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A System-Based Approach to Eliminating FTA

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A System-Based Approach to Eliminating FTA

Post  Everdan on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:07 am

http://tieba.baidu.com/p/2639424490

I found this nice article on the Chinese forums. It's quite long, but quite interesting, with several good suggestions. Here's a summary of its main points:

- FTA exists because of the game mechanics. AW is a game in which all the units can move every turn, and also relies on economic factors, thereby giving the first player a significant advantage. Not all games have FTA (e.g. chess) and the mechanics can be set such that there is no inherent FTA in the game, thereby eliminating a need for "FTA counters".
- FTA largely arises because the number of production facilities is inextricably linked with your production capacity: each facility lets you produce 1 additional unit per turn. (I didn't quite understand this but I think this was the general idea.)

It proposes some ways of improving the system:

- The first suggestion is to create a new parameter known as "producing power" (PP). Every turn, players will have a set amount of PP to use, and building a unit requires consumption of 1 PP. Then the need for FTA counters can be avoided by giving P1 1 PP on his first turn, P2 2 PP on his first turn, and 2 PP for all the remaining turns. Of course you can play with appropriate values but it would eliminate the need to give certain countries "pre-owned" infantry.
- The second suggestion is to change the way factories produce. The article proposes a new production mechanic, in which newly-produced units are kept in a "storage space" in the factory for a turn. After waiting a turn, the units can then leave the factory, or remain in the storage space until the player chooses to move the unit out. The vital difference here is that newly-built units remain in the factory instead of immediately appearing on the factory tile. Hence, they are not immediately exposed to attack. Also, a factory now has the potential to produce more than one unit per turn if there are enough free storage spaces. However, because the PP is fixed, there is a maximum set on the number of units built each turn, which gives players more options without sacrificing fairness.

The article lists some potential pitfalls, such as:

- With PP fixed at 2 per turn, it's difficult to convert resource advantages into numerical advantages, and the only recourse would be to build higher-value units. Therefore there must be some way of increasing PP over time, but this has to remain independent of the number of production facilities you have. (One solution I have to this is to make labs capable of supplying 1 PP each, and then have 2 labs per side. That would make them probably the most valuable properties, so they'd have to be positioned quite far back from the front, maybe having them halfway to the main fronts.)

Some other consequences of the new production mechanic:

+ Opponents won't know what you've produced (this is optional, you could give players the ability to view what enemies have produced, or which factories have produced, similar to the carriers in AW:DoR)
+ You don't need to sacrifice production capacity to attack from your own base, as you can now do both.
- Newly-produced units are unable to prevent enemy troops from parking on the production facility, which presumably stops the units trapped inside from moving out



Personally, I very much like the sound of the first suggestion, which would eliminate the need for FTA counters (which can be difficult to decide on sometimes). The second suggestion gives players more flexibility in deciding where they want to produce without allowing endless infantry floods. Though both probably run the risk of breaking what makes AW fun in the first place.

What do you guys think?

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Re: A System-Based Approach to Eliminating FTA

Post  InvincibleXI on Mon Feb 16, 2015 4:59 am

Everdan wrote:Not all games have FTA (e.g. chess) and the mechanics can be set such that there is no inherent FTA in the game, thereby eliminating a need for "FTA counters."

As a chess player, chess definitely does have an FTA at the competitive to semi-competitive level. At the very highest level matches and tournaments are often about trying to win the white games (where you go first), and trying to draw the games as Black (where you go second).

Everdan wrote:FTA largely arises because the number of production facilities is inextricably linked with your production capacity: each facility lets you produce 1 additional unit per turn. (I didn't quite understand this but I think this was the general idea.)

Production capacity means that the player with the first turn will get more units on the board after his turn than the second player, while the second player will normally only level the amount of units, so that's an advantage. I think the main advantage would be getting to the front and good defensive terrain/contested territories first, and also the earlier income advantage though, which are the advantages that the FTA counter tries to remove (the first advantage seems quite impossible to level)

Everdan wrote:The first suggestion is to create a new parameter known as "producing power" (PP). Every turn, players will have a set amount of PP to use, and building a unit requires consumption of 1 PP. Then the need for FTA counters can be avoided by giving P1 1 PP on his first turn, P2 2 PP on his first turn, and 2 PP for all the remaining turns. Of course you can play with appropriate values but it would eliminate the need to give certain countries "pre-owned" infantry.

In a sense, isn't this exactly the FTA counter except that it's reduced now by P2 actually having to buy the additional unit (which essentially can only be infantry anyway)?

Everdan wrote:With PP fixed at 2 per turn, it's difficult to convert resource advantages into numerical advantages, and the only recourse would be to build higher-value units. Therefore there must be some way of increasing PP over time, but this has to remain independent of the number of production facilities you have. (One solution I have to this is to make labs capable of supplying 1 PP each, and then have 2 labs per side. That would make them probably the most valuable properties, so they'd have to be positioned quite far back from the front, maybe having them halfway to the main fronts.)

Yeah that's interesting. If PP is at 2 per turn and there are say 3 bases and 1 airport, it will lead to a completely different type of game, where saving and spending on more expensive units is more common instead of the infantry and tank spam we see. I personally like the saving mechanic more but that's just me, either way it doesn't affect FTA much but changes the game a lot.

Everdan wrote:The second suggestion is to change the way factories produce. The article proposes a new production mechanic, in which newly-produced units are kept in a "storage space" in the factory for a turn. After waiting a turn, the units can then leave the factory, or remain in the storage space until the player chooses to move the unit out. The vital difference here is that newly-built units remain in the factory instead of immediately appearing on the factory tile. Hence, they are not immediately exposed to attack. Also, a factory now has the potential to produce more than one unit per turn if there are enough free storage spaces. However, because the PP is fixed, there is a maximum set on the number of units built each turn, which gives players more options without sacrificing fairness.

This idea would mean a lot of changes too, as you noted, and furthermore I doubt it affects FTA either. The biggest change that I dislike would be that it makes the backward bases obsolete in many games, yes there are a few maps where each base is the advanced one on a front, but often especially when there are 3 bases this will lead to a unit spam on the forward bases only. Being unable to see the units in the base would mean that enemy troops on one hand have to be pretty terrified of going near the base (say not one but two units emerge and destroy your nearby forces), but on the other hand the ability to block the base even after units have been built makes it more vulnerable. So that bit is interesting IMO.

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Re: A System-Based Approach to Eliminating FTA

Post  Blanci on Sat Mar 07, 2015 4:08 pm

Yeah Chess certainly has major fta , as is very well known.  Perhaps the original post wasnt clearly expressed?

The fta discussion seems to involve a quite complicated suggested solution. One great thing about AW is the simplicity .. Almost pick up and go. The suggested system seems complex , it apparently would need much time to get a grip on. Also it doesnt seem general as it ignores predeployed units, though that may be fixable .  
Is this new system coming with any recommendation from any of the GOOD chinese players?  Many of current league players are chinese. But i dont see a top player commenting on the idea in that forum but my chinese is not too hot.

Some chinese players tell me in games and via miansite messages that they have difficulty accessing our english Sakuya forum ( state censorship I presume) and they can only access pages on some sort of one by one basis ! Also many chinese awbw players have quite low level of english with some exceptions of course.

Interestingly, there certainly seems plenty of debate about it in that baidu chinese forum. Unfortunately I cannot seem to copy paste those posts and replies from my ipad. It would be good to get translation of more of that debate.

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Re: A System-Based Approach to Eliminating FTA

Post  JakeSamiRulz on Sat Mar 07, 2015 8:48 pm



If only fixing FTA was a lot simpler. As discussed, the big problem is that the FTA in Advance Wars stacks. Each unit built increases the advantage given by the first turn at least double per unit built. A counter at least takes a full day to reach, which really means the first player always is dictating play, while the second player is always responding to it. Without a huge momentum shift, it usually comes down to who can launch the bigger threats first (either by unit positioning or unit presence). Whoever can continuously provide pressure will force an opponent into a position in where they'd be guaranteed to make a mistake. Therefore, the first player always has the best chance of winning from the start of the game.

A point system is just a way of limiting the amount of moves someone can do per turn. I think a similar effect can be achieved if you limit the total amount of units that can be built from a factory, or increasing the amount a unit costs per unit built. However, even if both sides were pre-deployed and the units were the same, FTA would still be an issue because no matter what, player 1 still dictates play.

The steps taken with the infantry counter, and asymmetrical maps, is a start in the right direction. However, to really fix FTA would be completely destroying the fabric of Advance Wars. Mostly all turn-based games use a huge factor of luck to create the dynamic shift of momentum. In card games, it is usually over the top combo pieces. In turn based games, it is a slight edge of luck turning the map around at a whim (like CO powers being active because you just barely got that OHKO). To completely balance the game, it'd have to probably be closer to pre-deployed, and it'll have to go closer to its roots (Chess). A no CO powers, limited units map, where the strategies can be tried again and again until mastered.

Even so, if Chess still suffers from slight FTA, then there is really no hope for Advance Wars. Even with slight improvements, Advance Wars will never be fully balanced. I think as long as the illusion is pushed that steps are being taken to counter the second turn disadvantage, we are doing a lot to help the game feel a bit more balanced competitively.

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