Author Topic: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?  (Read 420 times)

Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Topic Start: September 03, 2017, 10:31:01 PM »
This has been born from a discussion in IRC which got me thinking. I haven't posted this as a feature request or similar because it's just an idea and I'd just like to see what people think about whether it's workable or not.

  • Dwilight has 179 nobles.
    East Continent has 188.
    The Colonies has 88.
    Beluaterra has ??? (I don't play there but I'm guessing it's around 150).

If we go by the supposed optimal number of nobles per region for economic productivity then we end up with 3 nobles needed per region. 3 nobles per region also works as a good threshold for decent levels of activity and churn within realms as well as having enough nobles to fight decent wars with your neighbours.

So using 3 nobles per region we can work out how many realm-controlled regions that player base can realistically support on each continent:

  • Dwilight: 60 regions
    East Continent: 63 regions
    Beluaterra: ??? regions
    Colonies: 29 regions

Compare that to the number of regions that actually belong to realms on each continent and you'll see why the game has got a problem - and I'm not just talking about things like silent realms, I'm also talking about things like it being very difficult to even muster up enough mobile CS to successfully attack a city.

So here's a suggestion: why not have a Too Few Nobles mechanic?

That is to say, if a region goes too long without the required number of nobles (possibly as a function of how many estates it can support) then the nobles won't be able to maintain control of the peasants so the region will revolt and go rogue.


Now, this mechanic would be disastrous for a lot of realms. But it would be a very effective way of enforcing a decent noble density per realm. And it would probably work much better, and more realistically, than the monster attacks mechanism that's currently on Dwilight in an attempt to control realm density.

And realms who were hit by this realm would have a choice. They'd either be forced to retreat to a core which they can keep control of, and potentially find themselves isolated from any neighbouring realms by a swathe of rogue regions, or they'd have to bite the bullet and migrate to an area with higher noble density so they can carry on being able to enjoy conflict with neighbours and the whole BATTLE aspect of Battlemaster.

Unlike other attempts at improving realm density (glaciers, sinking islands, etc.) this would have the advantage that active realms wouldn't be insta-killed by it. It would also give realms a real incentive to relocate wholesale from one location to another where there are already existing realms which don't have enough nobles to hang on to all the regions they have.

On somewhere like East Continent, as an example, it probably would result, over time, in either the northern or southern half of the island having to be abandoned. But it would be easy enough for a realm at one end of the island to relocate to the other end where they'd be able to take over duchies that had gone rogue from other realms. So existing realms wouldn't necessarily have to die.

And in the long term you'd end up with all the characters on an island being forced to live cheek-by-jowel next to one another which is just what you need to ensure enough conflict and war to keep the game fun and interesting.

Best of all, it's also a mechanic that's dynamic. Your realm wants to expand? No problem - just make sure you have enough nobles to do so and you'll be fine. Not enough nobles to hang on to what you've got? Fine, best fall back to a core area then - or move into a neighbouring realm and take one of their duchies.

So that's the idea. Please feel free to tear into it and tell me why it won't work or would be a bad idea because it's genuinely just an idea which I'd like to get other opinions on.

But ultimately, Battlemaster is a game that, even in terms of basic gameplay, relies on a decent noble density. If the density is too low then it becomes about realm management instead of realm-on-realm conflict. We all know this is a problem so here's my random idea on a way to deal with it.

Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #1: September 03, 2017, 10:32:39 PM »
Just realised this might have been better off posted on the development board - mods, please feel free to move it if you think it should be there instead :)

Anaris

  • BM Dev Team
  • Honourable King
  • *
  • Posts: 7569
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #2: September 04, 2017, 03:37:50 AM »
Just realised this might have been better off posted on the development board - mods, please feel free to move it if you think it should be there instead :)

Let it be so.
Timothy Collett

"The only thing you can't trade for your heart's desire...is your heart." "You are what you do.  Choose again, and change." "One of these days, someone's gonna plug you, and you're going to die saying, 'What did I say? What did I say?'"  ~ Miles Naismith Vorkosigan

Chenier

  • Honourable King
  • *****
  • Posts: 7633
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #3: September 05, 2017, 01:24:03 AM »
Dwilight has this via a monster spawning mechanic, which, personally, I prefer to a region control problem mechanic. Sometimes overexpanding can make sense, at least the rogue spawns give players something to struggle over that can engage the whole realm, instead of just one dude holding courts.

The risk though is having realms isolated by vast monster-ridden rogue expanses, though.

Vita

  • Administrator
  • Mighty Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 1932
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #4: September 05, 2017, 06:00:00 PM »
I'd be open to adding this as a complementary feature to the rogue density code. I think revolts should mostly occur in long-standing lordless regions though.

Zakky

  • Guest
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #5: September 08, 2017, 07:54:46 AM »
I'd rather go with encouraging people to have higher density. Reward realms if their density is higher than the average.

Chenier

  • Honourable King
  • *****
  • Posts: 7633
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #6: September 08, 2017, 12:09:28 PM »
I think we need to remember to avoid the pitfalls other similar mechanics have had, though.

Punishing some realms will not necessarily make them got to war.

I do have some growing concern for realms going "well, we've got our regions, why bother invading the neighbor?". And, well, everyone doing that, because given how many nobles all realms have, in most cases, realms would surround themselves with rogue regions if they aimed for a density target.

Foxglove

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 420
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #7: September 08, 2017, 12:51:01 PM »
I'd rather go with encouraging people to have higher density. Reward realms if their density is higher than the average.

I was thinking this too. Rather than threatening people with the big stick of hitting realms with some negative force, rather reward realms in some way for having a more desirably density.

I do have some growing concern for realms going "well, we've got our regions, why bother invading the neighbor?". And, well, everyone doing that, because given how many nobles all realms have, in most cases, realms would surround themselves with rogue regions if they aimed for a density target.

That's a real concern. I know of a few realms now across the game who are saying they really can't afford to take more regions, for various reasons connected to negative-impact mechanics around density and realm-size.

However, people also do need to be a bit more imaginative in understanding that you don't always need to set a goal of taking land as the objective of a war. It should be possible to fight wars without any land changing hands if you set other objectives to decide who wins (for example, the realm that extracts the most ransom money from the other; the realm that wins the most battles in a set period of time; who takes the most prisoners in a set period of time; etc). Of course, the problem is that objectives like that aren't as rewarding as changing the colour of regions to your realm's colour. Partly, that's the fault of the game for not having any other ways of winning wars that are as rewarding in ways supported by mechanics; and partly the fault of player attitudes that nothing compares to painting the map.

Chenier

  • Honourable King
  • *****
  • Posts: 7633
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #8: September 08, 2017, 01:57:32 PM »
Non-expansionnist wars have not been incentivized in a while. I've suggested a myriad of changes in the past, such as

*Shorter travel times all around
*Lower unit morale penalties for being far from the realm
*Increased effectiveness of the mercenary unit setting
*Increased gold and food return from looting
*Bonuses for realms that fight a lot
*Recruitment center boosts for dense realms
*Reduced militia effectiveness
*Increased militia decay

I think it's good to tell people "you can't just expand forever, and turn 100% of the realm's resources into maintaining a bloated low-density size", with various mechanics like the rogue mechanics (which, actually, kinda does that, but at least it allows everyone to participate, unlike region control issues), but I think it would be fair to also encourage people in the sense of "now that you've reached a good density ratio, you can take advantage of it to attack other realms without needing expansion as a reward to be worth it".
« Last Edit: September 08, 2017, 02:54:09 PM by Chenier »

Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #9: September 08, 2017, 02:57:12 PM »
I think we have to look back at when the game was successful and why.

In the old days you had high noble densities so nobles were living cheek by jowl with one another. That meant that you had plenty of neighbours to go to war with, even if the only outcome was a couple of regions changing hands, and there was enough internal activity to make rebellions and secessions relatively common. That made the game interesting.

The problem now is that, even if every realm had a density of 2 nobles per regions, the maps are too big for the number of characters in the game. Take Dwilight for instance: even if every realm spread out to 1 noble per region there'd still be room for each of them to be surrounded by rogue regions with no direct human neighbours.

The best solution is to have realms squeezed in tightly next to one another with a decent noble density, rather than have them spread out and each realm left overstretched on its own with no capability to go to war.

If you were to confine the entire noble population of Dwilight to just 6 duchies then conflict would pretty much never cease.

So what I was thinking about was how do you force nobles to congregate in one area where the density will be high enough to drive conflict and war?

The current solution on Dwilight is monsters. But that results in lots of realms left isolated and playing pure PvE - Luria, Fissoa, Madina and D'Hara are all realms without any human realms they can realistically fight. And the temptation is still there to expand slowly and stretch yourself out further, leaving you even less capable to play anything other than Realm Management Master.

The advantage of a hard limit (2 nobles per region minimum or you won't be able to hold onto it) is that it would force realms to consolidate and prevent expansion unless you had the noble density to support it. In practice, that would have to mean war with neighbouring human realms. So somewhere like D'Hara (a realm I play in) would be forced to make a choice: either stay at a fixed size surrounded by rogue regions forever, or relocate to an area where there are other realms to fight (e.g. the North East region).

The same would apply to every single continent. Nobles and realms would be forced to congregate together by a hard limit whereas right now the softish limit (of maintenance, etc.) means that it's still possible to coast with more regions than you can realistically cope with at the expense of war and other conflict that makes the game exciting.

Something like this would be a big change but I think a hard and fast rule would be much more effective in forcing an improvement in gameplay than just giving realms the opportunity to duck hard choices by switching to PvE and stagnation by default.

Chenier

  • Honourable King
  • *****
  • Posts: 7633
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #10: September 08, 2017, 04:59:10 PM »
I think we have to be careful when looking at the past, to be as objective as possible. Are the discussion list archives still there?

I can't really remember a time when everyone was happy with the state of the game, at least, through its entirety. I've been content with the state of BT and Dwi for many large periods of times, but I also recall that even when things were good there, there was often discontent in some parts of those continents, plus on other continents. Atamara and EC were prone to risk-averse leaders and stagnating power blocs. EC has a tendency to repeatedly consolidate itself into a 1-faction continent.

Were rebellions more common back in the days? I find it hard to tell, they were never all too common. Maybe a little, but we do still see some now and then. Were secessions more common? Absolutely. It's true that it was easier to make a viable splinter realm back then, given more nobles, but the declining frequency of secessions is also clearly attributable to the decreasing ratio of duchies per realm. Every city and stronghold used to be a duchy. Now? Most realms strive to have as few duchies as possible, even when they have many cities and strongholds. There are some exceptions, especially in the older realms, but the reason for this is twofold: 1) duchy creation is no longer automatic, it fully lies within the ruler to decide to cede greater power to a subordinate, and 2) there are mechanical advantages to having as few duchies as possible, to take advantage of taxes coming in cash and region maintenance bonuses. Were colony takeovers more common then? Absolutely. Do they still even exist? Colony takeovers were the obvious choice for superpowers to extend their campaign against far-away competing superpowers. We don't really have those kinds of superpowers anymore.

But to return to the point, if we go back in time, we'll see a lot of cases where realms were dense, and still boring/inactive/pacifist, often imposing their boring hegemony on others. Spread out realms will have a hard time engaging neighbors, but we must not take for granted that dense realms will automatically do so. Luria, Fissoa, Madina, and D'Hara were all realms that, even when they had much more nobles, more gold, and less monsters to deal with, did not engage their neighbors in any significant way. Luria had a few brief campaigns with D'Hara, Fissoa, and Astrum/Morek. Madina has a few brief campaigns with D'Hara and Aurvandil/Falkirk (forced). Fissoa has a few brief campaigns with Luria and Falkirk/Aurvandil. D'Hara had the most campaigns despite being largely pacifist, with Madina, Melodia, Shadovar, Caerwyn, Luria, Aurvandil, Phantaria, the Zuma a few short-lived colonies I don't recall, and a lot of close ones with the Zuma, Luria, and the astroist realms of the North. It can kind of sound like a lot when listed out like this, but this was over a span of a large number of years, with large holes between conflicts, and many of those being imposed one-sided, such as by the multi-abuser realm of Aurvandil/Falkirk conquering the whole South-West.

If every realm was crammed together, they'd have greater potential for war, but as we've seen in the past, such potential is not always exploited.

The issue does rise an idea, though, about mobility. The realm is largely based around feudal Europe, and thus places strong emphasis on ties to land and as such immovable goods. People are tied to specific land, and fight for that specific land, and only infrequently go very far for very long. And we've seen the results of trying to just ad hoc tell people to "migrate" out of specific danger zones, both with the monsters in the West and with the glaciers. The Migrant realms wait until the last minute, they burn through all their resources, and by the time they finally get on the move, they stand no chance. Even those who didn't wait past "too late" arrive in hostile soil with little to no recruitment potential, income, and are expected to settle near competitors that have all of their economy and infrastructure open to them. I don't recall any of the migrant realms succeeding, and if any did, I doubt it wasn't without very particular circumstances.

So, do we need to keep the game focused on immobility? Cash trough taxes through region ownership, recruits through region infrastructure via the capital, these things make people ineffective away from their capital or if they don't have enough regions to back them up.

What if we implemented mechanics to simulate nomad nations? Buy some "colony caravans", pack up thousands of citizens, and ditch your old realm. Set up camps here and there to allow some refitting. Let the ruler recruit a special "capital" caravan, which he can drop and pick up along his travels, which acts as the realm's capital. I would expect such mechanics would be a lot of work, but it could open new opportunities. Some realms that want to be a more nomad-like raider nation could live on the move, set up secret capitals, and harass other nations for gold and glory. Colonist-themed nations, on the other hand, could afford to go set up where they want to be, at least gradually, and thus increase their odds of success and make their whole project more viable especially when the target regions are depopulated. Finally, more imperialistic minded nations could go pack up if they find themselves in a boring isolated corner, and go settle up closer to civilization, in order to be able to start invading others more traditionally.

Some maps have major flaws and would be much better if tweaked, but at least allowing the realms that settled up in bad locations years ago would have the chance to pick a more fun spot. It'd also allow for dying realms a chance to go find somewhere else to go, giving a chance for old feuds to live on.


Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #11: September 08, 2017, 07:56:18 PM »
I started playing the game (on and off) in the early 00s so I do have a (partial) understanding of how the game waxed and waned over the years. It's worth remembering that giant alliances stitching up whole continents in peace, and similar problems, still occurred in the "good old days" but it's equally worth remembering that they were solved by pro-active intervention from the titans (e.g. Tom lightning bolting the rulers of the United Sirion States) and from other players to keep the game fun.

However, overall, it was still the case that the game was probably a lot more active back then and it's a fact that the game's mechanics were fundamentally designed for higher overall noble densities.

The fact that even the golden ages of realms like D'Hara still involved long periods of quiet is more a reflection of geography than noble densities. Because of Dwilight's size and how it developed - a wave of colonisation which pushed realms to move far away from other realms so that they'd have room to expand, followed by a decline in the player base leaving realms overstretched, followed by the closure of the west killing off a lot of realms completely, followed by realms being left isolated - it's not really a good example of how high noble densities can work.

Much better examples are Atamara, East Continent and FEI which, despite eventual declines, were pretty much always in turmoil when player numbers were higher (the exceptional periods of pro-longed peace were, as I said, more a consequence of federations and individual rulers combined with a lack of titanic intervention than they were of anything else).

So that's why I really do think that higher noble densities, combined with realms being packed together, is the key to improving the quality of game play.

Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #12: September 08, 2017, 07:57:28 PM »
I like the idea of nomadic realms but I suspect that in practice they'd be too complex to implement, and wouldn't necessarily fit with the theme.

However, that does give me an idea about how this could be made to work in a historically plausible sort of way (given that the origins of many medieval kingdoms lie in mass migrations of entire peoples):

***

Step 1: Implement the Too Few Nobles mechanic (with forewarning), meaning that pretty much every realm will have several regions revolt to rogue.

Step 2: After a few weeks, and again with forewarning, announce an Era of Great Migrations where entire peoples are on the move and migrating to new lands.

Step 3: Give rulers the options to ask devs to trigger a Great Migration for their realm (granting the request would be dependent on whether or not it was justified by the realm's location in order to prevent the mechanic from just being exploited by realms who want to beat up their neighbours but have no intentions of moving).

Step 4: When a Great Migration is triggered what it would essentially do is give significant buffs to the realm that was migrating on condition that all their old regions would go rogue the next time they conquered a townsland/city/stronghold. The buffs would include things like increasing how many troops could be recruited, reducing sea travel costs, eliminating the distance from home penalty on troop morale, halving how much troops needed to be paid, reduced equipment damage, etc. This should make it possible for them to actually carve out new realms for themselves. The buffs would also need to expire within, say, six weeks of taking a new city/townsland/stronghold.

Step 5: Realms embarking on a Great Migration would obviously recruit a large mobile force and start travelling by land or sea depending on where they want to go to. En route they could loot gold/steal food from the regions they're passing through. When they finally arrive at their destination (either rogue regions or land belonging to another realm) they'd start a takeover. Realms in the areas which migrations are heading towards would then have to choose to either make a deal with the invaders ("we'll give you that city but you'll have to help us against our enemies"), defend against them ("enter our lands and die") or direct them to some rogue regions where there's an unclaimed city/townsland/stronghold.

Step 6: Upon completing a successful takeover of their first new city/townsland/stronghold the migrating realm would see their new region receive additional buffs from the Great Migration ending - such as the relocation of RCs from the old capital to the new region, automatically making the new region the capital, adding basic fortifications and an initial 10k CS of militia, or similar. This should help them establish themselves in their new location while their old regions are made rogue.

***

Now let's think about how that might work in practice using Dwilight as an example. A realm like D'Hara might migrate to Eidlub or Chrysantalys or Shinnen. Madina or Fissoa might migrate to Shinnen or Poryatown. Luria might decide to go to Flowrestown, forcing Swordfell to either fight back or migrate somewhere else themselves, or Luria might just decide to stay where they are and deal with the new interlopers. Or someone might decide they like the look of Gaston and migrate their entire realm there.

Of course some realms might decide to stay in place, and that would be up to them, but I expect that if the goal behind the idea was explained to players then most realms would get into the spirit of things. Additionally, one off buffs with manual dev involvement would probably be a lot easier to code than a whole new nomadic realm mechanic.

After the migrations are finished, what we should end up with, again using Dwilight as a purely hypothetical example, is a lot fewer realms completely separate from their neighbours - ideally we'd see the new realms filling in a lot of the gaps created by regions going rogue from the Too Few Nobles mechanic.

And obviously one consequence would be that some realms would die (either from being the target of a migration or from a migration attempt failing). But unlike previous mechanics (the ice sheets), the migrations would stand a good chance and should be a fun experience. And even when migrations failed they would at least have resulted in an entire realm's worth of nobles ending up in a different part of the map, even if they then are forced to assimilate into new realms. It should be a far cry from realms being put in doomed positions and the players in those realms just being put off and giving up.

That's why I think a mechanic like this might be the best way to rebalance noble densities and is likely to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that previous attempts fell into.

Chenier

  • Honourable King
  • *****
  • Posts: 7633
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #13: September 08, 2017, 08:14:39 PM »
I don't think I think what I thought I understood to be proposed. :P

"Too Few Nobles" sounds a lot like "Too Much Peace", which, while it had some positive elements, was on the whole a huge fiasco. Forcing realms to denature themselves (or die) is never a good idea, imo.

Perhaps a simpler (or interim) option would be for the devs to offer the choice, without any underlying threat, to existing realms that might want to migrate. On Dwi especially, given it's terrible geography. An offer similar to what was done with the creation of Westgard. A realm that wants to migrate tells the Devs where to, and then the devs manually move the realm there, increase the pop in those regions, depopulate the old realm, and maybe give a lump sum to help rebuild infrastructure. Might be easier to manually move realms for a once-only occasion than it would be to code a whole migration mechanic where people can load region populations into caravans to march them out.

Would realms accept to migrate, though? I think Avernus stated that migration was its desire, but they aren't a problem realm. Would D'Hara, Luria, Madina, or Fissoa want to move? Because they are the problem realms. And I think they are invested into their historical homelands. If D'Hara moved to Paisly, it could still keep a large part of its historical lands, while Madina could move to Twainville and Fissoa to Chateau Saffalore and Luria to, I don't know, Dragon Song? Then Dwi would have to viable clusters of realms, with the North-East and the Mid-West, but I suspect those realms wouldn't really want to move closer to neighbors. Something tells me they are all pretty content being dull in their corners, alone...

Antonine

  • Noble Lord
  • ***
  • Posts: 489
  • Current family: Sussex. Old family: Octavius.
    • View Profile
Re: Too Few Nobles: A fix for noble density?
« Reply #14: September 08, 2017, 08:57:50 PM »
I don't think I think what I thought I understood to be proposed. :P

"Too Few Nobles" sounds a lot like "Too Much Peace", which, while it had some positive elements, was on the whole a huge fiasco. Forcing realms to denature themselves (or die) is never a good idea, imo.

Perhaps a simpler (or interim) option would be for the devs to offer the choice, without any underlying threat, to existing realms that might want to migrate. On Dwi especially, given it's terrible geography. An offer similar to what was done with the creation of Westgard. A realm that wants to migrate tells the Devs where to, and then the devs manually move the realm there, increase the pop in those regions, depopulate the old realm, and maybe give a lump sum to help rebuild infrastructure. Might be easier to manually move realms for a once-only occasion than it would be to code a whole migration mechanic where people can load region populations into caravans to march them out.

Would realms accept to migrate, though? I think Avernus stated that migration was its desire, but they aren't a problem realm. Would D'Hara, Luria, Madina, or Fissoa want to move? Because they are the problem realms. And I think they are invested into their historical homelands. If D'Hara moved to Paisly, it could still keep a large part of its historical lands, while Madina could move to Twainville and Fissoa to Chateau Saffalore and Luria to, I don't know, Dragon Song? Then Dwi would have to viable clusters of realms, with the North-East and the Mid-West, but I suspect those realms wouldn't really want to move closer to neighbors. Something tells me they are all pretty content being dull in their corners, alone...

You're quite right, I could be massively overthinking this.

However, Dwilight is something of a special case and relatively easy to fix with manual dev intervention. Places where things like this would be harder are EC and Beluaterra even though they need it just as much, if not more. That's where I think something like Too Few Nobles might be good at forcing realms not to overstretch.