I often get questions regarding the content or mechanics of the Balance Mod, so I have put together some FAQs with answers to provide some insight into the mod. The FAQ is a work in progress and is updated periodically. The last update was 29 September 2010.
Balance Mod FAQs - General Gameplay
Q: What's the purpose of the Balance Mod?
The original intent behind making the Balance Mod was to create the standard data set for SE:V. Unfortunately the mod wasn't ready when the game was released and instead it was provided as an alternative to SE:V's standard files, which many players felt were under developed and not balanced very well. Since then, the Balance Mod has continually been updated and tweaked to achieve a relatively balanced data set with a more developed AI, providing players with an enjoyable gaming experience while maintaining the feel of the standard game.
Q: Why are there fewer tech levels in the Balance Mod?
There are a number of reasons why the Balance Mod reduced the overall number of tech levels. The reasons included balancing requirements, gameplay benefits, increasing play-style variety and AI development.
Keeping facilities and components in scale with each other over 100 tech levels is difficult. For example, a Depleted Uranium Cannon (DUC) in the standard game does 20 damage at level 1 and 515 damage at level 100 - a 25x increase. However, other game elements like component/facility/population structure does not follow a similar increase and the effect of the DUC becomes unbalanced to other game elements. The general rule of thumb when I revised the tech tree for the Balance Mod was for an item to approximately double in its output/ability from their lowest to highest tech level - or at least stay in step with a counter item. This helps keeps various game elements in equilibrium with each other.
In the standard data files, most tech areas have very low base costs and relatively small increases per level. Most of the time, a single level gain in a tech area is not a worthwhile upgrade - so most players will wait a few levels before deciding to upgrade a design or facility. In the Balance mod, tech levels are grouped up and a more significant improvement in output is added so that each improvement justifies a new design or facility upgrade.
One complaint with the standard data files was a lack of variety in weapon usage. Each weapon had a lot of tech levels and finished with about the same damage value, so once players had committed to a weapon branch it didn't make much sense to switch back to another weapon since you had already committed millions of research points. The Balance Mod rearranges the weapons tech tree into layers, progressing from lower tech weapons to higher tech weapons. This allows players to diversify their weapon usage throughout the game and opens up more playstyles.
For AI players, having many tech levels at a low cost causes a number of issues. Unlike their human counterparts, the AI doesn't have much analytical capability (or lacks access to important details) and cannot decide when to make a worthwhile upgrade to their designs. In short, they end up making many new designs and have to restrict their retrofitting. It also makes it more difficult to develop a dynamic AI research pathway.
Lastly, even though there are fewer overall levels in the mod, there is still plenty of research to be done. When all factors are considered, such as research output versus technology costs, the "research time" length of the Balance Mod tech tree is very close to that of the standard game. Unfortunately, the nature of the share technology treaty element, isn't as supportive and can make the technology tree feel shorter.
Q: What are some of the other technology tree changes?
Discounting changes to the number of tech area levels, the requirements and shape of the Balance Mod tech tree is similar to the standard game. A few notable changes include the addition of the Vehicle Systems tech area, which is a requirement for improvements to Life Support and Crew Quarters; starting racial trait levels; the earlier availability of Fighters, Space Yard and Remote Mining components; and the branching points for engines and vehicle hulls.
Compare the Balance Mod's tech tree with the Standard Game's tech tree:
Q: How does the propulsion system work?
The Balance Mod requires larger ships to use more engines than smaller ships to travel the same speed. This is often referred to as QNP (Quasi-Newtonian Propulsion) in the Space Empires modding community. Essentially, each engine in the mod adds a fixed number of movement points. The ship's resulting in-game movement is the total number of movement points divided by the vehicle's movement point requirement to generate 1 movement. For example, if your Frigate has 5 level 1 Ion Engines supplying 100 movement points each and your Frigate requires 40 movement points to make 1 speed, it will have a maximum speed of 500/40 = 12. Any decimal portion is truncated. Lastly, movement bonuses from racial traits or solar sails are added on to this value to generate a ship's maximum speed. Some bonuses of this system are that you can mix and match engine types and it helps to equalize the value of small and large ships. There are limits to the number of engines that can be added to a hull, this is done for gameplay purposes for both the AI and for game performance.
For combat, a ship's speed with be its movement point value, but in km/s. For example, if a Frigate has a maximum speed of 12, it will move at 12 km/s in combat. A few exceptions include Fighters and non-combat hulls. Fighters travel 1.5x faster in combat than through a star system. For example, a Fighter with a maximum speed of 10 will travel at 15 km/s in combat. Freighters and Colony Ships in combat will move slower than their system speed, typically 0.8x their movement amount.
Q: What are the Components that can be counted towards Cargo Requirements?
In the mod, many additional components can be counted towards cargo requirements on freighters. The purpose of this change was to encourage the use of freighter hulls. Valid cargo components in the mod are: Rock/Ice/Gas Colony Modules, Supply Storage, Ordnance Storage, Ordnance Vat, Space Yard, Repair Bay, Cargo Bay, Fighter Bay, Satellite Bay, Drone Launcher, Mine Layer, Mine Sweeper, and Remote Mining components.
Q: How does the Intelligence System work?
In the standard game, a project could only be successful if the selected intel project's cost was greater than the defending player's intel defense points - an all or nothing approach. All unused points under the standard system would accumulate. A player could easily build up a impenetrable wall of defense, nullifying the intelligence aspect of the game. Vice versa, players with unmatchable amounts of intel points could also be unstoppable in their offensive intelligence attacks.
In contrast, the Balance Mod uses a "leaky" intel system. A success percentage is calculated based on the number of attack points a player has, the project cost, and the number of defense points the target player has. The result is that even a weaker player may enjoy some intel success against a stronger player and makes it more difficult to overwhelm an opponent with intel alone. Defensive intel points do not accumulate between turns as it is assumed they are actively being used to deter intel operations by other players. The system is also biased against more costly high-impact projects, making them generally less likely to occur.
The success percentage of an intel project is determined as follows:
Project costs are listed on the Balance Mod v1.19 tech chart.
Q: Does the Balance Mod use Fyron's Quadrant Mod?
The Balance Mod incorporates the majority of FQM's changes to SE:V except for the revised planet textures. At this time, I would prefer to keep the Balance Mod self-contained and not require additional downloads - particularly hefty graphic downloads.
If you'd like to integrate the Balance Mod with the complete version of FQM, some instructions can be found here:
Balance Mod FAQs - AI
Q: What Are Some Recommended Settings for Solo Player Games? Updated!
I usually recommend the following settings for solo games:
To make things a bit more challenging, you can always refuse your starting tech or racial trait points as a way to give the AI a bit of boost, particularly if you like to micromanage more.
* Difficulty levels currently do not have an effect in the Balance Mod (or standard game) but will likely be supported in Balance Mod v1.20!
Q: What are the AI's ministers doing anyway?
Learn more about the Balance Mod's AI ministers do here:
Q: What are the AI's states?
The AI can be in 1 of 5 states listed below with a brief description:
The AI's state will influence a number of factors including diplomacy, research, design type distribution and construction items. The AI's state is determined each turn.
Q: How does the AI make diplomatic decisions? Updated!
AI empires in the Balance Mod respond to other players politically based on five factors - anger level, fear level, target priority, friendship, and AI personality category.
Positive or negative anger amounts are generated by game events, such as combat or sabotage, proximity/amount of enemy ships/colonies, and the target empire's current diplomatic status with the AI player and other known empires. There's also a few modifiers involved for factors like similar government/society types, human or AI player, mega evil status, and so on. Anger amounts generated by events decay over time, where anger amounts related to political status increase/decrease depending on the length of time in the current political state. The lowest anger against is considered the AI's primary friend. The anger level is used as a base value for determining whether or not to accept various treaty elements, proposing or breaking treaties, etc.
Fear is derived from the AI's player's score against another empire with a small modifier for the AI's personality category. A positive fear value is true fear, while a negative value represents confidence. Fear is often used as a direct modifier to base anger values that determine a variety of diplomatic actions, but used mostly in treaty related diplomacy.
Target priority is a point system where points are added or subtracted based on factors like proximity, similarity, current treaty status, treaty status with other players, human or AI player, and fear level. The score is then converted into a priority level of low, medium, or high. Target priority is often used as a modifier in diplomatic situations like proposing a treaty or declaring war. The more burdened an AI is terms of enemies and wars, the more likely they'll try to make amends with low priority players and avoid starting new fights with all but the highest priority players. The player with the highest target priority score is considered the AI's primary enemy.
Friendship is the newest factor in the Balance Mod. It's simply a score generated by the treaty elements between two players, where each element has a positive or negative friendship value attached to it. The friendship score is currently used to differenriate between players that have treaties with an AI player. Previously, various positive diplomacy modifiers were based only on the existence of a treaty where now they only apply if the player is a true friend, that is, the treaty with them is actually beneficial.
The AI's personality category can be peaceful, neutral, aggressive, or xenophobic. This is the weakest factor since most of the AI's individual settings for diplomatic decisions already have a bias built in. Typically the AI's category is used as a minor modifier in a few areas. This designation will probably be removed completely in the v1.20 series.
Q: How does the AI make or accept treaties?
When receiving a treaty proposal, the AI looks at each treaty element. Every treaty element has a base anger level to accept and a concession value. If all elements are acceptable to the AI Empire, it will accept the treaty. If a few elements exceed the AI's anger level towards the proposing player, it might offer a counter treaty with revised elements. For some elements, even though they met the AI's basic requirements, they might be considered useless or not applicable and they will be removed and a counter-proposal made. A weaker AI will accept more concessions than a stronger AI due to its fear value. When an AI offers a treaty, it uses it's anger level to determine what type of treaty to offer, such as a Trade agreement or a Non-Aggression pact. Each treaty type has certain elements that are always added, while others get choosen if certain conditions are met. The specific element values added to the proposal will depend on the AI's anger and fear levels. A stronger AI will seek more concessions, while a weaker AI might offer some concessions.
In some instances when an AI player is faced with too many wars or enemies, it will make an effort to establish non-aggression treaties with current enemy empires that are of lower priority. Often these are enemy empires that are distant or at the very least, a reduced threat compared to the AI's primary enemy.
Q: How does the AI handle surrendering?
A strong AI empire will considering demanding for a weaker empire to surrender when they're at war with them and it considers itself to much more powerful. When an AI empire is asked to surrender, it first checks to see if its basic surrender conditions are met. This is a threshold fear level of the stronger player. Then there's a bunch of other factors the AI will consider - is it at peace with the requester? Is it being asked too frequently to surrender? Does the AI's personality suggest it should try and fight to the bitter end? Does it want to spite the powerful empire and surrender to one of the stronger player's rivals or an existing friend? If the answers to those questions are no, then it's likely the AI empire will give up.
Q: How does the AI make designs? New!
Each of the SE:V's standard AI players have a personalized setup of design types that is aligned with their basic empire design philosophy. For example, the Drushocka utilize a combination of small seeker ships with more fighters and carriers, while the EEE prefer moderately sized ships with direct fire weapons.
Each empire also has a list of preferred weapons they typically use. It's not a static list, but takes some consideration of role, vehicle size, enemy designs, and technology available. For example, the Amonkrie might use Phased-Polaron Beams on their defense ships, but only if known enemy designs aren't using phased shields.
Outside of weapons, additional components are added based on ship size and purpose, with adjustments made for features of known enemy designs. For example, if the Jraenar note their enemy the Phong are using skip armor weapons, then they'll be more likely to use more shields versus armor.
Future improvements in this area will focus on improving the AI's adaptability to the current game situation, allowing AI players to make better adjustments.
Q: How does the AI decide to build which designs? New!
For most design types an AI empire might make, there's a desired amount of that design that is wanted per 500 facilities in the AI's empire, which is proportionally adjusted as required based on the empire's size. The base wanted amounts are aligned with the AI's design strategy philosophy. For some design types, such as Colonizers, the wanted amounts are determined by other factors.
There are plenty of modifiers that will modify the wanted numbers which include considerations for the AI's current state, economic performance, and what types of enemy vehicles/technology they might be encountering. For example, an AI encountering enemy ships that are generally faster than their ships might increase demand for smaller combat ships or fighters, while dropping demand for larger ships.
To determine demand for a design to construct, the AI has specific demand values attached to each design type. These values are multiplied by net number required (amount wanted - amount built plus queued) to generate a total demand value. When it comes to the construction phase in an AI's script, they sort the demand list from highest to lowest demand. While ships are typically constructed at any available space yard, unit constructions are cross-referenced with lists of colonies that need those types of units.
Q: How does the AI decide to build which facilities? New!
When the AI constructs facilities, the most important element in selecting the facility is the colony type. Each colony type has an associated list of facilities that are suitable for its type, which is typically followed after any prerequisite facilities are added such as a space port. In some instances, a space yard or resupply depot might be added first, particularly if the planet is breathable to the population that occupies it. In addition, specialized facilities at the planet level, such as Planetary Shield or Mineral Scanner, might be added depending on the amount of facility space available, other facilities present, and so on. Facilities operating on a system-wide level usually are added if there is a significant enough presence (or of a particularly facility type) of the AI empire in the system to make use of the facility.
For mixed resource colony types (ie Mining and Farming Colony), the type of specific resource facility added depends on what the AI empire determines it needs more of at the time of construction. Similarly, mixed research and intelligence colonies follow the same general rule. However, the AI is capable of scrapping and replacing those facilities with alternatives if the need arises.
Q: How does the AI research?
The AI divides it's research based on the 4 classifications of technology: Cultural, Theoretical, Applied, and Weapons. From there it typically follows a list of tech areas to add to its research queue. The research points spent in each area will depend on the AI's current state and the amount of research points it has. Every tech area for the AI also carries a priority value that's attached to it. Depending on its circumstances, an AI may rush more critical areas of research. With respect to weapons or racial tech areas, each empire-specific AI has extra instructions to research a particular group of weapons or components.
Check back for new FAQs on a regular basis!
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