things in the game, the game doesn't really change substantially as values (damage, money, etc.) go up, until a threshold is reached that changes things rather dramatically. For example, if you deal 7 damage to an 8 HP unit, things aren't really different than if you'd dealt 6 damage. But once you deal 8 damage to that unit, it dies and that changes the situation radically. Likewise, accumulating an extra $100 here or there doesn't affect things until it crosses a threshold where you can buy a stronger or additional unit.

Where I'm going with that is that while the Gnomes have a very obvious 1st-turn use for that extra money because the threshold is crossed on Turn 1, it's not like it's lost on the units of other races. It just means that it'll be a turn or two down the road before a player's money pool crosses the threshold for another/better unit. In my experience, an experienced player will tend to make purchasing and/or tactical decisions in the first few turns to take advantage of that extra money to bring out an upper-tier unit before they could have otherwise. For some races, (and even on some maps -- for gold mines,) it makes sense to have a different build order as Player 2 than it does as Player 1.

Of course, we did an awful lot of playtesting, really scrutinizing the rules to make sure things were as balanced as possible.

So does that mean that things really are perfectly balanced? Not necessarily. But I can say we put a lot of thought into it, found the best and cleanest solution we could, and from my observation seems to have worked fairly well.

But if you still think that going first or second yields an advantage, make sure you select your preference on the setup screen in internet/skirmish matches! Both players have have the right to choose, and the game will randomly determine who goes first or second in the event both players choose the same. Even if one choice emerges as the clearly correct one, (which I doubt will happen,) over time all players will be granted their preference roughly 1/2 of the time, factoring into everyone's records (roughly) equally.

Ming December 22nd, 2006 01:35 PM

Re: Moving 1st vs. 2nd

Thank you for your detailed reply sharing your design philosophy. If I were you I would find it very irritating to read comments suggesting that play balance can be improved after spending such a tremendous effort (and the effort shows) to balance the game. So I should first thank you for your patience. For the avoidance of doubt I would like to say that LOL is one of the best, if not the best, balanced strategy games that I have played. However, the very elegance of LOL ("chess like" is the description often used) means that even minute imperfections - ones that would never be detected in another game - might become noticeable in LOL.

I find that (now that I have learnt to play Acatta properly) I am winning almost all of the games against myself when I play first. I know you have quite rightly pointed out that, even if I were right, it would not be a problem in MP. So let me try to present the issue from a different angle. If the 1st player skips his 1st move, he essentially becomes the 2nd player with half a city-turn's gold more than the second player in hand. Yet I doubt any 1st player would skip his first turn to improve his winning chances. So it seems that half a city-turn's gold is insufficient to fully compensate for moving first. The only wild card is your point that the extra gold makes little difference until a certain point is reached. So the two situations are not identical. To evaluate that I went back to the drawing board and look at each of the races, with the following results. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this:

The earliest turn the second player can utilise the extra gold in maps without gold mines:

Human: after T7
Under normal conditions Prophets are recruited on T2/4/6, and the second city influenced on T5. On T7 a Paladin can be recruited. The 500G extra for the 2nd player is not sufficient for him to successfully deviate from this strategy. So essentially it would not come into play until later. By then the advantage of the 1st player should already be decisive. Playing 2nd as Humans need to use monks for expansion to utilise the 500G sooner ie. Monks on T1/2/3/4 and Prophet on T5. However, this might actually be inferior to the standard approach.

Elf: T5
Runners are best for expansion. So for the first player Runners on T1-4 and 2nd city on T6. The second player can utilise the extra gold to recruit an archer on T5, an option not available to the 1st player.

Gnome: as mentioned before the 2nd player can utilise the extra gold on turn 3 for a Gardener. Since Gardners earn 400G on the turn they arrive. This is almost like getting 800G for playing second. Even so I still have a slight preference to play first as Gnomes, as he gets his 2nd gnome on T4, only hallf a turn later.

Orc: T4
Raiders are best for expansion and 2nd city on T6. 250G raiding income on T3 and 250G or 500G on T4 depending on the map. The extra gold would allow the 2nd player to recruit a mystic on T4, half a turn ahead of the 1st player.

Dwarves: T3

Has the option to recruit Sniper instead of Omithopter on T3, several turns ahead of 1st player. This is not always desirable (depends on the map) but still pretty good to have as an option.

Undead: T5

Zombies are not useful during expansion, so the earliest the 2nd player can utilise the extra gold is to use it for recruiting a vampire on T5, only half a turn earlier than the 1st player.

Acatta: T5
The third Apprentice can be recruited on T5 for the 2nd player and T6 for the 1st.

Afflicted: after expansion phase (T9 or later)
Since Hags cost 2000G and are best for expansion, the 500G received by the 2nd play would just be sitting there until after the expansion phase. Like the Humans, the 2nd player can utilise the extra gold earlier if he uses Lepers to expand. However, I am not sure if it is desirable.

If you agree with me (I am always hopeful 8-)) one possible solution if it is feasible (I am no programmer) is to allow players to bid extra gold for the second player if both wants to play first and only randomise if the bids are tied.

Ming December 22nd, 2006 02:46 PM

Re: Moving 1st vs. 2nd
On second thought, ensuring all maps have at least a gold mine within one turn from the capital could be an easier way to allow the second player to use his extra gold earlier and compenses for moving second.

PhilD January 14th, 2007 09:51 AM

Re: Moving 1st vs. 2nd
Wow, I had not checked the forum for a few weeks - there seems to be a bit more activity...

The additional gold for going second isn't much, but sometimes it does help. Against some nations, as, say, Humans, I'll buy Monks before I buy Prophets, and this lets me buy an additional Monk early.

The one situation where going second is really bad is on the "Z" map (is that Zeke's Pass? with mountains shaping the map as a big "S" instead of "Z") - many nations can't even prevent the opponent from seizing the two central cities when they have to go second. Other than that, it's more or less balanced.

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