Encouraging more combat at high GCL



  • Right now, the world is pretty stale. High GCL combat is hard for the attacker as a lot of the strategies that work at lower GCL (eg. resource denial) just stop working when the other guy has 100 million credits to buy stuff with and 10 rooms out of range to harvest energy freely from. Also, people get better defensive code and, in general, you have to do a lot less to defend then you do to attack. The old military maxim is that an attacker needs three times the investmnet of the defender to succeed. In Screeps it is much greater than that, in my opinion.

    I think this comes from four main places:

    1. The repair action. 100 hit points per energy (unboosted) is a little bit too powerful. Put a bit of effort in and an RCL 8 room can repair ~60k hits/tick. You don't actually have to kill the guys attacking you, you just have to keep them from being able to sit next to the ramparts. With T3 boosted attack creep + repair creeps many rooms are simply impossible to kill. The only three ways right now are disrupt terminal, exposed controllers, or a massive attack hitting 15+ rampartswith ranged attacks at once (ie. 15 creeps sitting at range 2 doing RMA - the idea being to put the defender on spawn time limits with how many repair creeps he can spam), along with associated healing. If the room doesn't have power enabled, or doesn't have an exposed controller, or doesn't have 15+ rampart surface area you're not killing it. Even with lots of ramparts or power enabled it's far from certain: keeping 100% uptime in attacks is hard. Especially if the ramparts are massive, bringing me to my next point:

    2. Wall height. Because the repair action is quite cost effective people can affort rather big ramparts. As above, to out-damage repair creeps needs expensive attacks. These attacks rely on distributed damage across the front. You might only do 30k damage/tick. Sounds like a lot, but split over 20 double thickness 50m+ ramparts you're not getting very far. This is more of an economics thing: the cost in boosts to crack this thing far outweighs the cost in energy to build it.

    3. Safe mode. Once you have these 100m+ ramparts and a reasonable defense code you can use safe mode freely. That means that unless you have 3+ rooms under these massive assaults, each room can spend 40% of it's time in safe mode repairing and stuffing the storage with resources to last the next 30k ticks. Regenerating safe mode is very cheap, and the risk is low.

    4. TTK and bursts. When attacking a room you're often living in a case where one bad move kills you. T3 tough is fairly pointless due to the uncertainty in pre-healing. Sorties combined with tower damage can be timed by the defender to burst down the attacker very quickly. The attacker has to do everything right every tick. The defender just has to do something right occasionally.

    Now I think power has gone a way toward helping. Maybe with factories we'll see more rooms with power enabled. Power lets you freeze the spawns, take out the towers, lock out the terminal. Those are all big deals. The question is whether factories are enough incentive to enable power in many rooms. My first impresison is "no", but we'll see.

    I have some other proposals for fixes though. Lets have a go:

    1. Repair is too good. Drop it to 50 hits/energy.
    2. High defenses are too prevalent. Multiply rampart decay by Math.ceil(hits / 10e6). In other words, up to 10m the ramparts cost the same as now, but up to 20m they'd cost double. This would also bring walls back. Too many people just spam ramparts.
    3. Safe mode is too good. Just remove the generateSafeMode action. If you've used 7 safe modes on a room then you've had enough time to save it.
    4. Burst damage. A couple of ideas here. First is to simply double hits/part. 200 hits/part would make creeps a lot less fragile and make the co-ordinated heal and prehealing less knife-edged. It'd mean we'd need less tough for it to actually be useful (it's only useful today if you pre-heal right). Second idea is to give towers a "miss" chance of 50%. The worst-case damage would stay the same, but you'd be really unlucky if they did that two ticks in a row. Maybe increase TOWER_POWER_ATTACK to 800 to compensate. This would reduce the defender advantage somewhat in pure DPT, but also make the attack less prone to one-bad-preheal.

    EDIT: Seems nobody much likes random tower damage. That's fair enough 😛

    👍


  • I generally agree. I especially like the Math.ceil(hits / 10e6) limitation to ramparts: But I would also like to see their max height reduced to 1/10 of current, so best case... 30M ramparts that decay at 3X rate between 20M and 30M. Just spank them hard. 30M should be the limit to walls, too.

    This would heavily encourage active defenses and deter zombies that currently just hide behind walls.

    Do NOT like the burst damage. Screeps is a game of deterministic outcomes and pure strategy. It does not roll dice. Nor should it start rolling dice.

    The other problem is GCL. It's WAY too high. If you have 30 rooms spread across 6 sectors, you're invulnerable. Even is a coordinated group was to attack you from 3 sides, you could just expand out in the 4th.

    What I think should be done: First, the aforementioned changes to ramparts and walls. Reduce max GCL to no more than 15. 10 would be better.

    And now the big one: Remove the focus on PvP combat. Still allow it, sure. But add Alpha Predator NPCs that seed in the areas between players. Basically... zombie 'players' that are clearly NPCs and will follow rules specific to their class and danger level.

    Have CONTESTS for whom can write the best Alpha Predator NPC in each class. Each class and power level in the class has rules the NPC must follow, some of them would be low level punching bags, others top level horrors you might be better off not getting close to. The number of which level of each class can be tuned by devs to provide a challenging environment.



  • @smokeman said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    What I think should be done: First, the aforementioned changes to ramparts and walls. Reduce max GCL to no more than 15. 10 would be better.

    For me, rule one of proposing balance changes is "don't completely destroy what already exists". People have GCL 30+ with 300 CPU and 30+ rooms. Reducing that would break the entire game and piss off a lot of people. You've got to distinguish between "things that would make the game better from a fresh start" and "things that would make the game better today".



  • "Max" is just a number. In a game, there needs to be a reasonable expectation to reach some semblance of that number in your lifetime. Even then, with Screeps, the difficulty ceiling of just coding your colony is, and I quote a poster on the Steam Community: "The difficulty ceiling is so high, that if it shattered today the pieces wouldn't hit us in our lifetimes."

    Once you paint yourself into a corner, changing the color of the paint isn't going to matter. I'm ok with people with GCL 30 quitting because they no longer have an advantage... in reality, they're probably quiting because they were really done playing anyway and don't want to bother fixing their colony. Don't let that hold the game hostage.

    Me? I would be fine with having the max GCL halved, even though it would mean mine would be halved and I would have to decide which half of my rooms to convert into energy and delete. There is still the PCs to build, and the literally never ending difficulty ceiling. The only reason to EVER run out of coding challenge in this game is because you decided to stop.

    👎👍


  • From time to time, the subject of how to stimulate more PvP combat in MMO comes up, mostly by the same group of players. But, whether this should be a goal is rarely (never?) questioned. Screeps calls itself an "MMO sandbox game for programmers", not a war game. While having more PvP combat would certainly make the game more fun to some, not everybody is interested in more combat. Some people have fun focusing on economy, market, advanced path finding, behavior trees, over engineered operating system architecture, etc. Others would like to get to combat at some point, but are still struggling with the basics. All those players would find the game less fun, if they saw themselves forced to defend themselves all the time, or if they kept getting wiped by big players and couldn't find a quiet place in the MMO for their ant farm, while they work on their code. Maybe the problem is when players who want a good fight, are surrounded by peaceful players, and when peaceful players have aggressive neighbors. What if there was a smaller shard with modifications to stimulate combat and make turtling less effective, with one-way portals coming from other shards? Only people who are interested in combat would claim rooms in that shard. If the promise of good fights is not enough to attract people, there could be modifications that make that shard more inviting. Faster ticks? More resources? Some sort of exclusive rank? Some or all of Tigga's suggestions could be implemented there. Even a cap on total owned rooms (without limiting allocated CPU) could be in place.

    👏👍


  • @eduter said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    Others would like to get to combat at some point, but are still struggling with the basics.

    I don't believe that any of the changes I've suggested would effect combat at the "basic" level. They're mostly targeted at the "high ramparts, high GCL, strong turtle-based defense" players. I don't think they'd have a whole lot of impact for anybody without already advanced defense code.

    EDIT: Sent too quick - I don't much care for the idea of a new shard as I think we've got enough space as it is. Maybe if the playerbase grows a lot it could be shard 4. Private servers act as a pretty good combat arena right now so it's not too bad. Really I just think it's a bit too easy to make an inpenitrable room on the main server right now, and I feel the main server shouldn't be as stale as it is, especially compared to days of old.



  • @tigga said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    I don't believe that any of the changes I've suggested would effect combat at the "basic" level.

    Since it would be a special shard, geared towards combat, it could have other differences, things that you would classify as "things that would make the game better from a fresh start", but would piss off a lot of people.

    I don't much care for the idea of a new shard as I think we've got enough space as it is.

    I think this shard should be much much smaller than the others, so it wouldn't add much space. I also think it should not allow spawning in it and maybe even having restrictions about which creeps can cross (e.g. crossing creeps lose 4000 hits) or having some boosted portal keepers, so you have to earn your place in it. Or maybe portals to it would be short lived and only appear among ruins of Lv 5 strongholds.

    Really I just think it's a bit too easy to make an inpenitrable room on the main server right now, and I feel the main server shouldn't be as stale as it is, especially compared to days of old.

    Personally, I like the MMO better now, more peaceful.



  • @eduter I don't know from first hand experience but I had always thougth that the shard centers and axis to be more active with combat due to the double highways. Isn't this still the case?



  • You had me at 'bring walls back'. As a mild tangent, changing rampart upkeep could interact severely with nukes. At presents people use ramparts (game) as walls (conceptual), as there is little downside. The more exclusive use as a health buffer for critical structures effectively shields elements behind the front line, preventing infrastructure sniping. I think reversing the proliferation of ramparts is a noble goal. A proposition I'd make in tandem to a change to decay rate would be permitting walls incidental to structures, the way ramparts are currently, but not to creeps, which conceptually should certainly be exclusive to ramparts.



  • @GeEom

    walls incidental to structures

    Do you mean allow walls to built in the same tile as other structures, like road and ramparts are now?

    I like #2. The current decay allows a single source to support 333 max height walls.

    For #3 I'm not convinced it's worth the change. I wouldn't object to if generateSafeMode was disabled for RCL8 rooms.



  • I agree that high level combat is a bit tough for the attacker. But I did hear/read that this was intentional, the developers wanted to allow the perfect defense.

    1. Agreed, repair is too good, at tier 3 repair equals a tier3 dismantle, while dismantle gives energy back to allow for more repair.
    2. Agreed, wall max are to high at 300m.
    3. SafeMode I don't have too much of an issue with, but maybe an increase in cooldown or increase in creating one, it's a bit too cheap to create and use.
    4. Instead of increasing the hits per part, maybe reducing the amount of towers by 3.


  • @likeafox said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    But I did hear/read that this was intentional, the developers wanted to allow the perfect defense

    And that's fine. In the no-power world defense should always win. This is because you can just employ the mirror strategy - whatever the other guy does you do the same. You have towers, so you win with equal code.

    In the post-power world.... it's actually not changed that much. The attacker sends creeps from other rooms to attack. You can send creeps from other rooms to defend. As the defender you still have towers so you still win.

    It's pretty much impossible to remove the defender's advantage while towers are a thing, and that's fine. Right now I feel it's too high and winning is too easy on defense.



  • @tigga Completely agree with your points and wish for this to be changed a bit.



  • I agree a 100% that out-repairing any serious attack shouldn't be a viable strategy. It seems to me that the biggest problem is that energy can keep coming in through the terminal which supports this tactic. Maybe power creep methods can be separated into categories for which power must be enabled and methods which work in any room?

    I don't like the proposed tower RNG at all, please don't implemented that.



  • I also don't like the proposed tower RNG at all, please don't implement that.

    That is an interesting "military maxim" that I hadn't heard before, it sounds about right. Safe modes are pretty powerful, we may need tuning changes there that continue to help out newer players but are less effective for players with large empires which can be hard to do.

    I was always surprised that when a nuke lands, it brings down both the safe mode and after a short period of time, resets the safe mode cool down. Perhaps this could be tuned so that a nuke prevents a room from safemoding for longer.



  • @qzarstb @Tigga I thought that pound for pound, splash attacks would beat out repairers? I suppose that's only for the splash attackers are not chased off of the wall and if the wall has depth to it..



  • @trepidimous said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    @qzarstb @Tigga I thought that pound for pound, splash attacks would beat out repairers? I suppose that's only for the splash attackers are not chased off of the wall and if the wall has depth to it..

    I don't think there are many cases where pure repair with no combat creeps wins. If you can get next to the ramparts you do a lot of damage. It doesn't take many combat creeps to force you to stand back though. Against a flat wall deep you'll still do a reasonable amount of damage with RMA (4640 for 40xT3 RA). The defender can counter that with a repair creep fairly easily, doesn't even need to be fully boosted. Especially if you consider 40% safe mode uptime. We start needing 40+ ranged creeps (with healers) to do get real damage done, and because they're spreading the damage out, it'll take a long time to kill the larger ramparts. This is before we've even got to the fact that the defender can build boosted combat creeps to leave the ramparts (or come from another room) who have the upper hand due to towers in the room.

    There's a case to be made that some of this doesn't apply to bunkers as they have a large surface area and not much space to put creeps inside. The same issues exist but aren't quite so big against bunkers.



  • I think it is good as it is. If attacking is easier than defense, I'd have to keep watching over my base to have it not destroyed. This game is about automation, and having to keep watching over my base is against this. Perfect defense should be possible, and even if it is extremely difficult to set up, practically unbreakable defense should be feasible. Power is good in that the defender can choose to not use it if he doesn't want the risk. However, there is a problem: A player can claim and fortify all rooms next to the a power-enabled room(which is my plan). There are quite many rooms on the map with only 2 or even 1 exit. Another thing: defense will be much easier if the defender has a room next to the attacked room. Disrupt terminal can be worked around by transporting directly, and the defender will have double spawning capability.



  • @nicle said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    If attacking is easier than defense

    Barring your good point about using claims to block in power enabled rooms, I don't think this will ever be true. The attacker has two advantages - nukes and the ability to determine when the fight takes place. Nukes only really work if you can get a lot on the target at once, or if the target is a bunker. The ability to determine when the fight takes place just doesn't matter at high GCL. The defender has many more - towers, ramparts, repair and safe mode for actually defending, and unboost/TTL advantages to save boosts.

    In the absolute worst case the defender can just mirror the attacker and retain his advantages.

    This game is about automation, and having to keep watching over my base is against this

    If you've automated you don't have to watch over your base...

    Perfect defense should be possible, and even if it is extremely difficult to set up

    It is not extremely difficult to set up today.

    A player can claim and fortify all rooms next to the a power-enabled room

    Now that's a good point. A passive defender with a power enabled room may lose out here, though if he can block of your room before it hits RCL 6 then maybe not. Attacking by claiming is certainly an option against power rooms as the 40% safe mode uptime isn't enough to counteract the fact you can't spawn creeps. I think power battles are relatively unexplored terriatory.



  • Actually I've just played this game for < a week and I'm only RCL5 and GCL1, so I still have to keep watching over my base to see if there is any bugs in my code. My position is at Shard3, room E14N37. The only difference between me and other newbies is that I've read a lot of posts by high GCL players.

    I think most high GCL attacks are focused on bugs in the defense code, since direct attacks will be degraded into a war of attrition. Finding bugs would cost a lot of time, and fixing those artificially created edge-case can be very time and CPU intensive, and will take up a lot of code size. And some old players are already using up their code size limit.

    @tigga said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    If you've automated you don't have to watch over your base...

    I think I still have to watch over my base on high GCL, but I shouldn't have to do that very often. At least my base should be able to defend against a constant attack for 7 days at RCL8, and even longer on high GCL. Maybe like Factorio, in late game I'd need to spend more time offline developing more advanced algorithms and strategies than actually playing the game.

    @tigga said in Encouraging more combat at high GCL:

    A player can claim and fortify all rooms next to the a power-enabled room

    Now that's a good point. A passive defender with a power enabled room may lose out here, though if he can block of your room before it hits RCL 6 then maybe not. Attacking by claiming is certainly an option against power rooms as the 40% safe mode uptime isn't enough to counteract the fact you can't spawn creeps. I think power battles are relatively unexplored terriatory.

    Good point, but I think you might have misunderstood my post. Perhaps I used the word 'However' incorrectly, but originally I meant that a player can claim and fortify all rooms next to his own power-enabled room (My plan is to claim and fortify all rooms next to my power-enabled room at late game, when my GPL allows me to do that), making it completely irrelevant whether its power is enabled or not. The attacker can't break the defense of the power-disabled room around it, thus protecting the target room from any attack but nukes. Nukes alone will probably attrition the attacker more than the defender.

    The concept of using the advantage of defense to attack sounds cool though.

    I wonder if changing the game balance towards attackers will make people favor connected rooms over spreading out, as connected rooms can be invulnerable even with power enabled. Pro: Have better defense and can be far more difficult or even impossible to siege without turning the siege into a war of attrition. If the enemy tries to nuke u, then u can focus many rooms' nukes on his room to disrupt production and go counterattack. Con: Less spread out, develop slower and can lose more easily in a war of attrition.