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Did we ever arrive at a reasonable win condition? Last man standing seems lame since it discourages many really cool adaptations e.g. Symbiosis or hwrbivore. I wonder if some we can find some other measur of dominance. -Dan K


[Carl: Here's a radical thought -- what if your species achieved victory by existing in harmony with the ecosystem. That is, you win by finding a sustainable place that will allow your species to survive indefinitely. Would have to monopolize a certain set of fixed prey (not other players) and been sufficiently immune to predators to achieve stable rate of replacement.)

(Carl: The easiest way would be to create a "finish line"; once a population crosses a certain threshold, the game ends and that population wins; every other surviving population comes in second, third, fourth etc. Obviously, extinction = loses.)

The following are from the feedback forum from the first iteration. If you have time, please copy these over to the relevant areas of the wiki:


some obvious things first that are planned improvements:

1) A store page formula box that helps you compute how much you are spending
2) A mutations subpage, with names of mutations and a list under each
one that shows each creature that has that mutation, similar to the
foodchain page.
3) actual visual design so the interface isn't so awful and plain.
4) A program that creates the species bio websites based on the player inputs so I
don't have to do everything by hand (and make mistakes)
5) A place to upload a picture or simple line drawing for species
profiles.


I liked the graph PDF. More graphs and tables would probably be cool.


Post morose on Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:18 pm
It's hard to say what things seemed too expensive/cheap just because a lot of the mechanics are hidden. Does +20 attack/defense against X mean you will gain/lose 20% more bio-mass than normal when something with X is involved? Or does it get calculated in some other kind of formula that then influences the outcome? So far, I've just been guessing and extrapolating from the results.

Post demons f on Tue Mar 18, 2008 3:39 pm
For starters, I got really creamed by predatory species jumping up to
eating 500 of the demons each turn. The moment that happened I was
unable to react fast enough. The game is highly biased towards
predators at the moment:

turn n: predatory species has new prey at 5%, attack versus prey
attribute of +20
turn n+1: prey species has new defenses at +5, predatory species
allocates 45% of diet to eating prey
turn n+2: prey species has new defenses at +20.

turns n+1 will see a massive downturn in the prey species population,
and turn n+2 could see the same depending on how it works behind the
scenes. I see some major shifts in the pudwadians diet, so perhaps I
didn't quite understand the way the store worked.

--from demons


Post marick on Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:37 pm
Two problems in multiplayer games, that need to be balanced:

1)The "kill the leader" problem. This is a problem early. You pick your early food choices well or luckily, take a small lead, and BAM you suddenly have several (see Pootie Tang) predators, so your species dies.

2)The "runaway leader" problem. This mostly won't happen, as the top species will usually see one of their prey species die off and get knocked off the top.

Currently, I think we have the "kill the leader" problem. It was downright easy to make Pootie Tang extinct and all it took was 3 of us picking Pootie Tang as prey.

A thought: perhaps the species should start in "locations" and gradually spread out over other areas. Then your choices for species to start eating become exactly those species in the new locations, and your species can even MIGRATE.

Post Brandon on Wed Mar 19, 2008 1:11 pm
Yes, Dan K and I discussed migration but left it out of this build. The books on population dynamics considered migration a key stabilizer in the real world. But I was worried it would get too complicated. Kill the leader phenomenon is probably the biggest challenge to making this thing better though. Are there any other ways to counteract it?
For the next build, it would be nice to see how many biomass were actually consumed by each predator. Then, if you go extinct, you can see exactly why.

Post Darwin on Wed Mar 19, 2008 2:23 pm
Having no idea what things like "+20" really meant did make it difficult to make wise choices.
In what order are things applied? Is it mutations and diet changes, then everyone eats, then reproduction?
If two species are competing for same prey, how is it decided how much each gets?

Post morose on Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:35 pm
Yeah, I think there is a bit of information drought. But for a rules test (pre-alpha), that's expected. A couple more runs, starting with the current rules and tweaking them in progress (like we just did) should help a lot.

I definitely think something needs to be done so that prey can react to predators more quickly (like demons f mentioned). I think the defensive mutations need to be more easily purchased. Maybe make it so that you can up the bonus on defensive mutations as soon as you get them, but offense/dietary changes still require a one turn lag before upping them? Might help for a start. As soon as you're forced to start reacting to your predators, you're in a bit of a losing situation anyway, so boosting defense mutations is probably a good idea.

Post taumeson on Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:50 pm
oh, you know what would help out a ton? if scarcity is factored in to diet. pudwadians shouldn't be able to get 2500 of something if there are only 3000 in the first place. things sould be hard to come by if eating activities would reduce a species too far, reflecting the fact that the first n would be relatively easy to find, but after that they would get harder to come by.

lesser points

Post Slivers on Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:39 am
I've found the lack of points late in the game to the higher players, actually ends up hurting the lower players. Let's be honest, we don't actually WANT to eat so much of our prey that they go extinct. And I found that during the mid-game, I didn't have enough points to switch my food allocations enough to keep my prey alive.

I think if you let us know how you calculated things, it would be easier to give feedback. +20 is an arbitrary number if we don't know what it really means. What is the true benefit of having a litter increase. What does that really do?

I also found the beginning of the game to be completely hit or miss. There were 4 different people who picked a resource, and we all lost a lot in the first turn. (which later turned out to be a blessing, due to the "kill the leader" problem) Maybe don't have completely fixed resources in the beginning. Created a multiple, and then however many players pick that resource. In general, an ecosystem would probably start with everyone having enough food. Then let the war begin.

Example:

Oreos and Leaves:

3 people at the start of the game pick Oreos. 5 people pick Leaves.

So the starting resources would be:
600 Oreos
1000 Leaves

Everyone gets 200 resources, and then it makes the fixed foods differ in the mid-game. Someone might not want to stop eating Leaves, then, because everyone else stopped eating it, and they now have a monopoly on a large resource. This will create a more balanced eco-economy. It will also lessen the "luck" factor, which we all want to do, because we play games like this to lose due to strategic mistakes, and not unlucky ones.

This would also help the mass extinctions mid-game. Because it was an obvious advantage to sell off your fixed resources prey, almost everyone did it, and thus there were no NEW prey being added to the circle of life, if you will. Eventually, everyone dies, unless someone chooses to eat Leaves or Oreos again. By creating more of an incentive to keep your fixed resource, the game will last longer than 10 turns, heh.


Slivers
Guest


Post BRANDON on Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:11 am
MOROSE -

I like that idea about giving defenses more immediate flexibility so you can respond to being under attack...


Post Brandon on Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:20 am
Slivers-

Yeah, an essential decision needs to be made about that first turn and the amount of fixed resources. It is either

1) FAIR, like you suggested, and then the strategy starts, or

2) UNFAIR - which means that people start out with random advantages and disadvantages.

The reason I chose 2 is that I thought it would make the "market" for selecting prey more interesting. If everyone has an equal amount of fixed prey, and an equal biomass, it is hard to make a strategic decision. Same with the first mutations. The attack mutations turned out pretty balanced, but there were 3 defense mutations vs shaggy and only 1 vs slobbery. That makes slobbery creatures better hunters, and creates a scenario with differently weighted fights, where each species has a unique challenge to survive based on their luck. I compare it to playing risk in the variation where instead of choosing countries, you randomly pass out cards. Sometimes someone starts turn one already having South America - unfair! Yet, people go after them because they got a head start.

The verdict is out, what do other players think?

Risk vs Evolution

Post Slivers on Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:27 pm
Yes, in Risk, the randomized idea works better. You're forgetting, however, that the population of THIS game is 4 times that. . .and there are no borders that you must be next to. Even in Risk, if you have all of a continent, you still have only so many players and resources that can attack you. With this game, everyone can attack the top person with EVERYTHING. Hence the problem of the "kill the leader" syndrome.

The other problem when compairing to Risk, is that the person with the advantage gets MORE resources, because of it. In this game, not only does everyone attack you, but you have minimal resources to prevent that type of onslaught, because you actually get LESS resources because you are bigger.

I think the end result of this game so far has been opposite of what true evolution is. In this game, the more populous you are, the closer you are to extinction.



Selecting new prey

Post Darwin on Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:56 pm
It seems like this may be too cheap - you get to spread out your diet, keep someone from preying upon you, and reduce the competition all at the same time.

Right now, if two species select each other as prey, both lose their points. That seems really harsh. For a turn or two, if two species selected each other as prey, whoever responded first won out, and the other got their points back. I'm curious as to why you switched back. I can understand that it may not be fair to give priority to the first respondent, but what about just refunding both players full points? It seems like penalty enough that you sort of lose a turn as far as those points go. Or maybe refund half points?

I don't see why removing a species from your diet should give you points - if you've got 5 or more prey, you benefit anyway from giving up prey so that new additions are cheaper. If a species has gone extinct, you need to drop them anyway. Giving up a species up prey doesn't seem like you're surrendering much.


Post Brandon on Mon Mar 24, 2008 4:06 am
Yeah, I see your point. Points should be refunded if you are unlucky and both people try to et each other at the same time. Although I want to prevent a situation where two species spend infinite turns trying to eat each other to no avail. Maybe if you got MOST of your points back, but there was a small penalty, that would work.

The reason you get points for removing prey is because when there are extinctions, you get creamed if you don't get extra points to rework your diet. If you are thriving and then eat your prey to extinction, and don't get many points for next turn because you are thriving, then not only does everyone pick on you because you are leading at the top of the game, but you also starve most of your species not having enough points to adjust to the new circumstances.


The biggest flaw in the game right now...

Post Spy Kitties on Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:02 pm
I think the structure of the Predator/Prey relationship is the biggest flaw in the game right now. There is no escape from being someone's prey, other than increasing your defenses and hoping they get eaten or give up on eating you.

The way the game was this time, you could lurk in the background, adding everyone as your prey. Once you had a mark on em all, you were invulnerable, and victory was only a matter of time (as we're seeing with Terry Cloth Monkeys). Population totals didn't matter, as long as you stayed alive; what mattered was getting everyone as your prey. (This was my strategy, and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids!)

There should be a way to reverse the predator/prey relationship (or at least to shake someone as your prey...) One way would be to say that even if someone is your predator, you can seek to add them as your prey. If you are better adapted (in terms of mutation bonuses) to eat them than they are to eat you, then you could become their predator.

Another way is to just allow species to eat each other. I'm not sure how the computer modeling would work for that, but you could figure something out...This seems a better fix to me (though I don't know it it has a real-world analogue...) because it breaks the linear structure of the game.

The biggest flaw in the game right now...

Post Drouberhannis on Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:46 pm
I like the realism of not being able to reverse the predator prey relationship. But what if we let the prey fight back. Maybe they don't get to eat the predator, but they could kill it. If the prey defense against a predator is high enough I think they should die trying to eat them. This could prevent the runaway win that the monkeys got. If both the slivers and evaluandus survived off of fixed resources (or each other) they could boost their defenses against the monkeys and eventually kill them off. Does that make any sense?

Another thought on this subject. It seems like most prey in the real world have a reproductive advantage over predators. What if you got a reproductive bonus for each species that has you as their prey. Maybe that's just a real-world "strategy" for staying alive that prey should employ. What if we made reproductive increases cheaper for prey and more expensive for predators?

Selecting new prey

Post Darwin on Wed Apr 02, 2008 10:35 pm
Being able to turn around and eat your predators seems rather strange. I think that there are a few better ways to help solve the problem:

* increase the cost of choosing new prey (it's SO powerful) - However, there should then be a smaller penalty for two species selecting each other on the same turn; being set back a turn on spending the points and having your strategy go awry are penalties already. Probably should be just 25%.

* decrease the cost of new mutations that defend against player-designed offenses - this will allow players to make themselves no longer desirable to their predators over time, and will open the game more in general, because players will be reacting more directly to one another instead of just buying defenses vs neutral mutations.

* increase the cost of mutations that attack against neutral mutations - as with the last suggestion, this opens up direct interaction more, but also discourages just buying as many prey as possible since it would be harder to be effective versus many at once.

I think this balance things out, especially since I don't think the problem is quite as bad as some others do. Part of the strategy of the game is figuring out how to contribute to the demise of a predator.


pred/prey

Post Brandon on Wed Apr 16, 2008 6:26 pm
I like the idea of giving a reproduction bonus to species with lots pf predators. Also, we could introduce poison or disease to sicken your predators. I think if we also help people realize that one way to defeat a predator is to outeat everything else IT eats, thus making it hard for them to thrive, that there might be a way to shake a predator in the endgame. But also, it can't be too easy to shake a predator, otherwise it's too hard to win.
Another thing I was considering was the game is a tie if a sustainable ecosystem is created where nothing is about to go extinct.



Reproductive rate

Post Spy Kitties on Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:51 pm
Brandon raises a key question on reproduction rates which I thought deserved its own Topic...


It seems pretty obvious to me that high reproductive rates create severe volatility in the game. Everyone started with 205% reproduction (which I was calling 105) BUt that made leaders spike in population too severely. Maybe a starting value of 150% would be better, create a more gradual jockeying for position.


As I understand it, the rates work as follows: if you have 100 guys and they all survive and eat, you end up with 205 guys the next turn. Is this correct?

I actually think there should be a certain degree of volatility--it creates interesting "kill the leader" dynamics. And in a world with too little volatility, the game could go on for a very long time, since no species could really run away from the pack. Of course, what we saw was that running away from the pack was never a successful strategy...the Monkeys stayed near the middle of the pack and acquired prey, which was rewarded...

Nevertheless, a slower rate of growth would be worth experimenting with. It will be a very different game, and probably a better one, since people like to be 'in the running' for longer...

The second argument for a lower repro rate is for strategic purposes. In this beta, it was not worth investing in increasing your reproductive rate. Peoples rates were already so high (205) that paying 100 points to raise it to 210 is pretty much futile. It was a much better bet to increase your

I think it would make sense to lower the base reproductive rate, but price increases in reproductive rate more competitively (e.g. start everyone at 150, and have a 10 increase cost 50 points...) What I like about this is that it provides different paths to victory -- some species will win by being superb predators, some by being hard to eat, and others by screwing like bunnies. Having more variety between species makes it less likely that every game will unfold the same way...

Thoughts?

repro

Post Brandon on Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:39 pm
Yes, you have the math exactly.
I agree all around. I think it would have been a very different scenario if there weren't such extreme spikes in population growth.


Terry Cloth Monkeys

Post Slivers on Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:40 am
I believe TCM are gonna win this game. I think there needs to be something done about once someone is your predator, there is absolutely no way to hurt them again. That was the biggest thing you could do with your points per turn, cause it gave you a new food source, and it made you immune from a single player.


Re: Terry Cloth Monkeys

Post Brandon on Wed Mar 26, 2008 1:05 am
Maybe if certain conditions were met you could shake them off and reverse who eats who?

Defense mutations are supposed to be one countermeasure. It becomes costly for a predator to keep upping their attack bonus if you keep upping your defense bonus. Maybe it should be cheaper to boost defense than attack.

Also, the reproductive rate was probably the largest factor. Everyone started at 105, which means if 1000 of you survived, you would add 105% to your biomass. It was way too much growth. 50% would be more reasonable, and wouldn't lead to such huge population spikes.