First off, many thanks to Appocomaster, Stoom and Rob for help in forming the following thoughts.
The current mindset is that the mixing of private and random galaxies is beneficial. This is not only wrong, but this mindset is actually harmful to PA. I readily admit that it often results in behavior. Not only do I admit this, but I'm going to provide some empirical evidence to that effect. I'm going to outline a system I think would be better and, more importantly, the reasons it would be better.
The buddy pack system, in which private mini-galaxies are intertwingled with random planets aims to mix experienced and inexperienced players. It is hoped that some of these relationships end with the inexperienced player learning more about the game and thus becoming involved, active and more importantly: returning. Let us define this as a Good thing. Let us define being attacked with 3-4 fleets every day without means to compete as a Bad thing (let's call this bashing).
I know for a fact that this system occasionally causes good behavior, because I behave well under it.
My first full round of PAX was r13. For a few reasons I decided to go random. Primarily I figured I would be more likely to hit 1 active buddypack by going random (back then there were 2 packs of 3 to a galaxy.) I also didn't want to pack with 2 people I would never see (which is basically what I would've needed to do in terms of trusted coverage.) I ended up in a pretty bad galaxy, it ended up ranked lower than my 49th. Throughout the round I tried my best to sandbag my GC from exiling the less than active players, because I felt they would support me against him. (My GC was WP, but very friendly with EXilition. I was 1up.)
I helped out any galmates I could. I posted links to threads, I posted threads on the gal forum. I mailed new arrivals.
I've decided that my time is worth more than that, so now I have some very simple requirements to help people. They have to ask. I'm more than willing to help, but they have to ask. If they ask ingame, they get a short version of the answer plus 'come on IRC to discuss it further'. I've introduced new players to the game this way.
Round 13 taught me not to be scared of having a bad galaxy. As long as my galmates are there with me when the shit is going down, I don't care if their fleet is a one-shot cover or a tiny bit of 0-loss def to grind some value off the attacking fleet. If they're there with me, that's enough. PA is a team game. If they're on the team, I don't care if they're #1 or #1000.
So I like to think I've helped some people become active members of the community. Great.
Notice how the exile system and galaxy placement had tiny parts in that story?
That's because they didn't really matter very much
The newbies I helped were helped because I'm that kind of guy. The exile/galaxy system only put us together. If I'd ended up in a galaxy where everyone knew how to play, then I wouldn't have gotten anyone on IRC or helped them build an attack fleet, or scanned any of their targets. We could have just as well been matched up by lottery numbers.
At this point there is a large group of people who are stuck in a mindset that because the current exile/galaxy setup allows Good placements (that is, player combinations that lead to a new player learning and taking part in the game), that it must be Good. But it doesn't actually cause anything of the sort. It's actually irrelevant. There are many other placement systems that would fallicitate the same.
The mindset that people are stuck in, however, is Bad. In this thread
, Stifler linked to a rant we had disagreeing with the current system. We want our own galaxies, we cried. Of course, we were both somewhat misguided. I was just sick of asking my ministers to go vote. I was sick of seeing millions of resources (yes, millions) fly out the window so we could get planets that weren't dead.
I want to take some quotes from that thread and share:
Originally Posted by Wishmaster
I love current setup. And in general I feel that people like the BP system.
People can make an account now without having a BP and still be able to play a good round.
This states what is Good about the system. As a player you have some degree of control over what galaxy you end up with, but you have to settle for the first good enough one, otherwise you're too likely to end up stuck in a crap one without resources to self-exile out. So as an active/decent player, you're pretty much guaranteed a playable galaxy. That is Good.
Originally Posted by WeaponX
problem with the current system is...it depends a lot on luck
if you donīt get good exiles than you are doomed to be out of top 50 basically
and luck factor isnīt what makes such games interesting tbh
This pretty much sums up the problem with the current system. For the random players, it's controlled luck, for the galaxies, it's blind luck with some very weak and expensive control. There is a lot of inactive planet traffic and not very much active planet traffic. If you don't get active planets in the initial flurry of activity, you're unlikely to get them later.
Not only that, but the current system doesn't actually encourage any Good behavior on the part of the galaxy. Quite the contrary, some of the specifics discourage Good behavior and the system as a whole encourages Bad behavior.
The exile cost formula is based on number of exiles, and the exile's value. A galaxy with good early randoms will be exiling few planets of low value. The galaxies that get no good early randoms will be exiling many planets with ever increasing value. There are currently 59 planets in c200+ with >150k value. Many of these will be exiled over and over as they log in, are thrown out, log in again a few days later. This is Bad, because bad galaxies have to pay more than good galaxies, thus furthering the gap and allowing them to be bashed (as defined earlier) more. This can probably be fixed without changing the exile/placement formula much.
What impression does this give to the new player not lucky enough to land in a galaxy with someone who will give them a shot? They don't understand it. There's a reason that the first thing I hear from some galmates is 'why did you exile me?!'. They don't understand that I'm forced, several times a day, to judge the worth of planets in my galaxy and they were found wanting. How could they? They don't know about the game. This is Bad, because they're likely to end their round in a dead end galaxy.
On the assumption that there is a better system, what would it be?
Private galaxies as we know them from previous rounds? I don't think so. I want a private galaxy for my own sanity's sake, not for the game balance's sake.
What we need is a system in which it is beneficial to teach a new player the ropes. Not for its own sake, but an actual direct ingame reward
. People can whine about teaching a new player being its own reward, but they can **** off. I want ingame rewards for Good behavior, because in a game where the best players are busy competing, they need that sort of incentive. Currently the desire to be best means you exile inexperienced players, not foster them into better ones.
If you shift the focus of the game to include teaching newbies, people will teach newbies.
It shouldn't be a big shift. It should be a small one. One that it is possible to ignore for people who don't want to take the time out. But it should provide an edge for people who do over people who don't.
Here is one fairly fresh (and therefore unpolished) idea:
The round starts with everyone dispersed into random galaxies of size (for example, this can be adjusted) 10. Galaxies can exile planets, but people who are exiled are not sent to other galaxies. They are sent to a new galaxy. People can self-exile, but they are similarly sent to a new galaxy. I don't think either of these things should cost resources. Exile should continue to require the GC and at least one if not all ministers voting. With a galaxy size of 10 it's possible to end up with 7 dead planets though.
A galaxy can petition a planet to join their galaxy. This allows galaxy building without any random element. When a galaxy (which may at this point be a single planet who has been exiled or has self-exiled) petitions a player, they get a message on some page (a new one perhaps?) that tells them they have been invited to join x:y.
Currently this is just private galaxies with some weak suggestions to entertain randomness.
So how do we add incentive to teach new players to do better? I propose that it cost resources to petition someone to join a galaxy. So that a galaxy can say "hello mr x:y:z, please join my galaxy a:b, we're active and will give you 20k of each res to join us."
How would one display multiple bids? To prevent pure private galaxyisms, one should prevent multiple simultaneous bids. How about this:
A bid must stand for 24 ticks to be accepted.
The resources are tied in the bid, so you can't make bids you can't pay.
You also 'lose' money if you bid for a bunch of planets that don't want to join your galaxy.
Whenever a galaxy is outbid, they're warned and their resources are freed up.
When a planet accepts a bid, they are paid the money and moved to the galaxy.
Bids are tied to z coordinates, so that if you have 9 planets, you can only bid for 1 planet at a time. (I'm less sure of this one.)
Now we have a mechanism in which people can build private galaxies of 10. There are hints of a market system here, which would price good players higher, but there are two problems. There's not enough information early on to price good players high enough. There are many galaxies which would not want good players (for example ones that the good player is likely to have trust issues with).
To provide incentive to bring new players into galaxies, I propose that the size limit on galaxies be increased by 1 every 100 ticks (again, numbers are adjustable, this will lead to very large late game galaxies). Good players won't want to be stranded early on. They'll want their good galaxy from the word go. Therefore the best candidates for bidding at pt172 will be players who are outclassing/growing their current galaxy.
This is but one idea, based on a compromise between the desire to be able to influence galaxies and encourage helping new players filter into the higher tiers.
I hope this thread can serve not a discussion of the relative merits of the current system vs the proposed system, but rather as a discussion of what elements a new system should include to promote influence from both the active planet and the galaxy that want the active planet. Can you come up with any exile/sign-up placement systems that give incentives to Good?