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CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58


12/4/2018
CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58
The Boldor Essays:
A. Introduction
1. Expectations of Seren, and what game he was actually designing.
2. Effects of a Reset
3. Reduced Scale
4. Extending the End-game
5. Higher Stakes
6. Volatile Markets
7. Trade Problems
8. Micromanagement Hell


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Boldor Galactic Inc, AKA the old StarCorp
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CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58


12/4/2018
CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58
A. Introduction

I know this may not be the opinion of many of you, based on the increasingly critical feedback of recent changes; several players have left or taken a break (can’t blame them considering the immediate circumstances), and others are hanging on to their corporations, trying to survive in a completely changed market. I personally think for the (potential) future of BotG, the most recent changes were needed.

I believe Dr. Dread has fixed the game through this last update. I am not saying the game is actually fully playable at this point or that it is even close to a polished, finished product. There are still some very key issues that must be resolved and as highlighted by Cogs, there are several issues that are game-breaking currently. But this change alters things in a very fundamental way, which I believe could bring about much more interesting and dynamic gameplay (Again, dependent on a few crucial changes being implemented).

I plan to write a series of articles focusing on these changes and what the effect will be. Of course these are my own opinions and thoughts and may not interpret the situation entirely correctly. I would welcome counter points, or if there are other pros and cons to this change that I have not considered.

Many players have stated that Seren broke his game. I would offer a counter-argument: he has broken the game that we have known.

This is a new game.

We, as a community, must understand that Barons is now moving towards a completely different experience from what we are used to. We must unlearn and reshape some assumptions we have made, forgetting how it was “back then”, and instead focusing on the new and emergent gameplay that can come about from this. The following essays will be an attempt to highlight what we should expect the future to become for this platform.


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Boldor Galactic Inc, AKA the old StarCorp
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CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58


12/5/2018
CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58
1: Expectations of Seren, The Game

To begin, we should discuss the developer and what I understand to be his vision for the game.

There has been, for several months, an increasingly critical attitude towards the developer of Barons of the Galaxy. This attitude is justified to some degree through a variety of shortcomings on his part; these shortcomings have left the community with questions and discontentment that is often left unaddressed by the developer. I will not discuss these at length, since many of you could create a more thorough and accurate list of these than myself.

A. Perhaps understanding the reality of the situation will help us gain a better perspective. To begin with, we must remember that Dr.Dread/Serendipity is a part-time, solo developer. He has a full time job outside of Barons, plus a family; I believe these should be the first focus of his time. Barons is not more important than family or his livelihood.

Second, he is not a professional developer. I have high expectations of full-time, seasoned developers. To my knowledge Seren has not developed any browser games before this. So he is learning as we go. An expectation of perfection is simply not rational or reasonable: relate this to the experience of starting a new job (or perhaps more accurately, a new career), where often many mistakes can be made until you learn the ins and outs of the new position.

This is not a great reason to handwave the issues (specifically lack of open communication and respect for the players), but it helps me to understand the situation, and set my expectations accordingly. If you would like better than this, perhaps go play a game that has a team of professional developers and designers who do this for a living.

B. As a solo developer, it is somewhat astonishing to me that we have a platform that works as well as it does. It is easy to talk big, as evidenced by a certain other project that has apparently failed almost as quickly as it began. It is much harder to follow through, and the fact Seren is still here and (slowly) implementing changes is actually something quite unique and deserves some recognition.

We can nitpick all day, and if this is your attitude, I challenge you to go try it yourself and come up with something half as good as Barons. Ideas are cheap, implementation is hard. Seren has actually made something, and while far from perfect, it works and is even fun sometimes.

Many have offered their services to help Seren, which he has repeatedly shot down. Though perhaps confusing on the outside, I can understand this from his perspective. As soon as you open up to other people, you are opening the potential for numerous problems. People might sound and act more confident in their skills than they really are; if they cause issues for the game, Seren will likely have to fix them. Getting others involved by default makes Seren a manager, who must guide and direct the others in their development. He surely doesn’t have time to do this. In addition, this is his project, and he is moving towards his vision for it. Opening up the code for others seems inherently risky, and I can understand why he is not opening it up to outside help.

C. Opening up to outside help has one other issue: it could steer the game in a direction that is even further than from what Seren intended from the beginning.

To understand this, we must go back to the beginning. Seren has communicated a few key ideas about how the game should be. Here are a few of these based on past comments, the front page of the site, as well as an interview from 2016 that I found on a website:

A. Barons of the Galaxy is a loosely cooperative strategy game.
B. Played online with thousands of players.
C. Game was meant for millions, not billions, of dollars.
D. Monoliths should be very rare, the pinnacle of achievement in the game.
E. Trading between corporations who specialize in different goods is often required.
F. Describes the game as having 3-10 HQ per city.

I would argue that none of these conditions were met before Seren implemented the recent changes. Not to say that the recent changes have magically fixed all this, but brings it much closer in line to what his original vision appeared to be.

The recent changes have either directly impacted these items, or lays the foundation for them to be possible in the future (with the possible exception of “thousands of players”). From a design standpoint, it is the thing that needed to be done to bring the game back in the direction of the original vision that Seren had intended.

Many players have bemoaned the fact that they can no longer run their own city effectively, or build huge star-spanning mega corporations. While both fun, I don’t think either of these things was meant to be possible, nor do they seem to be communicated as a game feature in the game description.

Here is a definition of Baron: “a man who possesses great power or influence in some field of activity
// ‘a cattle baron’”.

Examples of baron in a Sentence:
“A media baron who owns newspapers, television and radio stations, and even several cable networks”

The game isn’t called “Galactic Empires”. Any player “can” still be a baron in the game. Be the cattle Baron? No problem. If the game had thousands of players, there would be plenty enough volume to sell tons of cattle. Set all 12 points to cattle research, you can offer cattle at a very competitive price. Apply this to metals, and you can theoretically supply metals to scores of other players, as well as the high demand locations in the galaxy and make a pretty penny doing so (Though it would be a fraction of the amounts we were used to a couple weeks ago).

As a side note, imagine if player density was 3-10 HQ’s per city. Current numbers (Including a few inactive alts) are 59 players for 70 cities. What if at this same point we had 210-700 players occupying the same space? Now what if we restrict the playable area to 2-3 systems total with 70 cities? You can imagine how incredibly different this game would be (Now this requires the game to be attractive enough to have that number of players, which it is definitely not at this point).

I believe this is the type of game Seren has in mind, and the last 1.5 years have not been that. He is taking a bold and risky move to put his project back on track to what he first intended. If it works and the issues get ironed out, I think we will have a better game than the one we had hoped for.

Now let’s say, if it doesn’t work? The game dies out in the next few months and ends in disappointment for all. We are perilously close to this I believe, and unless a few issues are resolved, there won’t be anyone left to try out and test the new features. To be honest, that is why I am still here, to test the new environment, and see what has changed and what new issues arise.

Perhaps one day the game will become a fun and engaging platform again, and one that doesn’t kill its players through micro-management. I believe this is at least partially Seren’s dream and he is making the difficult changes that will allow that to happen.

The changes can still be disappointing or impossible to adjust to for some players. The game is now broken in several ways, and we can only hope that the issues are correctly identified and addressed appropriately. Others have been affected through the drastic changes made by Seren with no forewarning that they are coming (I.E. artificially cutting all demand levels by 50% instantaneously).

The latter situation is especially unfortunate. Seren gave a weeks’ notice for this last change, and I for one appreciate the better communication this time around. Let’s hope for more of the same going forward.

In the meantime, I hope we can adjust our expectations of our developer and what he is capable of, and better understand the game that this is striving to be. Doing these things will help us put the rest of this conversation into the proper context.


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Boldor Galactic Inc, AKA the old StarCorp
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CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58


12/18/2018
CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58
2: Effects of a Reset

It is most likely clear to all of us that the prospect of a full reset is an attractive one, and several players have stated that they would return to the game should a reset happen. Of course a reset will not magically solve everything; however there are numerous things that would be changed should this take place, and will return the game to a much more balanced state of affairs. But first it will be helpful to understand where the current game-state has gone wrong.

Some players may remember the systematic expansion of the galaxy through the exploits of Weyland Yutani over a year ago, exploits which have since been addressed and fixed by Seren. The actions of Weyland in artificially expanding the galaxy to 12 systems have had more detrimental effect to the game than any other thing. With an over-expanded galaxy, we encounter numerous issues:

1. Lost sense of growth and expansion. By over-expanding, the player base is far too small to ever spawn any new systems. This leads to a stagnant galaxy, with no new territory ever being opened for players. This strips away potential long-term goals that players could pursue after and takes away potentially exciting and rewarding game features. There should be opportunities for players to work toward the goal of opening a new system. This would provide a focus and anticipation of what that new system might contain. Not to mention the “gold rush” that occurs when a new system would open as corporations vie for control of artifacts and the best resource locations.
2. Sparse player density. There is so much open territory that any player can choose to go out to the frontier systems and try to make it on their own. I have watched many of these expeditions begin with excitement and end just as quickly. The game is not designed to be played in isolation. Having a large unpopulated galaxy is not healthy for the player base, as it tempts new players to go “explore the stars”, themselves not realizing that this action will lead to their eventual frustration, and causing otherwise good and industrious players to leave the game saying it is “too hard”. This is not how the game was meant to be played.
3. Broken markets. The isolated nature of the player base lends to markets that do not function as they should. With the current “1 corporation per city” mentality, combined with the wide distances between population centers, it makes the whole buy/sell system a bit weird and fragile. If the number of corporations that were in the game as of September last year (I believe it was around 200 corporations) were spread between 2-3 systems, I believe we would see larger city populations on average and more diverse and functional markets as players are less isolated, and therefore more willing to sell in other cities due to the ease of access. Larger populations will make price fluctuations less volatile (though perhaps still an issue….). This would also provide benefit to corporations who specialize in a product category, allowing them to more easily sell their product in the larger and more concentrated markets.
4. Loss of resource competition. This applies to many areas of the game. There are far too many artifact locations revealed in relation to the size of the player base, which cheapens the value of the “Special” units, making them commonplace. I currently have 14 warp frigates all loaded with gunsuits. This is far too many for any one player, let alone the entire galaxy. Instead imagine if these units were truly rare and expensive. In addition to this, the accessibility of artifacts takes away any need for competition and regulation for these artifact locations, as there is almost always an affordable site somewhere in the galaxy.
We also lose competition over regular resource locations, as there are 6 times too many resource spaces in the galaxy, and there is always a good resource spot somewhere to be found. What if the best spots were truly valuable and something that players would be willing to fight over? Likely there will always be resource locations available for new players, but the best (and thus most profitable) spots will become much more valuable.
5. No need for politics. With the player base spread so thin, there are no inherent politics that arise, which is a major issue for the game. Forcing the players into a more dense area will absolutely increase friction between players, causing for more natural political situations to arise. Leadership, politics, and guilds will be much more important, and having powerful friends can be key to advancing your agenda. Perhaps the position of mayor will actually mean something moving forward, if you have 4-5 corporations who are based in your city. A reset might also make the political voting somewhat more important as there may be more specialized corporations who are directly affected by reduced demand of a certain product (Key word in this sentence is “somewhat”).
6. Broken game state. The state of the game is generally broken at this point. We cannot accurately judge the recent changes by Seren because of the things we have and the things we know of the past. We remember how big of a military we could build, the ridiculous log pens we could run at, the size of city we could build. All this has been shattered by recent changes, and salvaging high value units that you can no longer afford can be a tough pill to swallow. In addition, there is far too much money in the game, and far too many expensive units floating around. The combination of large freighters and high-powered mining fleets allows corporations to grow much larger than should be possible. This makes it very difficult to judge new changes with any accuracy. A reset will help us put the past behind, and instead look to what we are able to accomplish in the future.

I believe a reset could do more than anything to refresh the game and make it exciting again. As stated previously, it will not fix all the issues present, but I believe we could all be surprised at how much this changes things.

The following articles will assume that a reset is inevitable, and future discussions will be within this context. Several of these points will be expanded in the following essay “Reduced scale”, which provides many of the benefits gained by reducing the overall scale of the game.


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Boldor Galactic Inc, AKA the old StarCorp
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CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58


1/9/2019
CptCommanche
CptCommanche
Posts: 58
3: Reduced Scale

Finally, after the holidays, I can resume writing some useless essays for an apparently dead game. Kudos to you who read this smile

In the introductory article I stated my belief that Seren fixed the game through this last update. The statement might be a bit of a stretch, because in the short term it has caused some very large problems. Yet I think it is this topic of reduced scale that returns the game to what it was meant to be.

As stated in previous essays, many of the things I share are anticipating future changes being implemented by the developer. If these changes (and likely other changes that I haven’t even thought about) don’t happen, you can throw away most of this as irrelevant.

I am assuming:
- Marketing by the developer in conjunction with a reset
- A change to contracts (allowing products to transfer ownership easily as a supplement to the current contract system)
- Order variables that allow players to automate their industry more
- Rebalance of raiders and other game mechanics as necessary to scale to the new environment
- Changes to how spaceports operate (allows players to bulk-sell product at the port)

All of these assumed changes have been mentioned by the developer at some point in the past. There are great numbers of other changes that have been recommended by the player base (like raising city growth level from 100% back to 200%). These have not been spoken of favorably by the dev, and thus will not be discussed or considered.

So how has a reduced scale fixed the game?

One thing that has always bothered me was how easy it is to make money. Literally anyone can set up a cash generating machine and get insanely rich. This oversaturation of money completely changes the outlook of the game. With huge sums of cash, you can buy literally whatever you want. LV.10 warpgate? Sure why not. Your only limit to owning the greatest units in the game is how lucky you get during your artifact research. And if you’re impatient, just get 10 labs going simultaneously and sooner or later you’ll get a nice stock of artifact units.

This cheapens the artifact units and no longer makes them special. In addition, Monoliths are the norm and there is no reason NOT to get one. In the end, the main restricting factor is military log pen. Sure it’s fun to own super-death-fleets, but this issue of too much money makes over half the military units in the game basically useless, and in the end it railroads everyone into the same basic military makeups as they seek to optimize what they have.

With these new changes, your primary concern will change; instead of optimizing your military logistics most effectively, the issue now is how to utilize your limited funds in the best way.

Without artifact upgrades, a lv.10 modified Varitek is an incredible 300k upkeep/turn. A Lv.10 infantry is 4,000 upkeep. This means that you could own 75 lv.10 infantry (ignoring the obvious log pen issues) for the cost of a single modified varitek. Pit those 2 against each other? It’s not even close. The Varitek gets smoked. The infantry group would kill it in one shot and still have 98% health remaining.

I learned quickly from the Gladiator Games that Infantry and Mechanized are incredible values for what they provide. Fighters, Bombers and Variteks are very expensive for what they provide. Still obviously more powerful than ground units, but the cost per damage inflicted, is much much higher with the smaller ground units.

With money a limiting factor, it now opens the door to much more varied and interesting possibilities with military units. It also greatly increases the value of static defenses and smaller spacecraft. Carriers become useful again, as many players theoretically cannot afford a monolith. Overall it makes things much more varied and interesting concerning military units in the game.

This is not all. We also can address megastructures. These are now projects that will likely only be attainable as a guild-wide effort, and they are no longer a dime a dozen. Perhaps the richest players will be able to afford them on their own. For the rest of us (including probably me), cooperation will be the way forward. Some probably hate this idea, but it fits much more closely with the original vision and intent of the game. More can be written on this in the next essay.

Reducing the volumes and growth threshold also takes away a game-breaking issue. This is evidenced by the works primarily of the ARK group in Gul, running corporations with over 600% log pen and making incredible profits while doing so. Not to say things like this are not still possible, someone will figure something out I’m sure. It does take away much of the potential though.

Several have stated that they do not want to play “Barons of Earth”, and are convinced that is what the game has become. With the difficulty in starting and growing new cities in this new environment, there is a valid point here that might need to be addressed. If cities can only be grown at significantly loss to a corporation, it severely de-incentivizes any expansion efforts. If this were to be changed and founding new cities a relatively easy process, industrious players will surely go forth to expand and start new settlements. Of course this issue would be helped by the theoretically higher density of player per city, as it could likely become a group effort as opposed to the solo-city-building that we used to see.

The changes in the market introduce at least one other major issue. Margins are far too tight, and the window for profitability in a city is very small. Some emergent strategies might help counter this, such as certain trade agreements between players and not selling at max volume for a city. Yet the fundamental issue remains that markets are much too fragile and much too volatile. Being offline for more than a few hours probably means you are losing big $$$.

There could be a counter argument here, that with higher player density per city, we would see cities growing much larger on average than we see now (This obviously depends on the player base itself and how many players are in the game). With larger cities, the volumes would be much higher, allowing players to sell large volumes, potentially even at long-term sustainable levels.

Perhaps with changes in playing style and how we approach this game, this issue would solve itself. However this seems unlikely and is potentially the greatest issue present in the game. This issue of micromanagement will be discussed in further detail in a later essay.
In all, reducing the overall scale of the game brings many mechanics back into balance while causing other, more game-breaking issues. Should these new issues be resolved, I truly believe we would have a very fun game to experience.
edited by CptCommanche on 1/9/2019


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Boldor Galactic Inc, AKA the old StarCorp
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