Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Back on Topic with Energy Changes

I went a little off the rails in my last post, adding quite a flight of fancy to my core message.  But the core message is that we need to have some expectations regarding skills and some consistency with regards to how many skills you have to allocate to get something done.  Since there are penalties for having more skills than your brain capacity, it is a little odd that you have to devote very different numbers of skills to very similar capabilities.

This is especially true when I am suggesting that we change the penalty for being over brain capacity to increased energy loss.  So let's get to the bit about energy.

Right now Energy is a very complicated thing.  What I am suggesting is that we significantly reduce the complexity.  In doing so we are going to make headway towards making food relevant for the late game and we are going to simultaneously bring the energy rich closer to the energy poor and make a large energy tank feel more directly rewarding.

If you want to understand how complex energy is right now, check out my guide to buying energy in the sidebar.  Because energy decay and teleportation scale with energy tank, if you aren't doing anything to refill your energy during the game day, having a higher energy tank might not even be a benefit.  On the other hand, because Get out of Hell Free Cards are so cheap and plentiful, restoring full energy is very easy to do.

So what I am proposing is that nothing at all scales from maximum energy.  You still get a refill once a day, but that is it.  Energy decay and teleportation will have fixed rates.  When no-no wears out your energy will be set to what it was when you activated no-no.  Coming back from the dead will give you a fixed amount of  energy instead and a Get Out of Hell Free Card gives full mood but not full energy.  Buying an energy upgrade does not refill your energy, it only gives you as much energy as was on the card (so a +50 energy tank card gives you 50 energy right away).  There is no longer a maximum amount of energy you can get per day from meditating or eating.

What all this means is that if you buy 100 more maximum energy, you get 100 more energy to spend each day.  It means that energy is an unambiguous upgrade with a clear effect.

Of course there are some problems with this approach as some of the the things I am proposing taking out of the game are there for a reason. energy decay is an important mechanic in the game and if it doesn't increase with your energy tank then it won't really do what it does anymore.  Giving teleportation a fixed cost means that it will be either too expensive for lower level players or essentially free for higher level ones.

Energy Decay
Why are energy decay and expensive teleportation important and how can we preserve them?  Energy decay itself isn't an essential part of the game, I don't think.  You could have the game with it or without it.  Without it, though, there would really be no death, so it serves a useful function in that regard.  Also, scaling energy decay helped to counteract the advantage that higher level players have over lower level ones.

In most MMOs you fight monsters.  When you go up levels you get more powerful, but you just have to fight more powerful monsters.  In fact, going up levels usually makes the game harder, not easier.  Increasing energy decay is the "harder challenge" that you take on as you level up in Glitch.

Teleportation makes the world feel less like a world and more like a webpage with hyperlinks.  In a way this is very suitable for Glitch, but clearly to make the world feel like a world teleportation cannot be instant and free.

So what do we do about these things?  First of all, let's realize that getting "more powerful" in Glitch is more about skills than levels.  A level 1 Glitch with animal kinship seven will not have the good super harvest upgrades, but they will still spend just four energy to get eight meats from every piggy they meet, so their 100 energy tank will not be much of a limitation for them.

Next, let's recognize that the issue with teleportation is when it replaces walking.  Clearly we are encouraged to use teleportation to go from one region to another.

The new values I would propose for these are energy decay at 10 per minute and teleportation cost at 50 times the number of times you teleported today plus one.  That is, the first teleport of the game day costs 50, then the next costs 100, then 150 and so on.  Obviously 10 per minute is a lot at level 1, but I'll get to that in a moment.

10 energy per minute is what you'd lose now with an energy tank of 1875.  So this would be an increase for many glitchen but a decrease for those with very large tanks.  Overall, however, it would be a loss for the more hardcore players.  I have a tank of 7000, so my current energy loss is just over 37 per minute.  That may sound like a big get for me, but over two hours of playing it saves me only 3280 energy.  That's less than half of one Get out of Hell Free card.  That's less than half of what I could spend during one no-no crash thanks to my large tank.  Overall people with giant tanks will be worse off with this change and the difference between them and those with smaller tanks is smaller.

Why does this affect the value of food?  First of all, because people with large energy tanks can no longer get full refills, they will be able to run out of energy and may need food to keep playing.  Perhaps more importantly, though, with the current system food becomes less valuable the higher your tank gets.  Right now if I eat an awesome stew it will last me six minutes.  Some people have energy tanks large enough that a stew wouldn't get them through one minute.  With energy loss no longer tied to tank size, the same food gives the same about of actions over the same amount of time to everyone.

Brain Capacity
But of course 10 energy per minute is quite low for end game.  I know I always bring up animal kinship, but if it takes less than a second to turn 4 energy into 80 then 10 energy per minute isn't really having an impact.  Also, we need level 1 glitchen to not use 10 energy per minute, since that's an awful lot.

So here we turn to Brain Capacity.  Instead of Brain Capacity affecting the amount of time it takes to learn skills, it will affect how much energy you lose per minute.  The base energy loss per minute would be (number of skills) / (brain capacity) * 10 up to full brain capacity.  Beyond maximum brain capacity the amount of energy per minute ramps up the way that skill times now do.  So with the current batch of skills, if you have maximum brain capacity and all the skills you would be losing 50 energy per minute, which would currently be equivalent to the energy loss from a tank of 9375.

This would also take away the current situation where having all the skills is par for the course for early second beta players but may be forever out of reach for players who start when the game is actually launched.  Everyone would be able to learn all the skills, but it would be up to each individual how many they wanted to know.  A glitch can do everything at the cost of about 2400 energy an hour compared to another glitch who wants to focus on a few things.  As more skills are added it will become harder and harder to be able to actually do everything.

When being able to do everything is an actual trade-off it will be up to players to decide whether they want to do it or not.  This will create a reason for different glitchen to be good at different things which will result in real trading.

It would probably be wise to change the times it takes to learn skills.  Many of the high end skills could take a little longer because they are currently timed with the expectation that you'll be suffering a learning penalty.

I think this is probably my best idea and I think it would have a really significant positive impact.  It's a bit of a sweeping change and I'm sure that it would have a lot of negative backlash, but I think it would make the game a lot better for the new people who are going to be joining when it is released, as well as ultimately for those who may be negatively affected now.

I would say the odds of this change being implemented are very low, and I can't imagine starting some kind of activist event to promote this change.  The most important part of the idea is realizing that in order to create a real economy, different glitchen have to be good at different things, and that this can only happen is being good at everything is either impossible, undesirable or if it involves a trade-off.

Off to the ideas forum.


  1. So I think we all can agree that Glitch lacks an endgame for people who've made it past the quests and the skill tree and most of the other ladders. What you're proposing is that high level players can't use the full skill tree without penalty and that they have to run around constantly feeding their energy reserves. Does that sound like a fun endgame to you? I put over a year of time and paid subscription fees into this game, and I'm wondering why that should result in a lowering of capabilities and what amounts to a punishment that leaves me scrambling around just to keep my energy level going. Shouldn't longtime players have MORE capabilities and be allowed to max out and complete skill trees? Shouldn't the focus here be on the level of development necessary to keep the game interesting to longtime players rather than figuring out a way to make all of us scramble around like junkies looking for an energy fix? I totally get what you're trying to do here, but I think it's flipping the incentives to play on its head and doesn't create a very fun endgame at all.

  2. Actually I do think that the end game would be more compelling if high level players had it harder than we do now. Pretty much every big change to the game brings with it more and more ease with which we earn wealth.

    I think you are drastically overstating your case against this change. If someone chose to have all the skills, would that person be running around like a junkie trying to get energy? Well, they might have to nibble a dozen piggies to fuel a half hour of play. Or they might have to sell one gardening potion to buy the food to play for 40 minutes. If they log in and collect the meat from their 10 meat collectors then that would let them pay the energy decay rate for two hours and they can do that twice a day. Sell the milk from the milk collectors and you can easily fund 8 hours of energy decay per real day without doing any work at all. They would have to put some kind of thought, effort and bag space into energy, but most of their play time would be spent however they wanted to spend it. People's impressive projects would just be more impressive because there was more work to do.

    I also think that something you said explains exactly why I am proposing this change: "people who've made it past the quests and the skill tree and most of the other ladders." What I am suggesting is that there be a change so that the skill tree is no longer a "ladder" that you climb, instead its a part of gameplay where people make decisions about their glitchen.

  3. I'd rather an incentive that causes you to do something that doesn't feel like brainless resource grinding. What about an incentive structure based around doing things that you haven't done recently, i.e. the more you do something, the less you get out of it? That would create the variety and cause different players to seek different activities. It seems like something along those lines would create a much more diverse set of player interactions and activities than just forcing us all to keep some piggies to harvest so we can have energy to play each day. Right now you have a ton of raw materials available with very little effort and the ability to craft them into a ton of foods and other items, but very little incentive to do so. As you showed everyone with the cheese, just tweaking the structure of those activities can cause everyone to start doing new things. That seems like a better area to explore than to try to turn high level play into a scramble just to keep your head above water. I don't think there's any value in structuring the endgame to make it much harder for people who've earned their way through the game that far.

  4. I am having difficulty finding the right way to say this, but bear with me while I try... Glitch is a world of abundance. I don't like the idea of things getting harder for someone the more they play. That doesn't make sense to me and I think it's an unusual and contrived way to make work for players without creating real value. I think if all the things we could craft or make were somehow scaled in value so there was incentive to make stuff, then that alone would be a great improvement. If more balancing is needed, why not scale the incentives so that you get a bigger bonus for stuff you haven't done recently. That would bring more variety to the game than just forcing high level players to repeat optimized behaviors endlessly to keep their heads above water.

  5. If they scale things to how long it's been since you've done them then within a couple of months I'll have posted the formulas and then playing optimally will be a bizarre dance/puzzle game to be solved - a game that everyone who wants to race for high level has to play the same way. This might not be the case - the rewards might be irrelevant - but if they are relevant than people will need to seek them which means doing things a certain way.

    And you wouldn't need to keep piggies around for energy - but if you aren't keeping piggies around then why do you need the skill that lets you do so? That's the point, a person who has all the skills has all the options. If you aren't using those options and they actually cost something then you might choose not to have them. Then the one day you do need something they produce you can go to trade chat. If, on the other hand, you prefer to do everything yourself that's still easily within reach.

    Right now with the way energy works I feel like it would make more sense to just take it out of the game then leave it as it is. Energy is only real for new players. It's almost like we are playing an MMO with monster to fight and when you get to max level you become invincible - dying just isn't a thing anymore. Glitch is even more bizarre. Dying is a thing for me, it's a good thing, a pure benefit.

    Everyone who is playing the game now played through the early stages of the game when energy was a thing. I don't think making energy a little bit of a thing again would really ruin the game.