It will take some getting used to after all these years of purple or whatever color the vanilla is...
I think, that is the case with all colour changes I made. Thanks for the feedback. If you have the time, I could use some more. Ahm, see the bolded parts.
Warning! Wall of Text incoming!
As you have probably noticed from my last big post, I'm taking a look at the Thalan at the moment. However, unlike what I stated in the next big one before I deleted it, AIP 11 does a decent job. It still has some problems now and then, but, for the most part, it's good. Certainly better than AIP 8.
I'm currently pitting the Thalan against the Arceans and the Drengin in my AI vs AI test games. In those instances were the Thalan are winning, they often end up allying themselves with the Arceans. Only rarely do I see those two duking it out. I'm not certain, if that is because I reduced the Aggression value for both races to 50, or if it is because both use AIP 11. This is an unexpected development and I'm not sure, if I should even try to do something about it. The Drengin still manage to win quite regularly, but I'm not yet ready to call them "good". While they are faster to research Slave Canyons, it still isn't as fast as I'd like. I also have yet to test, if they manage to do as well in an actual game.
I made a couple more changes to the Thalan tech tree and improvements. The most obvious one is the removal of farms. Farms did more harm than good for the Thalan AI. Depending on the planet, it either build no farms at all or two or more. However, it never utilised the morale improvements properly. It's painful for me to see a planet with a population of 20b and only one Zero-G Amusement (if they even get that far in the tech tree). Why isn't this a problem for the other races? Because they have other improvements available from the start. The Thalan only begin with a handful of unique improvements and farms. Once they are able to research new improvements, the next farm-level is among the first they take. Removing farms not only helps the AI in this regard, but also adds a drawback to the Thalan and makes sense based on the lore. According to their description for Planetary Invasion, there just aren't enough Thalan to waste as cannon fodder.
To help Thalan morale, I made some adjustments to those improvements. Zero-G Amusement is gone, because it just didn't make sense at it's current place and was too hard for the AI to get. In exchange, the Recuperation Center got a boost. It now provides a +35% bonus instead of +15%. However, I also changed the cost back to 50. Overall, this should allow the Thalan to set their taxes much higher early on.
However, the biggest change I made was to Industrial Adaptation and Technology Adaptation. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was considering to turn those two tech lines into one tech each. That is what I'm currently testing. The AI still has some problems with researching those techs, going either for Tech Adaptation early on and taking Industrial Adaptation some years later, or doing it the other way around. Only sometimes does the AI go for both techs early on. Still, it is an improvement compared to how it was before. Balancing this change, however, will be much more difficult.
Right now, Industrial Adaptation costs 500 (reduced from 800) and Technology Adaptation 800 (increased from 500). The Manufacturing Matrix costs 100, provides 12MP and has a maintenance of 6bc, while the Technology Matrix also costs 100, provides 16RP and has a maintenance of 8bc. As you can see, the Thalan can get those buildings pretty quickly. Fully utilising them, however, is not so easy early on, because of the maintenance cost and lack of citizens to tax. However, I will probably need to increase the buildcost, especially for the Mfg. Matrix due to the construction bonus from the Super Hive ability, to balance it out with the factories and labs from the other races. Although, there is another way to balance this, but it requires more work.
When I began to work on this mod five years ago, it was just a small assortment of bugfixes for planetary improvements. Shortly after, I decided to address some of the balancing issues, like odd jumps in buildcosts and maintenance. I came up with two ways to fix this. The first was, to keep the scaling, but use a stable increase, so there would be no sudden jumps. The second was, to use a fixed value for both buildcost and maintenance (so more advanced improvements would just provide more output, but are otherwise the same as the old ones). I tried both approaches several times over the years, but ultimately ended up using the first one, because I was afraid that a fixed value would be too unbalancing. In beta 5, I went back to a fixed value for maintenance, because the AI had trouble to cope with the scaling. Now, I'm considering to do the same to the buildcosts. (You can probably see now, why it took me so long to release my mod. I'm constantly changing game mechanics, because I'm either unsatisfied with how they work, or afraid of what they might do to the AI and balancing. Well, that and several RL issues... )
Going back to a fixed buildcost has both pros and cons. The biggest argument for it, is the upgrading of improvements. Both the player and the AI spend a lot of time money just upgrading their buildings to the next best version. This happens several times over the course of the game. Unlike the player, however, the AI can't just disable auto-upgrading and wait until it has the ultimate version of the building. I already alleviated this problem somewhat, compared to the vanilla game, by reducing the buildcosts for most of the improvements, but it is still noticeable. Building up a new colony in the later stages of the game would also take less time with a fixed cost, because the improvements won't be as expensive to build. This would give especially the AI a leg up, because it doesn't use rush buying as often as the player.
The cons, as far as I can see them, are twofold. First, it could cause a serious imbalance between the empire building phase of the game and the war phase. Colonies will be build up much quicker than usual, leaving more time and money to build ships. This means, that wars will brake out much sooner than usual, and possibly makes the game less fun for those who prefer to build up empires (like me). Still, I haven't tried to use fixed buildcosts in two or three years, so it might not be as bad as I remember. The second con is, that it makes no sense. New technologies are more expensive to produce. This is the case in real life (for the most part) and in the game. New weapons cost more. New defenses cost more. Bigger hull sizes cost more. Why should planetary improvements be different? Because they exist to help the player to achieve his goals. Be that crushing the enemy races with a huge fleet, using influencer starbases to flip one planet after the other, or going up the tech tree to win a research victory. Does the constant increase to the buildcost of more advanced improvements make this more engaging or fun?
Well, that is the question. I don't know. I don't know about a lot of things anymore lately, but I really want to put an end to this constant back and forth. So, I'm asking you. Should I go with fixed buildingcosts or keep the improvements as they are now? If you need to play it first, before you can make a decision, I will provide a new PlanetaryImprovements.xml with the necessary changes. Once decided, there is no going back though. No matter the decision, however, I will re-adjust the techcosts for the labs and factories of all races. When I released the first beta, I had already changed them so they cost roughly the same for each race. However, they still feel off in some places, so I want to address this.
Speaking of costs. Does anyone have a opinion about the cost of the defense and military-assist starbase modules? I get the feeling that they are a bit too expensive, especially the ones for the Thalan, but maybe that is just me. If they are, I could probably reduce the cost or use a entry fee, like for the culture modules. However, I want to hear from you first, before I make any changes.
Well, the post is already much longer than intended, so I better stop here.