Good afternoon, ladies and gents! I'd like to foremost preface this post by extending my commendations towards Battlegoat Studios for creating one of the most intriguing grand strategy titles I've experienced to date! With over 1500 hours of gameplay; I've thoroughly enjoyed the title and it's scenarios. Hailing from the proud hometown of Waterloo; and as a fellow Canadian, gentlemen, I applaud your efforts both past and present to provide both great service, and a great product!
The insight I'd like to offer today is based on empirical game play observations over the 1,500 hours I've spent playing Supreme Ruler Ultimate across various scenarios as multiple nations, with many variations of settings.
Thread introductions aside!
Today, I'd like to introduce a topic of analysis regarding the impact of military efficiency and DEFCON war elevation, and how this interaction impacts the outcome and flow of warfare in Supreme Ruler Ultimate. In section one; I'll be providing my interpretation of DEFCON military efficiency impacts and mechanics in war. The analysis will be performed in a theoretical fashion. The goal of the following theoretical situation is to take a closer look at the interaction between two land units in war. The analysis will shed insight on what I believe is a positive feedback loop that exists as a core underlying factor leading to undesirable conditions and outcomes when two AI players "go to war".
Section One : DEFCON Military Efficiency Bonus: Stronger units becomes stronger; The Postitive Feedback Loop
In a theoretical situation of war in Supreme Ruler Ultimate where both nation have a relative base efficiency parity and DEFCON efficiency bonus of 20% each - this can be interpreted as moot or irrelevant at first, as both nations are "20% more effective". This interpretation however couldn't be any closer to incorrect.
In a given theoretical scenario, Unit A, of a technologically superior nation whose average stat value of 30; gains the multiplier of 1.2. Unit B, of a technologically inferior nation, whose average stat value is 20, gains the same multiplier of 1.2. The initial difference in overall stat value is 10, as the average values of Unit A are 30 and Unit B are 20 respectively. When the multiplier is applied, Unit A; 30 * 1.2 = 36; Unit B; 20 * 1.2 = 24. After the multiplier is considered, the statistical difference grows in disparity to 12 stat points; in theory.
Why is this a problem?
It's true a technologically superior unit should be stronger. However, under the pretext of war, this gap widens even further than the initial statistics suggest, as after efficiencies are applies, there is a stat difference of 12 (36 to 24) versus the initial stat difference of 10 (30 to 20).
Unit B in the above scenario, in a one on one confrontation scenario, is meeting the damage threshold to "route/retreat or turn away for repair" before Unit A, as it would in any scenario, war or not, however, at a greater rate under DEFCON elevation. Unit B is also inflicting less damage due to the greater disparity of stats when efficiency is applied. When this occurs in gameplay, the probability that unit B will successfully route or retreat is greatly diminished. When the first stack falls, and the AI player who is technologically inferior suffers it's first down-tick of MAR, is when the positive feedback loop begins it's accelerated pace towards "military collapse".
Section Two : Singularity Point MAR; "Military Collapse"
The small change in relative stats has now caused major repercussions in game-play. The inferior nation (Unit B) will typically suffer military losses until a threshold is reached, this threshold being defined by the MAR percentage in which said front line unit has zero probability to successfully route or retreat. At this point, the full effects of the feedback loop are realized. This is a point, which quite literally is a singularity point, henceforth dubbed "Singularity Point MAR".
When this mathematical point is met is a matter of time, it's how war works in Supreme Ruler 2020. The speed at which this happens however is extremely rapid at any setting. The pace at which the deterioration of a military force occurs is a function of the relative base stats of the units and the relative MAR of contending forces. As such, this can be easily controlled and mitigated by adding a bottom cap on MAR. Whether this value should be 30% or 50% or otherwise would require testing, but based on empirical game play experience, it should be strongly considered as a means of controlling this described feedback loop which undermines AI versus AI warfare in Supreme Ruler Ultimate.
Section Three : Do Land Unit Turn Times decide the Fate of a Nation?
In the described scenario, early, Unit B was described as "Turning away to route for repair." In this scenario; when a unit does get destroyed, it's typically while turning away, or while moving away from combat. A major part of the feedback loop as described above is indeed tied to global physics. The importance of unit turn times is a physical game-play mechanic that must be given some attention and consideration in regards to its overall impact on warfare in Supreme Ruler Ultimate. Turn times have to be reduced given the current behavior of "loss tolerance"; and units must be given the ability to successfully route or retreat for AI players to wage longer wars. Considerations to reduce repair times significantly would also compliment the decreased rate of front-line attrition.
Mechanically speaking, mathematically speaking, Unit B in our scenario will always spend more time than Unit A in a state of turning away, or routing/pathing away towards repair. In the loop, there is no possible way Unit B of Nation B will ever be able to win a war, as the singularity point MAR undermines the potential quantity advantage possessed by one side. If Nation B sends more Unit B, Unit B will suffer a magnification of losses, further speeding up the positive feedback loop of MAR loss in the current model. In this fashion, numbers actually work against the inferior nation as they're a liability to MAR. Each unit Nation B possesses is quite literally a magnification of it's susceptibility to the loop, creating an environment where the greater the force of Nation B, the less effective it is.
If these systems were to be reconciled and balanced; it would create an environment where debt and economy also become a factor in warfare, as nations would be able to successfully retreat units into repair throughout the course of a campaign/war. Nation B, spending more time routing and repairing Unit B, may be able to win the war economically under the correct circumstances if not militarily by force if the proper economic conditions exist.
Section Four : If not ME percentage, what works for DEFCON?
In the place of military efficiency, I'd recommend a significant supply/infrastructure bonus during war. This would represent the concentration of stance expenditure into "total war production and military logistics", the later of which appears to be very under represented in the current scope of warfare in Supreme Ruler Ultimate. (No modern force; realistically would get stranded anywhere... they'd of course have planned logistical supply lines, represented by infrastructure in-game) This would also serve to mitigate pathing and supply issues that remain prevalent in desolate regions (Northern Brazil, Siberia, parts of Africa) through providing a relevant positive modifier through infrastructure for the AI player. Additionally, this option may be a "lower resource" option as it will not require the revision or creation of new code to correct fundamental deficiencies in AI interaction with the supply model. Just buff the @#$# out of supply during war, gents.
Section Five : The Disclaimer
All of the above insight is theoretical in nature; and open to debate.I seek only to offer insight that I hope proves to be valuable in the future success of your product and title! Supreme Ruler Ultimate is THE best grand strategy out there, and it's future success and improvement isn't only important for my well being (hahah!) however, would sincerely make me proud, gentlemen!
Thanks for your time!
Edit 11/15/17 :: After making observations in a game while using limited military approval settings, this phenomenon continues to persist despite MAR fluctuations playing a minor factor. Inconsistencies in unit turn times and behavior exist. Sometimes a unit will drive "backwards", sometimes a unit will decide to turn away and path. Sometime a unit will engage an enemy "sideways". Although the "point in which a unit has zero probability to route" is never reached with limited MAR effects, the behavior of land unit turn times themselves still creates a model in which Unit B in our scenario is at a much greater disadvantage than intended.