Menace One Five, we are picking up a wall of text heading towards your location
OK. I think the issue with Dark Events goes beyond pure balancing of the game difficulty. Dark Events are random. Even if you add some controls as to which DE shows early and which one shows late, they will stay semi random and will feel
even more random. There are some inherent issues with random difficulty.
- Players, or at least a number of players don't like being beaten purely by the RNG in a strategy game. They will accept it if they loose due to mistakes and try to learn from those, but if they feel like they are doing things right and still loose because of the RNG, they will just get frustrated and eventually stop the game or switch to save-scum "tactics".
- Following on the previous point, RNG "losses" can hide tactical mistakes. Give the players a chance to blame the RNG rather than their skill and you can be sure they will. Blaming someone else for you mistakes is common practice and the RNG can't even complain so he's a perfect excuse for not progressing.
- Random difficulty is the least interesting difficulty. Loosing to the RNG is frustrating and winning thanks to the RNG doesn't give you a sense of achievement. There is no progress, no learning, no strategies to develop if you think you suddenly can't progress any further because you've just be struck by bad luck. Only restarting and hoping the RNG won't screw you this time. This doesn't motivate you to try and play smart.
- Considering that it's OK if some campaigns simply can't be won due to RNG because it increases replayablity is ignoring all those players who won't have time for many campaigns. I agree they shouldn't try to beat Legend on their first run anyway, but even on more reasonable difficulties it seems like stacking some permanent DE early can make the game impossible.
I think the LW1 research and navigators/leaders was good because it wasn't random. You knew aliens would improve over time as and you knew you could only somewhat delay them so you had to prepare. It was strategy, if you lost because the aliens suddenly became too strong, you would learn. With Dark Events you just restart and hope you won't get bad event early or else you'll be able to block them. Even if they serve the same purpose, they are different and they seem
different. Part of the issue with with permanent dark events is how players resent them because they feel like they should be able to block them. It's not just strength progression, it's a dark event that the RNG didn't allow them to counter.
I'll self-quote what i wrote in the old thread.
myself wrote:As others, i'm most concerned about the random nature of those upgrades. Again, comparing to LW1, we wouldn't see some of the most annoying navigators/pod leaders like those lightning reflexes crysalids or CCS oustsiders for quite some time and by the time they would show, we (hopefully and provided we played well) also had more tricks in our bags to deal with them. Here we could get some rather mean Dark Events very early and preventing them is not always an option. You need to see the mission to be able to stop them. I would probably risk sending squad Sledgehammer on those missions with 12h left if i saw them, but more often then not, i don't see them and i put most of my rebels on intel until i have at least 6 of them in every haven.
That's why i proposed to use another detection for dark events compared to regular missions, one that would eventually always show the mission, but with very limited time if you don't detect it before.
However, this could lead to another issue if the game is balanced with improved Aliens in the end. If someone actually fights every dark even, the end game might become too easy like in the base game. So why not use some sort of hybrid system between the old (LW1) research and the new Dark Events.
Basically, Advent would use research to improve their troops. That research would accumulate like the avatar project blocks, and once they reach a given level, the first upgrade (be it +1HP or something else) will be discovered, then Advent will accumulate research towards the next upgrade. If the developers don't want totally linear progression, i'm sure it's possible to implement groups of upgrades so all the group1 upgrades must be researched first before moving to group2.
Now comes Dark Events, they simply add to that research like the Avatar Breakthrough do. If you counter one of those dark events, you will delay the upgrades, but you can never prevent them, like in LW1 you could delay alien research by hitting their operations, but you couldn't stop it.
This way, you never get super dangerous upgrades very early but you can't totally stop advent progression either. This would take away some power from the RNG to totally screw you up or give you a very easy game, both situations being as bad in my view.
OK. I tried to think about this some more, especially after johnnylump posted they would not be removed, which i think also means they won't be turned into simple "add to advent research" events. There are still ways to implement them differently, hopefully in a manner that makes players feel like they can do something, and also ensures that they accept them for the late game if it's possible to use a different algorithm for Dark Events detection and regular guerilla missions and provided the developers are willing to change them.
It would certainly be possible to change the detection chance of tactical (permanent) dark events based on how many times they were countered. Another option would be to reduce the window of opportunity to counter them. The idea would be that the first time any given tactical DE would trigger, it would be fairly easy to counter it, but as the game progresses, the same event would come back (possibly being forced every month in addition to other dark events) as Advent didn't give up on their research, they just got delayed and moved the research to another place. They didn't have to start over totally either, which would explain that it becomes progressively harder to counter them. Eventually there would be a moment where you simply can't stop them any more and the event passes automatically to ensure no-one can totally block Advent progression and the end game doesn't become too easy.
Jadiel wrote:Another way to mitigate the randomness might be to allow you to spend intel for a guaranteed detection of the dark event counter mission. This means if there are particular DEs that you dislike you can spend resources to counter them, but the cost would be high enough that it probably isn't worth guaranteeing the detection of all DEs. It would require some back-end work, as you'd need to be able to move a mission from a region where the player has no presence to one where he does. I'm not sure how you'd do the mechanics for time remaining - I guess it would be random? I like the flavor of using intel to root out particular alien projects that you perceive to be more threatening to the XCOM agenda.
Now i like this idea and it could be tied to the system explained above easily. First time a tactical dark even appears, it would cost a small amount of intell (say 25, exact number to be determined). After you have countered it Advent will reinforce their security on that research and the cost goes up. Eventually, the cost will become prohibitive and the players will have to accept the dark event. This would have several side benefits automatically.
- Players will easily figure out that they can't counter this progress indefinitely and rather than blame the RNG for screwing them, they will understand it's meant to be this way and accept it more easily like the navigators in LW1
- Players will have a warning "be careful aliens will get more HP sooner or later, time to get those laser weapons". Good players will learn to adapt their strategies. Others will spend a lot of intel to delay the event as long as possible and get easier tactical missions at the cost of their strategic game. Multiple options will be available but RNGesus won't hold your fate in it's hands any more.
This doesn't mean there should be no RNG at all if you want to keep some aspects of the progress random, but it shouldn't be, nor look, totally random.
Whatever you decide, it must be obvious to the player that the aliens are supposed to progress. They should never think the RNG just caused them to loose the game because of a dark even they didn't even have a chance to counter.
On Dark Events balance, i'm still too early in my first veteran campaign to know all of the possible painful Dark Events but from what i've read and experienced, here are my 2 cents on two of them.
- Grazing shot. I think this one should go out totally unless your intent is to encourage players to try and obliterate pods on the first turn they encounter them using every possible rockets. It basically nullifies an entire build of gunners, makes light armor/high defense strategies almost useless and forces you to have a field surgeon in every squad if you want to avoid long recoveries. Destroying several of the options you gave to your players doesn't really fit well with the rest of the game. Such a perk wouldn't be as much of an issue in vanilla XCom2 since the plan is always to blow up the aliens in one turn, but in LW2 you have added new means to control the battle making prolonged fights possible and interesting. Why suddenly destroy all you built with a single Dark Event.
- HP progression. Those shouldn't show up before players have a reasonable chance to get better weapons. Maybe there is already such a security check, but i can't imagine how to win missions against +2 HP enemies with ballistic weapons. This brings up another issue : Rendez-vous missions. In those missions, you have only one soldier and the rest are rebels. As far as i know there is no way to equip your rebels with laser or better weapons, this means that at some point in the game you are effectively fighting with a single soldier against all of the aliens. I understand the reason for those +1 HP events and don't think the event should be removed, but would it be possible to exclude Advent on Rendez-vous missions from those bonuses like the scripted reinforcements in The Nest? Alternatively allow the rebels to get better equipment at some point in the game. The same logic actually applies to all of the tactical DE, when they are applied against rookie level troops with basic gear, they can become devastating. I now have +2 HP and my Rendez-vous missions starts to be quite hard, especially given that the advisors don't level up as fast as the rest of my soldiers and don't always have the best weapons (since i can't unequip them to give to my troops when i send them in missions).