Once more unto the breach: Combat

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Ingolifs
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Once more unto the breach: Combat

Post by Ingolifs »

Hi, I've been playing Factorio for a while and been enjoing it immensely. I've been lurking on the forums for a while as well, but this is my first post.

I realise that combat suggestions have been done to death, that the Devs understand this and are working on improvements, and I've already gone through and read many previous suggestions on the matter.

First, i'd like to start off by stating what I think the goal of combat in the game should be.
1. Combat is not the focus of the game. Factorio may borrow some RTS elements, but it is not an RTS. The threat of alien attack should be an ever present low-level concern within the game, similar to the constant search for new resources or the troubleshooting and improvement of your factory supply chain.

2. Like in the rest of factorio, game progression and difficulty should occur through gradually increasing complexity. Advanced megabases should require elaborate defenses, and there should be enough variation to promote active experimentation within the community. Instead of the standard double wall + triple laser turret, I'd like to see people come up with and share odd setups that make other people say "Huh, I never thought to do that" or "that's totally weak against monster type x". There are so many aspects of this game that one player can't possibly fully explore all the permutations of. I think turret setups should be another.

(Note that i'm not saying complex static defense setups don't already exist, i'm just saying that for most purposes laser turrets are sufficient, and that they shouldn't be.)

Anyway, without further ado, my thoughts on how to change combat to improve game experience.


1. More.

An age old suggestion. More enemy types and more ways of defending against them are needed. I'm not suggesting a large and unwieldy number of similar and/or redundant enemy and turret types, but rather just enough to add variety and complexity to a part of the game that has become too straightforward in this regard. Approximately 5 enemy types and 5 turret types, so that there is just enough room for natural counters to enemy types to emerge. In combination with the other ideas addressed below, this ought to be sufficient for some emergent gameplay.

There are plenty of suggestions already out there for new enemy and turret types, but nevertheless, I feel obliged to include those I think would add to the game in the spoiler below.
Additional turret and enemy types
2. An automated targeting system for turrets.

With the above suggestions for enemy and turret types, the player will want to have some control over the turret targeting AI. For instance, artillery turrets constantly targeting small and otherwise harmless enemies would be a problem, as shells are expensive. The player could simply put more resources into making shells to address demand. Alternatively, the player could edit the AI targeting priority so that artillery only fires at certain tough and dangerous enemies.

AI targeting could conceivably be done through a new 'tactical AI' building, which communicates with turrets and the radar in a given area (like the area surrounding a roboport) or though the red and green circuit network. The logical conditions can be as simple or as complex as the player sees fit to implement. Enemies can be ranked in order of priority, as well as assigned to a 'never target' list or 'only shoot if number > x' type condition. Perhaps the automation of player alerts could take place through the same system, where 'give alert sound' is activated upon radar detection of 'monsters of type x above number y' or 'presence of boss monster'. If you like, multiple tactical AI buildings could be used, each with a different set of targeting conditions, set up so that they get activated or deactivated through other signals in the network. This would be useful if the factory gets low on power or runs out of a certain type of ammunition.
Apologies for the MS paint job.
Apologies for the MS paint job.
factorioturret.png (1.39 MiB) Viewed 1459 times
3. A more complex evolution of enemy capabilities.

Right now the alien evolution factor only goes from 0 to 1, and over the course of the game the enemies increase in strength by three orders of magnitude but otherwise don't really change on a behavioural or functional level. With the possible addition of infinite research in 0.15, I can see a late game scenario where the enemy is rendered completely irrelevant by the player's technological development.

I think the potential for alien evolution should be infinite in order to keep pace with the player, and that the aliens should have access to a 'tech' tree of sorts, whereby certain improvements are randomly selected.

Possible upgrades could include:
Specific monster + health
Specific monster + damage
Specific monster + range
Specific monster + specific resistance
Specific monster + walking/attack speed
Global monster + stats
New types/subtypes of monster
Increase spawn rate
Behavioural AI changes
factorioevolution.png
factorioevolution.png (27.56 KiB) Viewed 1459 times
Such a feature would make every game different, as different evolutions and even different types of monsters would first be encountered at different stages of the game. The player needs to keep up to date with the latest evolution set and adjust their defense setup accordingly. In this case, there wouldn't be one particular defense setup that players would converge towards, but rather more specialised setups designed to handle the aliens peculiar to that particular game.

Also, it's worth noting that for a large number of possible evolution routes, if each 'research' is available to be selected at random with an equal chance, over time the alien evolution will converge towards similar stat distributions. To avoid this, the alien evolution should put stronger weight on branches of the evolution tech tree that have already been researched.
For example: +health, +damage +range and +speed might all initially have a 25% chance of being selected. +health is randomly chosen and from thereon afterwards it is weighted at a 40% chance while the others are each at 15% chance. This puts the evolution on a certain unique trajectory while still keeping open the possibility of some surprises.

4. Alien research centre

The player needs time to react to new developments. Any new abilities of the aliens should be telegraphed somehow, so as to avoid a situation where the player is screwed no matter what they do. I think the player should have access to some kind of building/button/menu that gives the current stats of all known enemies and their change over time. The player can then predict what evolutionary path is likely and adjust their base defenses, research and production accordingly. This information is updated whenever a new type of enemy is killed. Furthermore, destroying an alien nest could yield information on the current evolutionary path being 'researched'.


Summary

I know I have a lot of stuff in a single post. I wrote it this way because I think these ideas only really make sense in the context of each other. On their own they don't make much sense. (Why have a rocket turret when a laser turret kills enemies plenty effectively as it is? Why have a long range monster when you don't have the turret range to defend against it?)

In order to make combat a much more interesting and deep aspect of this game, I think the following needs to be done:

-More enemies and turrets, each one with strengths, weaknesses and natural counters. Enough so that there is a decently large number of unique and interesting interactions between them.
-More control over the targeting logic of your turrets
-More complex, varied and unpredictable enemy evolution trajectories
-A way of maintaining intel on the current state of enemy evolution, so that the astute player has time to prepare for a new development

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ssilk
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Re: Once more unto the breach: Combat

Post by ssilk »

Definitely worth reading.

At suggestion 3 I thought: that will make the game too complex, until I came to point 4: ahhh, that is cool. :)


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Re: Once more unto the breach: Combat

Post by bobucles »

I think a few central things should be addressed before going hog wild on the combat system.

Currently the combat system is "defend your base or lose your base". This leads to players building insane over the top defenses because a single breach can cost you everything. This ever present fear of unlimited damage is a terrible idea when bases take hours to build and tweak into something that is juuust right.

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Re: Once more unto the breach: Combat

Post by Deadly-Bagel »

Would just like to point out, three walls is functionally indifferent to one wall. For starters Behemoths and I think to some degree Big Biters attack in an AoE and will hit multiple layers of walls, secondly spitters will take out your turrets long before any biter manages to breach a wall and without any towers defending them, any number of wall layers will go down fairly quickly.

Now, there are a few issues with just adding complexity to evolution. To some degree Bob's Mods does this by adding extra enemies and anything can be overcome by just adding more towers. Half damage? Double towers. Double speed? Double towers. Spitters make any sort of strategy somewhat moot, they would need to be seriously reworked for any real sort of strategy to happen. The best thing I can think of is a sort of manually targeted artillery cannon that you can mark a bottleneck (natural or artificial) and have it fire whenever there are biters in its AoE but you would still need all the wall defences so overall there isn't much point...

Factorio isn't a tower defence game. Perhaps if biters were made to ignore towers and we were given more interesting terrain we would have options for say setting up in a corner and mapping complex paths for biters to run through a bunch of killzones but there are a number of problems with this too. It would mean they could be given much more health so they don't die in the first three feet of a four mile trek, but what happens if they do break through? You wouldn't want them to just destroy everything. This could potentially be overcome with "suiciding" on buildings dealing a large amount of damage but not irrecoverably. Then how do they behave when they encounter a solid wall? Not the least of your problems is now it's a hundred times more difficult to expand your factory because you've built a maze around it.

It's just not Factorio IMO. I wholeheartedly promote making all this possible with mods (I think a Tower Defence game where you mine and process the resources to make stuff would be AWESOME) but I think given the complexity of the rest of the game it would be too much, especially for new players. Remember in your first game where you were happily tinkering when a group of five biters stomped in and started eating everything? Maybe not so much with 0.13 but you can't really make it more complex than it already is.
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Ingolifs
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Re: Once more unto the breach: Combat

Post by Ingolifs »

ssilk wrote:Definitely worth reading.

At suggestion 3 I thought: that will make the game too complex, until I came to point 4: ahhh, that is cool. :)
Thanks. The suggestion is a bit on the wrong side of what the suggestions guidelines call for, so I was a bit worried about it's reception.
bobucles wrote:I think a few central things should be addressed before going hog wild on the combat system.

Currently the combat system is "defend your base or lose your base". This leads to players building insane over the top defenses because a single breach can cost you everything. This ever present fear of unlimited damage is a terrible idea when bases take hours to build and tweak into something that is juuust right.
I agree, which brings me onto something which is less of a suggestion and more of a longstanding gripe with how AI enemies behave in computer games. All enemies are infinitely aggressive. They will chase you down to the ends of the earth and fight you until their very last hitpoint. I'd like to see an enemy retreat once in a while.

At the start of the game, i'd prefer it if the aliens were nonaggressive and merely curious. Unless you attack them or approach their hives, they won't attack. Once you start producing pollution, they will make hit and run attacks on your buildings and run away at the sight of you. Once they start directly targeting the player and defensive structures, they will retreat if you inflict a certain percentage of casualties on them. This percentage may be small, but slowly increase over time as you continue to pollute their planet.

When I started playing, I wanted to feel like these were real creatures in an ecosystem, rather than mooks I could kill in the tens of thousands without consequence.

This brings me to a further idea that I didn't include in the original post
Alien evolution
but you can't really make it more complex than it already is.
I disagree with this general sentiment. I think that a lot of the appeal in factorio lies in its complexity - and mastering that complexity. Furthermore, it's a complexity that doesn't make itself apparent upfront, but rather scales slowly with the size of the player's factory. You go from a single yellow belt carrying ore, to an A to B train carrying four belts worth of ore, to multiple trains navigating a complex rail system with multiple stops and managed by complex logical conditions. This is all great. It's how it works in real life too - cities aren't just scaled up villages, they have entirely different mechanics (funnily enough, mostly pertaining to shuffling around people and goods efficiently). I think this slowly-evolving scale-based complexity should apply to defenses too. When you encounter More Alien, the solution is always More Gun, whereas I think it should be More Complex Gun Setup.
Factorio isn't a tower defence game.
Check this out...
https://www.factorio.com/blog/post/fff-169

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