The Economy of Battlescape

#1

Designing an match based game’s economy is an extremely critical task, it shapes the entire flow of matches, feeling of progression and reward as well as power scaling over time. It will also shape the size and composition of the NPC fleets. Battlescape is a mixture of games like planetside and shorter match based games so there are many places to draw experience from.

How do shorter, match based games handle this design? One good example, Natural selection 2 uses a very stable, predictable economy to ensure matches flow in a satisfying way a majority of matches, while allowing players to pick different upgrades. Instead of being rewarded with more money for better play, all players only receive a portion of the same team wide trickle of income. The reward for playing well becomes survival, by playing well and staying alive you keep your upgrades and bought assets intact and stay in the asset for as long as possible.

However, NS2 is a game where matches last between 20-40m, the majority of players are expected to stay for an entire match. The flow of the economy is predictable over that time span, at the start destructive power is limited with bases being tanky and rushes need to be well executed to succeed, during the midgame most combat is over outlying bases and resources while economic income ramps up, and then as the economy stabilizes the income allows the destructive power of both teams to balloon and soon no bases can be easily defended, sometimes leading to a situation where all bases are being destroyed and the teams need to race to defend and attack at the same time. This exact system wouldn’t work as well in a game with hours long matches where a majority will join and leave partway through. There is also a lack of individual player rewards for completing any special objectives. However, this kind of stable progression is also extremely desirable to maintain quality/pacing of matches and to create distinct phases in the flow of the war, which perhaps counter-intuitively makes players feel the progress and variety better even though it’s less random.

The current design of the economy takes a different approach and meets different goals. In battlescape, passive team wide income is a trickle compared to the potential rewards from completing objectives. Players at the top make so much money that we will often have enough for dozens of capship respawns, and farming enemy turrets for money is rewarding both in damaging enemy assets while receiving an economic boon. On the upside, players are heavily incentivized to complete objectives and this design allows freedom to implement a variety of objectives and mission types. On the downside, it over-incentivizes some objectives and makes the economy unstable, as players can inject huge amounts of money into the economy by blowing up enemy facilities. This can create a snowball effect where as soon as attackers are at the advantage, they complete enough objectives to get a large currency boon and can snowball to victory, it’s less stable and tends to prevent comebacks. When over-incentivized like this, suicide attack runs can become too common and parts like defending and dogfighting, can become “suboptimal” to worry about.

Steps that limit the immediate rush towards attrition are a good idea, options like making torpedos unavailable without an extra loadout option would limit the immediate hangar torp rushes that are now possible with cheap bombers, but of course if killing a single turret pays for it the progression won’t matter much. That is why i would suggest moving towards a mainly passive income system, where the amount of money the players gets is scaled by the log of their score rather than paid per objective.

Here is what i mean. First, direct money rewards now only contribute score rather than paying out, and there are regular passive income ticks every minute. Imagine over the past 5 minutes you’ve destroyed 4 turrets and a few other misc pieces of a base, as well as players worth 1000 score. Another player scored 100, and another player scored 0. The team has secured/generated 10000 credits during this tick and the game is set to only distribute 50% of that to players instead of npcs for the current player count, so the game then needs to choose how to split that 5000 credits between the 3 players. Basicallly the idea is to start with splitting it between the players but then weight by score. With a base of 1.0 for each player and 3 players it would be 1/3 each, if scores are used as weights after taking the log and dividing by 10, the player with 1000 score will get an extra weight of .6, giving them a weight of 1.6. The player with 100 gets a weight of 1.46, and the player with 0 score gets a weight of 1.0, then simply the player with 1000 gets 1.6/4.06 (1.6+1.46+1) of the money available, the player with 100 gets 1.46/4.06, and the zero scorer gets 1/4.06.

If this is run every minute using the score gained from the last 5 minutes, it should create a stable income for every player even up to high player counts. Teams with fewer player counts automatically get an effective individual bonus to income to make up for lower numbers, and defending income sources like freighters gets incentivized, and so does completing missions and objectives. The barrier here is implementing a score system which probably needs to be done anyways and assigning accurate score value/rewards for each objective, kills, etc.

The purpose of the log (could also use log2 instead of loge or log10 to tune this effect) score scaling is to to compensate for how good players will die less. It keeps increasing rewards of vets, but also doesnt runaway to the point of “so much money i can never spend this because i never even die and dont need to rebuy my ship and loadout” Once it gets to that point, progression becomes irrelevent which is bad and best avoided. It also makes sure newer players arent just stuck with no money forever, which is also bad as they also wouldnt feel any progression until they become veterens, which may never happen if they dont get the chance to play with loadouts between frequent deaths.

To simulate the “early game buildup” phase, perhaps the Ai “commander” of each team can spend the early game accumulating funds until they reach a predefined warchest of resources. Ex: at the start of the game the team’s players only get a base 20% each of the team wide income generation instead of 50% until the team’s npc spawning fund reaches 100000 or something. The goal percentages could also be adjusted based on the current playercount, it’s probably not worth giving teams 50% of income if only one player is connected per team, but it definetly is if 100 players are connected.

TL;DR: Passive income and percentage of team fund rewards over instant money faucets from blowing stuff can lead to more stable game flow and progression for people at all skill levels. Stable and predictable progression within margins is key to shaping the flow of each match.

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#2

Thank you for that interesting post. It sounds relatively easy to implement and as you said, a score system is going to be implemented anyways, so implementation of such a system would be relatively straightforward ( less than a day of work I guess, once the score system is in ).

I do agree with most of the theory, but at the same time I feel there needs to be more instant rewards to the game - which is the reason we started to hand out comfortable credits for players playing objectives -. The real issue with the passive system is that there’s a disconnect between your actions and when it’s paying off. You need to understand how the system works to see that your actions have some effects. For a new player however, it’s going to be a completely opaque thing, and they’re going to lose the instant rewards.

Humans are simple creatures, it’s easy to understand “do an action, get X in return”. It’s far less easy to understand “do an action, then 2 minutes later get X in return”. As an example, in today’s test event, Hutch damaged a station module with his ship. Then a few minutes later, he flew to another station, forgetting the event. Then he suddenly got a “griefing” message out of nowhere, since the first station’s module probably got done by somebody else / an AI. He couldn’t understand the disconnect between the action ( damaging the module ) and the consequence ( griefing message ) a few minutes later, and thought it was a bug.

The other issue with a more passive system is that a player sitting afk and simply waiting, is eventually going to get all the good stuff ( ships, equipments etc… ). Granted, it’s going to take longer than somebody who’s very active and playing the objectives. But I don’t like the idea that you can sit in spawn afk for an hour and hop into a capital ship once you come back ( don’t hold me on the “afk” thing, the player could simply be exploring / playing tourist ). So while I understand what you’re getting at, I feel there must be a much stronger reward for active, sweating players, and that inactive players shouldn’t be going anywhere with their credits any time soon. Ideally I would even say that inactive players should get no credits at all over time.

I do think a shift back to a score-weighted passive credits distribution system has its merits, but I’d like to keep an interest into active match participation. Maybe it can be achieved with a more agressive function than log, meaning the weights would rise much higher for active / participating players than for inactive ones.

In any case, the opacity for new players is going to remain a big issue. The game is already far too complex for the non-hardcore fans and the learning curve needs to be lowered, not increased. I’m not saying that necessarily excludes this score-weighting passive distribution system, but it’s certainly a factor to take into account.

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#3

This is indeed a problem but it’s easier to solve that it sounds! Upon completing an objective, simply popup a big +100 SCORE with a subtitle of “reward rate increased”, we already have one but frankly it’s too out of the way up there to really trigger those reward centers. The typical FPS location is probably smart, low center screen (with a transparent background so it doesnt block as much space once moved centrally) and a bunch of the usual annoying score text to really get that reward center going is probably a good idea. Now that we have HP numbers shown, i would go so far to suggest rewarding players for individual points of hull damage so even if they just scratch someone they get a “Damage +1” and as they go more the +1 can tick upwards all the way to the kill shot. (thinking about this more though it may need some multipliers to doing 100 pts of dmg to an inty isnt rewarded the same as 100 pts of dmg to a carrier, but that’s doable)

To make it even more visceral you could add a rank system to getting a certain score corresponds to a certain rank, so even while getting score the player occassionally gets a big RANK UP LT. REAR ADMIRAL. Is it clear how exactly the score rate corresponds to payments/upgrades in such a system? no! But you can certainly convince people that they are being rewarded handsomely with rank ups and score popups, and they will be seeing their money tick up.

I would argue that while this would add complexity, it’s not complexity that will ever interfere with player experience. If anything the passive rewards will make it more likely less experienced players get decent payouts and ease them in, they don’t need to worry about knowing how to farm credits, it just happens. In the current system optimal farming strategies are majorly important knowledge that you just need to go on the forums and read a guide, then forever you know the optimal farming route for getting into a cruiser in 5 minutes. That type of knowledge isn’t worth a whole lot in terms of game depth.

The issue of AFK’s getting money is an issue, it might be enough to simply check if the player has moved at all in the past few minutes, if not, no payout and tagged with afk on the scoreboard. If they’re just exploring/scouting and not finding anything i dont really mind them getting paid though.

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#4

Thinking about this whole topic what first came to my mind was … “wait … I don’t even feel I can judge that yet”.
Mostly due to the game loop either being too long at the moment or the “sub loops” being not obvious enough (or also too long).

For instance, this event I attacked the same station for two hours (until finally it was destroyed).

The additions of more players in a balanced way didn’t really accelerate the completion of a match. PVP was fun, yeah, but honestly I want to finish some matches or at least fights/battles from time to time. That is more incentive for me. Maybe after a lost battle at the Station I should have moved on … maybe it was my fault. /shrug

Not to sidestep much but a single NPC carrier at the start or soon after the start of the game would be cool to lower downtime for the attacking team. Strike craft are flimsy and it took about 15 minutes until Corvettes showed up … which was cool and made me happy. Still. It was less fun and more tedious, even with the awesome Torpedo explosions.


Honestly … I know what you guys talk about, the “bling bling” incentives and such, but for me personally they aren’t really that effective on me. I mostly even dislike them and switch them off as much as I can unless they are needed for tactical reasons.

For me the incentive is much more advancing the Match, Having fun, Pulling off some awesome moves I will remember for many days, weeks, months and years. Those are the gaming experiences I cherish. There have been many fun memories I have from CoD4 for instance but none of them involved levelling up or getting a new weapon.

I see that others are different there though. So I am ok with that … would like an options to switch “bling bling badge, award, damage superfluous” things off though.


As for the economy … due to my stance I mentioned above, I agree with Matt and prefer more passive income over active one. The only reason I wanted a capital last match was because I wanted to kill that station finally …
And I really dislike that I am forced to grind a certain way. I rather would have had some fun while the bots did the tedious work. I would have liked to switch it up somewhat and do some PVP dogfighting or snipe some bots, scout a bit. I really didn’t care who blew up the station. I just wanted to help and to finally see it go up in smoke.
You can say that players will fill all the roles in the future … from my experience with such multiplayer game, they often do not though.

I also agree with Matt that I don’t see how the current focus on personal rewards will get any more deep then “find best grind method”. People all should get about the same progress in the match, no matter what they do. I even would go so far to say that someone who joins late should get kickstarted to the levels of the others!
What is the other option? What is the benefit of the other option(s)? I don’t see much beside personal gratification which can be granted otherwise as the suggestions from Mattk.
It also doesn’t need to be linear. Good players already earn multiples of average players. What’s the point of all the unspent money? Having a big score and earning a bit more is sufficient. It doesn’t need to be multiples. They still will be the first to get the big ships if they want and it will be more fun if they have some big ship support and don’t have to wait for an hour for the others to catch up.

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#5

I just want to note that I rarely farm anymore, I get decent credits from dogfighting and take my time to get into a capital. I like to destroy quickly that station at Gallia though.

Only critical battles result in objective destruction. I have much more fun since I stopped worrying about destroying objectives manually.

#6

I’m with you on this. I understand the need to have instant feedback on when you have done something good, but I think it’s fairly meaningless unless it also benefits the team.

So yes, popups etc. for achieving a goal, and acknowledging this will lead to increased bonuses from the team pool should tickle both urges I would think.

Either that, or separate out ship/weapon progression (linked with team progess) and cosmetic/personal rewards (linked with immediate actions).

  • You earn a new skin/title/rank/something for blowing up that base. It also notifies you your reward rate has increased. You watch your credits increase and drool all over that carrier icon.

What @mattk50 said.

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