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#1 2013-08-23 08:23:16

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,231

Thoughts on tool pricing

It seems like the 4x tool prices helped quite a bit in terms of allowing people to build houses over time.  Maybe a bit too much, however, so I brought the prices down to 3x as an experiment.

However, even in this new pricing world, I'm seeing some of the same patterns emerge, because in a given fixed-pricing scheme, one type of house becomes price-optimal as the most expensive thing to break into under the current price scheme.

I don't know that there's a way around this, other than to have all tools cost the same.  Then, the cheapest walls would be optimal, in which case I'd have to make all walls cost the same.  This results in a very bland feel.

In 4x pricing, the optimal starting house seems to be a concrete corridor (impossible to break on a starting budget) with a frightening one-way electric floor and trapdoor gate, with a pit bull that serves as a key to the gate as it follows you.   You have no idea what lies beyond, and you can't afford to install an escape route, so you get out of there.  I like that cautious dynamic (which is caused by house chills---this is a good thing).  However, it's boring to see so many houses look like this.  I don't mind scary facades---that's the point of the game.  I just want 100 different scary facades.  Or at least facades that are different tomorrow than the ones we see today.

It might be possible to tightly balance pricing in such a way that there is no optimal house.  But I have no idea where to even start, nor a feeling of certainty that such a tweaking process would be successful, no matter how hard I tried.  Essentially, with 38 price numbers to adjust, that's a huge space to search manually.  Compound that with the fact that the game is somewhat slow to react to my changes (collective behavior can take several days to adjust), that search is very slow.  Finally, some of the most powerful features of a given tile come from the way that it interacts with other tiles.  So, I can't just apply a simple formula based on the cost of breaking a given tile in isolation.


One idea that has come up before is dynamic pricing.  I'm thinking about how this could be applied to tool pricing only, which would keep building prices fixed to make them more easy to reason about.

The most obvious way to do this would be based on a supply/demand model, where as more people started buying something, its price would go up.

However, if this were applied to tool pricing alone, it would create a vicious cycle.  As more people build concrete, more people will buy explosives, which will push the price of explosives up, making concrete even more attractive to builders.

It seems like an inverted dynamic for tools would be better, where the more people buy explosives, the lower the price gets.  Eventually, all those concrete walls are easy to bypass, and builders have to switch to something else to stay ahead of the game.  You could imagine ladders getting really cheap as everyone builds pits, but doorstops and crowbars getting more expensive as people ignore them.  Then, some opportunistic builder notices this and builds a house full of powered doors.

Clearly, there would need to be some price-based weighting in the underlying formula, because expensive items tend to get purchased less because they are expensive.

If dynamic pricing were applied to building as well, it seems like it would have to be a standard "demand makes prices go up" dynamic.  The more people buy concrete, the more expensive it gets.  This would be a bit jarring if tool prices reacted in the opposite way.

I also might be missing something here in my reasoning about this.

I mean, markets are supposed to be optimal price calculation machines, right?  So maybe explosives being too expensive, which makes few people buy them, would make the price come down until they were at a reasonable price.  But if the price sank too low, then lots of people would buy them, and the price would rise back up toward optimal.

However, this wouldn't be a real market, but just a numerical simulation of a market-like price dynamic.

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#2 2013-08-23 08:46:36

joshwithguitar
Member
Registered: 2013-07-28
Posts: 538

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Sounds interesting smile. Could be hard to get right though.

One problem with varying tool prices is that as pitbulls are currently the only way to defend your family, so there will always be demand for guns, food and crowbars. If this causes the price of those tools to drop it will make wife killing even more viable and so even more people will buy them, and the prices will drop even more.

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#3 2013-08-23 08:52:08

gumshoe
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Registered: 2013-08-18
Posts: 54

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Players will respawn over and over and buy things to lower prices. WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW ROHRER.

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#4 2013-08-23 09:05:03

gumshoe
Member
Registered: 2013-08-18
Posts: 54

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Here are two ideas, sorry niether are simple / :. Not how I roles. Option a)bulk buying, Ie the more of something you buy at a time, the cheaper it gets, this would allow players whove managed to get up on thier feet adress a familiar strategy spread over a few houses with greater ease. Now, heres my other suggestion, why not implement a kit deal that lasts the day? Everything in the kit (which would be worth 4000 total or something) would be brought down half price as a deal. Each day the players would vote for the next days kit or the kit would be randomly selected from a variety of player developed ones. This would allow players to have a tool to deal with a common strat, it would be in everyones interest pretty much to have diffrent houses, otherwise a truly effective kit would allow everyone to lay waste to one another.

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#5 2013-08-23 09:09:56

joshwithguitar
Member
Registered: 2013-07-28
Posts: 538

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Ooh, I had one idea (that I think may have come up before): allow cheaper prices when buying in bulk, like a 1 for $10, 5 for $30, 10 for $50, 20 for $80, 40 for $100 etc. Thus, houses that relied on a single defence will be cheaper to attack than those that vary things up a bit. Also, if everyone is relying on the same defence then anyone with money can get a mass order of the appropriate tools and go rob everyone.

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#6 2013-08-23 09:10:58

joshwithguitar
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Registered: 2013-07-28
Posts: 538

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

haha, looks like we had the same idea at the same time gumshoe smile.

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#7 2013-08-23 11:16:15

jere
Member
Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Yea, I think I was one of the first to suggest this here. And the reason was to support a healthy metagame (e.g. the different kinds of walls might each be optimal at various times). That would be pretty neat.

There's a few potential pitfalls with the "inverted dynamic."

1) It doesn't encourage purchase of underused items. Take the voltmeter. Let's assume it has some small amount of utility (whether this is true or not) in helping you understand a house, but nobody is using it. With a normal demand curve, the price would plummet until it's so cheap (e.g. $1) that it's worth taking along every time. With inverse demand, the price skyrockets and nobody ever buys it.

2) I don't see any natural boundaries on the price. If there is zero demand on a tool, like in the previous example, does the price just keep approaching infinity? It seems like a positive feedback loop. Or does it settle on some maximum price that you have defined? If so, who's to say that price ceiling doesn't need tweaking of its own?

3) gumshoe makes a good point that applies to either kind of demand curve. You'll need some way to prevent starter cash from manipulating the market.

I think it's worth tackling the problems though, because dynamic pricing would be really interesting.


However, if this were applied to tool pricing alone, it would create a vicious cycle.  As more people build concrete, more people will buy explosives, which will push the price of explosives up, making concrete even more attractive to builders.

OK. Obviously this is your concern with normal demand. But how about this: have regular demand curves on both tools and house objects (sure, it makes it slightly harder to reason about, but you could offer a page in the UI for homeowners that lists, say, how many of each tool can currently be purchased with starting cash... explosives: 1, saws: 5, etc.).

Now in the example, concrete is becoming attractive, but eventually it becomes really expensive too! Then wood/steel start to become more interesting options for the frugal buyer (there are always first time buyers looking for a deal!). Even though saws/wire cutters might be cheap at the moment, nobody is going to buy them if they're not expecting wood and steel. The front of your house could be concrete, but the back is wood and steel. Nobody knows until they get deep. That's the meta I'm talking about.


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#8 2013-08-23 11:27:24

Blip
Member
Registered: 2013-05-07
Posts: 505

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

This is all to complicated for my liking. Here's what I see the root problem as:
Currently, it isn't possible to build any semblance of strong defenses with $2000. While $2000 used to be able to build a decent house, which could be expanded later, $2000 now builds barely a framework for a house, that must be fortified very quickly or else you'll be robbed. What I want to do is make a functioning trap with starting cash, that can be perhaps fortified later, not a cobbled together piece of once-robbable nonsense.
However, I think the tool price/starting cash ratio was good in v15, so I propose this:
Make starting cash $8000, with tools at 4x prices, but keep tiles at the same price. (Alternatively, use $6000 and 3x tool price.) This would allow real house building to take place at the start. Because, right now, I have no time to realize my ideas for a house before it's robbed.


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#9 2013-08-23 11:54:17

AGO
Member
Registered: 2013-08-06
Posts: 10

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Blip wrote:

This is all to complicated for my liking. Here's what I see the root problem as:
Currently, it isn't possible to build any semblance of strong defenses with $2000. While $2000 used to be able to build a decent house, which could be expanded later, $2000 now builds barely a framework for a house, that must be fortified very quickly or else you'll be robbed. What I want to do is make a functioning trap with starting cash, that can be perhaps fortified later, not a cobbled together piece of once-robbable nonsense.
However, I think the tool price/starting cash ratio was good in v15, so I propose this:
Make starting cash $8000, with tools at 4x prices, but keep tiles at the same price. (Alternatively, use $6000 and 3x tool price.) This would allow real house building to take place at the start. Because, right now, I have no time to realize my ideas for a house before it's robbed.


This really needs to be implemented. The game is extremely complicated for a new player. There is absolutely no explanation of how parts work. Pet movement is confusing. The starting cash is extremely low. I think $6000 cash and 3x tool price is a good starting point. The game needs to be simplified but have more accessible cash so you can build your defenses deeper. I really like how the walls don't conduct anymore.


I can't stress it enough and I don't understand how you think you can balance a game with only 10 maximum players. It's not possible at the moment. It seems to end up with 2-3 guys on top tier everyone else left to the wolves. Can you make computer generated houses to help support the low level  of players?

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#10 2013-09-05 14:57:24

Negative
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Registered: 2013-09-05
Posts: 7

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

A simple idea to mix up prices could be to have tools and/or house parts go on sale randomly.  One day ladders might be half-off, so you stock up and store them in your vault.  If trap doors are a common defense, then people would be more likely to buy extra ladders when they go on sale.  If, say, powered doors are rare, then hardly anyone is going to stock up on crowbars when they go on sale, so it helps balance the game by making common traps less effective. 

That would also have the side effect of encouraging people to keep a tool collection, which could then be stolen.

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#11 2013-09-05 20:08:48

largestherb
Member
From: england
Registered: 2013-05-27
Posts: 381

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

AGO wrote:

I can't stress it enough and I don't understand how you think you can balance a game with only 10 maximum players. It's not possible at the moment. It seems to end up with 2-3 guys on top tier everyone else left to the wolves. Can you make computer generated houses to help support the low level  of players?

npc houses (whether just randomly pulled up deceased player houses or procedurally generated) i do feel would not be a terrible thing while we still struggle with player numbers

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#12 2013-09-05 20:24:30

jere
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Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

npc houses (whether just randomly pulled up deceased player houses or procedurally generated) i do feel would not be a terrible thing while we still struggle with player numbers

I think this would be a really sad day for TCD. Because it would completely change the dynamic of the game. You're no longer hurting a real person when you rob. You're just playing a game with no consequences.

Besides, the problem isn't, IMHO, a lack of players; it's that the design by its nature drives down the number of houses as low as possible.

Imagine you were creating an MMO. Among other things,you'd have to design dungeons. Wouldn't it be really cool if each dungeon was uniquely designed and could only be beaten once?! Yea, of course that'd be cool, except it's not sustainable. You'd have to hire hundreds of thousands of designers to work around the clock because players are constantly removing the content from the world.

That's TCD. Content is constantly being removed from the world by robbers. The only exception is content that is basically too difficult to beat within reason (e.g. broken houses). I think there are ways to fix this. I really hope NPC houses is not the answer.


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#13 2013-09-05 20:46:25

largestherb
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From: england
Registered: 2013-05-27
Posts: 381

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

jere wrote:

I think this would be a really sad day for TCD. Because it would completely change the dynamic of the game. You're no longer hurting a real person when you rob. You're just playing a game with no consequences.

to me the anonymity part makes it feel like that anyway. very few people who have popped into my house appear on the neighbourhood list. there used to be a lot of revenge kind of stuff a long time ago.. i haven't felt that in a fair while. sometimes someone i rob will come and look in my house, but it is rarely more than the 3-step shuffle.

how about players have the option to 'buy' old houses? have you ever tried to enter a house and seen 'this house has been repossessed by the government' or whatever it is, what if the government was selling these old houses at a reduced rate to people?

maybe it is similar to painting sales, where each design is displayed with the original value, and over time that price tag drops. although you'd have to have a limit because $2000 for a house that originally cost $100,000 might be a bit too much.... although.. if the person who bought it can't figure out the self-test maybe it'd be okay.. ah, i dunno.

Last edited by largestherb (2013-09-05 20:46:45)

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#14 2013-09-05 23:25:52

joshwithguitar
Member
Registered: 2013-07-28
Posts: 538

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Hmm, another idea for houses of those that died: keep them on the server until they get robbed. There would also have to be a rule that you cannot enter your old houses. This way people dying wouldn't instantly get rid of the houses they put so much effort into and so there would be more houses to rob.

You could even make the houses earn a small income to make sure that eventually they will be worth robbing if they didn't start with much money.

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#15 2013-09-06 06:37:16

jere
Member
Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

i haven't felt that in a fair while. sometimes someone i rob will come and look in my house, but it is rarely more than the 3-step shuffle.

Jason said recently he thought "it should feel nearly impossible as a robber to get through a house." Unfortunately, I think we've reached that point.


Golden Krone Hotel - a vampire roguelike

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#16 2013-09-07 03:02:26

largestherb
Member
From: england
Registered: 2013-05-27
Posts: 381

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

z93NktJ.png

corrections, etc. welcome

Last edited by largestherb (2013-09-07 03:26:34)

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#17 2013-09-07 04:44:22

jere
Member
Registered: 2013-05-31
Posts: 540

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Amazing! Any reason you didn't include family?


Golden Krone Hotel - a vampire roguelike

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#18 2013-09-07 05:42:12

largestherb
Member
From: england
Registered: 2013-05-27
Posts: 381

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

crowbar window was already full enough tongue

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#19 2013-09-08 11:42:55

betrunkenaffe
Member
Registered: 2013-09-08
Posts: 2

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

I feel like the problem you are having with balancing is partially due to inflation, with (X*all players) entering the system every (20 mins/hour) and the X being greater than the cost of getting through a concrete wall (or 5+ concrete walls). People make too much money stealing so the cost of tools needs to go up to balance the risk/reward. HOwever at the same time your basic defense costs are fairly balanced (other than pitbulls, way overpriced).

The cost to force a house should be more than intelligent "finesse" of it, as such tools such as bricks, water, wire cutters and drugged meat should stay fairly cheap. Other than electric flooring, they don't bypass the main defensive blocking mechanisms, instead they target the support ones (cats, chihuauas, wires, pressure switches). The electric flooring is cheaper than all those tools so that doesn't seem like it would be broken.

The ones that break blocking mechanisms (walls, pits, pitbulls, doors) should be more expensive than the cost of the homeowner to place them, after all, who would install a 200$ lock on a door with the hinges facing outwards...

So bricks, water, wire cutters, door stops costing between 100-150 seems appropriate to me, the rest should probably cost at least double the items they break into (depending on their functionality bonuses).

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#20 2013-09-09 15:14:18

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2013-04-01
Posts: 1,231

Re: Thoughts on tool pricing

Yeah, I'm now worried that a dynamic tool or tile market would spiral out of control in one way or another and be even HARDER to get balanced right.  Especially because a REAL auction system would be impractical for tools and tiles.  So it would have to be simulated, which means that it would be flawed, and subject to weird side-effects of those flaws.

Imagine a real market, where players could bid on lots of concrete walls, etc.  It would slow the building part of the game way down and introduce seemingly-unnecessary complications.

The ideas about buying in bulk or things going randomly on sale are interesting.

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