Help Improve Proteus

Based on that linked discussion I do like the idea of economy, tech etc being shared automatically when forming alliances.

Another thing that would hinder the largest players getting exponentially bigger would be to institute an economy tax based on number of stars that would increase incrementally due to costs associated with “star maintenance”.

I think the idea of carrier cost getting exponentially more expensive was aimed at inhibiting the larger empires, but since money becomes nearly negligible at a certain size, a tax seems more appropriate or at least easier to manipulate.

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Lots of stuff building up here, let’s not make it too complicated!

@wfmcgillicuddy trust you to come up with a vassalage idea!

I meant to say that I liked Jay’s suggestion of a Carrier Tax is a nice one - makes you need to trade off cost and benefits in an interesting way.

Hey @JayKyburz, I wanna start out by saying I really appreciate the community engagement, and I’m excited to see more active development for NP2 in the near future. Proteus has some great concepts in it (Banking/Experimentation changes, the ledger, wormholes, changing colors mid-game), but there are also several fundamental issues that keep it from truly replacing Triton. These are some of my main concerns and suggestions for how we might modify Proteus to become an improved Neptune’s Pride, not just a different Neptune’s Pride.

Production:
Hourly production was introduced to even the playing field for players who weren’t able to logon right after production, but it actually had the opposite effect. Hourly production tipped the balance even more heavily to players who refresh the game all day long to reinvest their cash at every tick. This is honestly a bit of a turn off for me, since I like being able to set the game down for a few hours and think about other things. Knowing I’m actively losing cash by not playing every hour can get stressful over time. Maybe I just speak for myself, but if the only ‘downtime’ is between separate games, I’ll need to drop from playing 3-5 games at a time to only 1 at a time with breaks in between them.

Carrier Cost:
The current state of carrier cost is not fun. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t play Proteus very often. In Triton, it’s possible to “out logistic” stronger enemies by getting your ships (albeit smaller quantities) to the frontline faster than them. Allowing players to experiment with building an efficient carrier network is a big part of skill expression in NP. I feel that limiting carrier purchases to the point where I must choose between 1 carrier or several economy per tick in mid game removes that aspect of gameplay entirely. I know the carrier cost in Proteus was meant to match the increased income levels, but the current system doesn’t work in my opinion. Yes — there’s a strategic choice between investing in economy or building more carriers, but it isn’t fun to watch thousands of ships pile up because I can’t afford enough carriers to retrieve them efficiently.

All that said, I actually don’t think scaling prices need to go. The concept isn’t bad in and of itself… the problem is that carrier prices scale much faster than income does. I’m not sure what the right balance is, but the price increase rate should definitely be lowered significantly. Maybe carriers start at $50 and increase by $15 each purchase?

Warp Gates:
Triton Warp Gate – Carriers move 3 times faster between gated stars.
Proteus Warp Gate – Carriers reach the destination in a maximum of 12 hours, no matter the distance.

The Proteus style of warp gate is interesting, but does the game a disservice by replacing Triton warp gates. 3x speed via gated stars allows for tons of tactical skill expression and potential outplays. Oftentimes, we’re turning gates on and off every hour trying to gain the upper hand in a close fight. Removing the Triton gates cuts out that aspect of combat entirely. That said, I do appreciate Proteus warp gates as well. A 12 hour maximum travel time between gates provides some interesting options with logistics networks, and also makes range much more impactful later in the game.

My suggestion is to include both types of warp gate in the game, but only allow a star to contain one gate at a time. It probably wouldn’t be hard to differentiate between them visually, and perhaps the long range gates are more expensive. But keeping both types does leave more strategic options open to the player.

Wormholes:
I like them a lot, but I think they should be a bit less common and trend away from the center of the galaxy. I like the idea of instant travel through wormholes, but not sure if I’m sold on it though. Also - what about scanning through wormholes?

Miscellaneous:

  • I think the defender bonus is great and would love seeing it added back in.
  • Same thing with the “Home” button (the house) on the in-game menu screen. I use it dozens of times a day and I’m not sure why it was removed. If you want to limit the buttons to one line, maybe have it be Home - Ruler - Quick Upgrade - Bulk Upgrade. I think clicking the timer at the top for refresh is pretty intuitive, although most the time I just refresh my browser since it’s quicker.
  • Would also like to see renown, victories, and rank count on the bottom of profiles. Badges are awesome, but I don’t think anyone would be happy to see their stats disappear. Plus, badges can be bought by anyone and aren’t always an indicator of a strong ally, but hundreds of renown points usually aren’t wrong.
  • Custom game options to enable/disable wormholes and adjust carrier prices.

I haven’t thought too much about the alliance issue, but personally I’m not interested in betraying right at the end to steal a victory. Especially when I see the same players game after game, lying and backstabbing doesn’t feel great and also restricts my options for trustworthy allies down the road…

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Hourly production was introduced to even the playing field for players who weren’t able to logon right after production, but it actually had the opposite effect. Hourly production tipped the balance even more heavily to players who refresh the game all day long to reinvest their cash at every tick.

A possible solution to the production issue would be to allow players to choose when they collect income in a real-time game. Income would collect from tic to tic in a separate pool. Players would have a button to release that income to themselves, but it would have a cool-down of maybe 12 or 16 hours before you could collect again.

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LOVE to see you back in action tweaking the game. It’s been a while since I got a game in but a fresh wave of tweaks will certainly get me going again.

Regarding Proteus production time: I would suggest an odd number so it gradually rotates throughout the week. Production every 7 hours or every 11 hours for instance. Sometimes that would be midnight for me and inconvenient, but not always!

I very much like the idea of total anonymity. One thing that actually turned me off from the game way back was how everyone knew everyone and “deals” would be made in one game to effect another (i.e. let me win this one, I’ll help you win the next one). Having a reputation in the community cheapens the “diplomacy in space” feel in-game to me. I know that’s not everyone’s opinion, and some people love being known from one game to another, but I don’t. I feel like a lot of the systems people are brainstorming to encourage more dynamic backstabbing, risks, betrayals, etc., are only needed because people have long memories from game to game and don’t want to risk their reputation in the community. This does not mean I want to be a total backstabbing ass all the time, but rather I want to feel like it is a person’s actions and interactions THIS game which define their performance and mine.

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@JayKyburz I am quite new to the forum and a veteran of only 5 or 6 games, but I have been thinking a lot about the issue of production time and incentives that you are trying to address in Proteus and @TheLastHero mentioned. I think he is right about hourly production rewarding hourly play and that being a problem.

I think the best way to address that is an Improvement Queue. I know it is a big feature, but I think allowing players to queue up the improvements they want to purchase in advance would solve almost every issue with production time incentives you’re facing, in Proteus, Triton and even Turn-based games.

It also makes sense because in the game you’ve provided wonderfully functional carrier movement planning which has prevented any similar complaints about troop movement. Even though checking your map every hour for tactical movement opportunities is technically advantageous, you never hear complaints about that because the planning function works so well the gap is pretty narrow. If you provided a planning feature for investing resources I think the complaint would similarly disappear and you’d be free to make everything tick however you think best. With an improvement queue freeing up players to log in whenever is convenient, I think hourly ticks across the board, Proteus-style, is the most intuitive and satisfying.

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I love this idea!

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Hey folks, lots of interesting stuff here :slight_smile:

I’m still pretty new but I think both Triton and Proteus have a lot of great things going for them.

Just gonna dump my personal wishlist:

- Defenders Bonus returns.
I think the problem is ships only dealing 1 damage, so a +1 bonus in the early game is much greater than getting tech from 3 to 4, for example. Weapons tech creates an arms race and having +2 or +3 on your enemy is extremely advantageous. That +2 or +3 is only a +1 or +2 with the defenders bonus making a return. I just like the defenders bonus :slight_smile:

- Infrastructure loss on capture.
I can see the intent here to stop snowballing / an empire running away once capturing all the infrastructure of an enemy. But, it also creates the odd situation where overwhelming attacks just suicide and nuke a players core economy and there is no recovery from that. I like the more attrition based style in Triton.

I’d like to see the infrastructure lost scale to the size of the combat involved. And happen even if the defenders win. Eg. 500 ships attack and the defenders win, the attackers did 374 damage before being wiped out. This equates to $374 loss in infrastructure at that star, iterating from the highest developed. Numbers are made up just to illustrate the idea.

- Terraforming returns (in some way)
The scaling costs need a mechanic like terraforming. I’d be curious to see what it would be like if captured stars don’t lose all their infrastructure - as above - but instead lose 20 (or 30?) Resources. A star system was just invaded, rebuilding the infrastructure should be more expensive. This penalty to resources will lessen over time until it reaches the natural resource value; maybe +1 every hour?

It would create a warzone whereby stars that are traded often become almost impossible to develop until they are held for a long period of time.

- Terraforming pt2
If you can’t expand to new stars you are essentially climbing a wall against the scaling costs of developing infrastructure vs the easy first few levels of infrastructure on a newly captured star.

There is no real way to “go tall” but I feel it could be a nice option to have, especially in cases where you are trapped by cycle 1 or 2 and have literally no where to go except into another player (who coincidentally has 2x your stars).

If terraforming research made a return it could work as a +5 Resources split between all your stars every cycle. Adds a lot of depth - in my mind - to capturing low resource stars and letting them increase in value instead of just zerging out and grabbing everything / the biggest stars. Terraforming maths out at far more cost reduction the lower the resources are on a star.

- Neutral ships
Stars with very high resources could be seeded with small amounts of neutral ships as a barrier to them being conquered. Even just seeded with industry could be enough.

- Truly dark galaxy.
An option to limit the intel panel to only show player data for players within your scan range.

Alternatively, (another option) to reduce the accuracy of the data shown in the intel (round to nearest x) but increase that accuracy for every star of that player you have in your scan radius.

The intel panel is huge in revealing little nuggets about two empires, seems a bit too powerful to me at least.

- Galactic Average
Another interesting route to take, especially for combat/scanning/hyperspace range is to use a galactic average of the tech level. And then your individual tech level gives you a bonus depending on whether it is higher, or lower, than the galactic average. Would both greaten the effect of a runaway tech advantage but also allow players to collectively combat that advantage. Also nerfs tech trading since giving a technology to another player would lessen the bonuses that tech level gives to both you the player recieving it - since the galactic average would increase.

- Experimentation (rng is bad in strategy)
I both like and dislike experimentation (espionage) in both Triton (and Proteus). Unsure of a way to keep the mechanic but lessen the purely luck based advantages it gives. You are essentially hedging your bets and in rarer cases experimentation hits the same tech two or even three times in a row. Perhaps the galactic average mechanic described above would soften the raw rng nature of experimentation.

The majority of my other thoughts have been covered by others in this thread; but primarily the hourly production and ship/economy scaling needs adjustment (i’d advocate for an 8 hour cycle and be done with it :wink: ) and warp gates perhaps having the option of 3x faster within current hyperspace range or a 12 hour movement with maybe increased range? The warpgates in Triton offer serious outplay consideration in adding/removing them from stars but it also becomes a bit gamey.

Last thoughts, anything that can improve the trust between players would be an advantage. So many “backstabs” in game are just low-tier “lets trade techs” and then surprise surprise you don’t get the tech back and there are ships on your border now. A little Offer dialogue would go a long way. “eXorbitant is offering to trade Weapons 3 for Manufacturing 3” or “player A is offering to send $200 for Experimentation 4” accept/decline.

I’d go even one further and offer more systems like formal alliances (research coordination allowing you to see tech progress and focus, scan/vision sharing etc), open borders to allow movement (no combat), non aggression pacts (can’t initate movements into owned stars) etc etc etc. The clique-iness among veterans who have relations over years and the general “backstabbing is a part of the game” vibe sometimes outweigh the benefits in getting new players to a) enjoy the game and b) stick around long enough to become veterans.

Anyway, both games are fantastic and if I was allowed to only write one idea it would be to include as many options for customization when creating custom games. Adds a tonne of value into premium membership too!

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empty stars should be inhabited by pre-space flight civilizations. they can never attack (i.e. pre space flight), but they can build up their individual stars economy, industry, and science they start out at one of everything. but since they are an individual star system. they will not do much in the way of science. unless they get lucky with experimentation. we being multiple world civilizations have the advantage in everything. but this would make it difficult to expand early game.

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“pre-space civilisations” would be a nice optional setting

It is an interesting idea.

I like the idea of emphasizing trust in relation to other players. I think the offer dialogue option you described is interesting, but wouldn’t want to do away with trust based on interaction. The option as described seems more like assurance than trust. Seems interesting but I would want there to be some incentive for putting your neck on the line and actually banking on the other folliwing through. It seems like that requires more diplomacy and foreign management.
If you could perhaps trade at 1/2 cost if you just send the tech and then keep prices normal for confirmed trade… or something like that.

I agree that some version of terraforming would be nice to be implemented somehow. But, I think I would like to see an even tighter balance on technologies. Not sure exactly if that’s possible without redefining all the techs. It already does better at balancing the techs than Triton does in many ways. Also, I’m curious what everyone else’s perspective is on superior and inferior tech research.

Another random idea would be to have a king of the hill option in the settings. You could either do it as a circular galaxy with a central star or just by highest star count. Games would have time limits then… I’d try one.

Hey Everybody, just popping in to say I am reading everybody ideas and feedback and notes. I really appreciate everybody taking the time to contribute!

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OK, so now that I have a couple of plays of Proteus under my belt, here are my thoughts on this version, especially as compared with Triton (sorry, this will be a lo-o-o-ong post!):

Reduced Decision Space:

First up, my biggest concern with Proteus is a reduced decision space. For me, often what makes a game interesting is the need to regularly make interesting and significant decisions (ideally along multiple ‘axes’ that interplay in interesting ways). This gives you a great sense of agency and satisfaction over how your position plays out - often even if the tide turns against you! After trying to put my finger on what it was about Proteus that was leaving me less enthused than playing Triton, I realised that it was that Proteus seems lessened in this regard, with my course of action feeling more scripted and invariant between games.

This is not to say there are no interesting decisions, just that I have found Triton to be richer both with tactical possibilites in combat, and with competing strategic options that needed to be weighed against each other, both between games and within the one game. When I first tried Neptune’s Pride, I expected to play a game or two, get a sense of the game (to compare it with other efforts, such as Stellar Crisis, and a game I developed myself in the old play-by-email days), then move on. Instead I found that most games gave me new, unexpected challenges that kept me intrigued and entertained - enough that I eventually felt it appropriate to reward your effort, JayKyburz, with the buying of Premium membership - I know something of the labour of love involved in developing something like this and I am very impressed with what you have achieved. I suspect if my only experience had been with Proteus, though, my original expectation of moving on fairly quickly would have proven accurate.

Aggressive Exponential Growth:

The first aspect that I think leads to this reduction in decision space is the massive exponential growth rate in Proteus - it swamps a lot of more tactical concerns. In Triton, a unit of Industry produced around 1/4 to 1/3 of a ship per tick. In Proteus, it starts at 3 ships per tick and readily becomes 4 and then 5.

This is a massive scale-up and completely dwarfs your starting forces, for example. There is little difference, for instance, in deciding on whether to post 0, 1, 5 or 10 ships from a start world on this or that colony to protect the path inwards, or try an early rush against a neighbouring target with 30-50 starting ships, when the forces that will actually be slung around even very early on number in the 100s, with no defensive bonus to help.

I do like the more natural and streamlined idea of having Econ, Ind, and Sci all give something every tick, but I think the numbers could be scaled back a lot. 1 per tech level per tick is easy and seems ‘obvious’, making the Proteus rules feel simpler and more streamlined (which is generally good), but a rate of 0.1 per tech level per tick (across all three production categories), for example, doesn’t seem like it would feel particularly less straight-forward (eg. you could show incomes as-is, except with a decimal point added in, and I think it would still convey the same sense to the rules and production rates) and could drastically reduce the early exponential surge.

With the numbers as high as they are, though, there seems to be a definite potential for exponential run-away from the get-go by players with a solid initial build-up and maybe a good start claiming nearby colonies to build on. There is a distinct sense of everyone needing to join in on this or get left in the dust by those who do it better. Compare this to Triton where some people emphasise early military investment, versus an econ push for the first cycle or two, and have significantly differing levels of investment in tech, too.

And yes, I know diplomacy makes a huge difference in how any given game will actually play out, but this is also no less true of Triton - in addition to the broader range of viable early investment and expansion choices there. That is, diplomacy shouldn’t be the only driver of difference of approach between the players and between games, nor does it preclude other sources of interesting decisions within the game, as Triton shows.

Higher tech level start:

Added to this, starting all the tech levels at 3 exacerbates the fast build up and exponential growth. It might not be so bad if the research rates are reduced, so that players don’t typically end up with tech levels around 5 or 6 before they even start to clash, but maybe pegging this back to level 2 at least - that, and reducing the research rate - will I think inject more challenging decisions in terms of which techs to research first. This may necessitate adjusting the tech level costs, too.

As is (with rapid research rates of 1 pt/level/tick) I feel tech is too cheap, although if rates are decimated as I suggest above, it may even become too expensive if not adjusted down. I do agree with others who have noted that all the tech areas feel much better balanced in this version, but as it stands I find I don’t need to choose too carefully which tech to focus on next, so much as just grab all of them, because it doesn’t take that long to get any one of them. I’ll also put in a thumbs up for choosing tech strengths and weaknesses for your race - although this works better in Proteus where the techs are better balanced.

Warp Gateways:

I can’t say I like the way these operate in Proteus. Until your range is up high enough, they don’t provide much benefit, I think (I’m not talking about the random wormholes here - those I do like, as I’ll talk about later). They also no longer play the same tactical role they had in Triton, where you could surprise opponents with well-placed, well-timed gate creation and destruction - even in close-range operations. The Proteus gateways only have effect at longer ranges, so that there seemed no value to using them in tactical ways - they only served to shunt troops to the front line faster.

I miss the phase-shift that tends to happen in Triton where in a well-progressed game you find wars start to turn on who can come up with (and afford) clever warp-gate hijinks in relatively close quarters fighting. In comparison, in Proteus all battles - even entire wars - seem to amount to little more than throwing ever-increasing numbers of ships at each other to see who gets worn down first. There is, of course, a strong element of that in Triton, too - but it never felt like it was only that - tactics and ship disposition choices could and did make a significant difference.

Game Phases:

I guess that’s another aspect of the difference bewteen the two versions: Triton feels like it has a distinct early game (manouvering and researching with very limited resources), middle game, and late game (with warp-gate tactics coming into play). I feel Proteus’ growth rates overwhelm the early game, and the game quickly devolves into a game of steadily grinding your opponent’s forces down with your (hopefully) higher ship production rate - there just isn’t (for me) the same feel of different phases within a game.

Carrier costs:

In principle, the escalating carrier costs should add another dimension to the decision space - do I allocate my money to infrastucture, or another carrier? In practice, I think - per (I think it was) TheLastHero’s comments, that the price increase is too steep, overly hampering early development, while not really providing a sufficient retardant to large, developed positions (its original intent, if I understand correctly).

At least maybe make carrier cost escalation a parameter - none/low/mid/high (i’d count the current rate as ‘high’) - and trial what works best? Or think about panblanco’s suggestion of a kind of ‘beaurocracy tax’ for burgeoning empires as an alternative (it could be based on infrastructure, total tech levels, or both).

Wormholes:

I do like the random wormholes, though (and a fixed travel time for them seems appropriate - although maybe putting warp gates at either end could, say, halve that travel time? Another interesting decision to make later on…). It is good that you trim out wormholes that are too short (from what I read somewhere), as it means that most of them connect areas close to the map edges, which reduces the advantage of having a safe back for those starting near the edge, versus those stuck starting in the middle. Again, these add to the decision space of the game, without drastically changing its nature.

I note blckmn’s suggestion of making wormholes not be actual (ownable) stars - could be an interesting idea. Not sure about scanning through wormholes, though - the need to have to go there (risking war with someone on the other side) to see anything is good, I think.

Shades of Dark / Combatting Huge Alliances, and Lack of Stabbing:

I concur with exOrbitant’s call for (what I think of as) an intermediate ‘dark’ option: you can see all the star locations, but get no knowledge of who might be based where amongst them until you get in scan range. This also plays into discussion of how to make stabbing and alliance-breaking more common: the more anonymised the players, the ‘safer’ they will feel treaching on others. Overall, though, this is a bigger meta-game problem, as most people typically want to retain clean reputations from game to game. For example, I can go into a game with an alias (and started off doing so), but it is somewhat pointless when my account name is revealed anyway when the game ends.

Tech Trading:

I do think tech trading is too cheap, and encourages strong multiple-member alliances, which some have called out as a problem. Alternatives could include that it costs tech pts instead of (or in additon to) money. Eg. you speed up their research while retarding your own (you’re taking time out to ‘teach’ them a tech you already know) - for example, you research at -1 to your Experiment level, while they get +2 - so long as you know the tech they are researching. They could be training you on another tech at the same time (so you each get a net gain, but it isn’t as significant - nor as instant - as just buying the whole tech outright). That said, and as has been generally agreed: the ledger is fabulous!

Spying / Experimenting:

I also do quite like the ‘spying’ bonus in Proteus - that combines the effects of your Experiment and Scan techs, making both more valuable, and does feel like it enriches the game. As with the experimenting bonus in Triton, though, I feel it might be better split between two techs each cycle, as it can lead to someone becoming ascendant through sheer luck of getting the bonus applied to, say, Weapons tech 2-3 times in a row. At least make it so the bonus never goes to the same tech twice in a row.

Cycle Times:

If sticking to Triton-like production cycles, I would suggest that a 20h cycle length would be a better default than 24h - that will generally be good for everyone at some times, and not at others. Works quite well in the 32p and 64p games. There was also a good suggestion from Nomad316 of having build queues for stars, although I agree that that would potentially be an immense job to implement.

As a possibly simpler option, perhaps set cycle collection times separately per world. Eg. you can choose for a world to ‘mature’ next tick, in 3 ticks, 8 ticks, or 24 ticks. This can be used so you can align your worlds so they all mature around the same time - one presumably convenient for you. Also, the longer the cycle you choose, the more you get per tick (eg. 3 ticks gives you 4 ticks worth, 8 gives 12, and 24 gives 40), so people able to log on and harvest every hour get less per hour for their troubles. It also effectively rewards longer-term planning, and further enriches the decision space.

Maybe you could also then add in raiding - battles where you are just trying to get away with someone’s accumulating monies rather than capturing a world outright - your ships could drain money at a certain rate per battle round, getting you something even if they all get destroyed.

Defences:

I’m with exOrbitant in retaining the defender bonus (if all techs - or at least Weapons - started at level 2 or 3, that would reduce its impact, if necessary) - makes for more interesting and challenging interactions - wars are not solely determined by ship count even when Weapons levels are the same. Strategic use of the defender bonus can even the scales of an otherwise over-matched fight considerably - again, increasing the decision space. An alternative might be a ‘virtual ship’ bonus that grows according to how long you have held a world (‘entrenchment’) - eg. +5% to the effective defending fleet’s size per cycle the world has been held. So battles at the fringes of empires might be quite even, but taking out someone’s core worlds gets quite tough.

I do also like exOrbitant’s suggestion of neutral ships to defend unowned worlds - (not necessarily strictly) proportional to the resource value of the world. It would also help even out ‘good’/‘bad’ starts due to the proximity of rich/poor worlds near your start.

Finally:

It is important to note that it may be that simply reducing the production rates as I talked about above (or some similar alteration) might be sufficient to reduce what I feel is the dominant significance of the exponential build-up in the Proteus version over any other aspect of gameplay, and I would be interested in trying a tweaked version of Proteus that played with that. For your current efforts, though, I hope you will keep in mind what I have written up here when blending ideas between the two versions, and endeavour to make sure any changes try to add to the interesting decisions available within the game, rather than dilute them or wash them out.

All of this is, of course, purely my impression and opinion, and you and others will likely disagree in part or on whole with all of the above. All grist for the mill!

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Oh, and one more item: the AFK problem. I suggest that a new game not start ticking over immediately on the last person joining. Instead, have a set amount of time allowed before the first tick (eg. a whole cycle, or even just 8h or so) - enough for everyone to get a chance to read the notification that the game has started and log in and make game-start decisions in that first tick. Anyone who doesn’t log in in that first tick (or maybe two?) is either kicked immediately, or perhaps the game even gets suspended for a while waiting for replacements to take over these positions. Maybe a player wait-list for the game can be maintained during that first tick, and non-played positions get filled from that at the end of that first tick or two. At least then there won’t be non-functioning positions for a couple of cycles, and more chance of players realising the game has started and deciding to be active players. The cost is an extra wait at the start of the game, but I don’t think that is too high a price to help alleviate this situation. Also, later in the game it seems to take the engine too long to recognise when a position has gone quiet - I would look at the criteria watched for for that and see if they can be tightened.

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