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The Creative Slave - A thread dedicated to spicing up the slave system!

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Level 8 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm

As the title says, this thread aims to collect ideas trying to spice up the slave system. Like some fellow fans mentioned in another topic, slaves could use some love and more meaning to their bleak, mine-manning, wall-building lives.
So feel free to post your ideas and suggestions (and give feedback to that of others) on how you think slaves could serve more purpose in the game!

To encourage discussion, I'll post my own:

Slaves and City Improvement

Slaves (and workers) could serve as a resource (or currency) you can consume to build city improvements. Simply station said slaves/workers in the city and if you have enough, you can use them to "buy" a city improvement (which consumes the slaves/workers in the process, to prevent hordes of useless slaves piling up along the course of the game - look at this as them becoming the staff of the new improvements and/or dying due to the hardships of ancient construction worker life).

Ideas for possible city improvements built this way:

- Additional marketplace (road connection point)
This would allow you to connect more roads to the city (could be a repeatable improvement up to a certain universal or city specific cap).

- Improve Local Agriculture (irrigation, animal husbandry, etc.)
A city with this (or these) improvement(s) gives a bonus to the food production of farms connected to it. Could also be a repeatable improvement.

- Improve City Walls
This could be a single general improvement or split into multiple specific improvements targetting certain aspects of the city's defenses, e.g. improve ballista rate of fire, add additional ballista, add more hp to the city walls, more garrison posts etc.

- Enlarge City
This could increase the city's size (population), which translates into faster recruitment pool regeneration in Gold's system. This should be the most expensive improvement and the slave cost should also increase with every new expansion (i.e. upgrading a city from level 2 to 3 should be more expensive than it was to upgrade it from 1 to 2). Optionally, very high level cities could grant certain bonuses to the stats of units recruited there or to the entire faction controlling them.

- Wonder of the Greek World
The pinnacle of city improvements. This could either be the top level city expansion (see above) or a separate improvement in itself. It should be ridiculously expensive, but it should give a neat bonus. I haven't thought of what bonus exactly, so I leave that open for more brainstorming. ;)

- Feel free to suggest more!

So to sum it up, these improvements would cost slaves (or workers built by you), which would be consumed in the building process. Perhaps we could also add a food cost to the whole thing too, to make it more realistic (builders consuming food) and more challenging so that improvement X would cost Y amount of workforce (slaves/workers) and Z amount of food.

Now I realize this is a very radical sounding idea, so I don't expect it to make it into Hegemony, but maybe a sequel or an expansion. Either way, I wanted to post it because I'm curious to hear what you think.

Slaves and City Productivity

A more tame version of the above idea is to simply have slaves stationed in a city generate additional income (and/or extra food from farms connected to the city) and perhaps even improve the recruitment speed (by doing the locals' work they free up workforce). Additionally they could also add additional markets (road/sea connections) to the city.

The income they generate should be less than what comes from mines of course, but still enough to make it worth capturing them and staffing your cities with as many slaves as they can use.
Obviously there needs to be a cap on how many slaves can be utilised this way in a city. The cap could be universal or dependent on the city's size (population).
For added realism, you could make this slave workforce increase the garrison needs of a city (to keep the slaves at bay). Prices in general would need to be slightly rebalanced to account for this new source of income of course.

I also liked the idea which someone (perhaps Rob?) posted about slaves adding some people to the recruitment pool upon disbanding. That could be added on top of the above to give you the choise - disband them for a smaller instant gain or keep them for the greater long term benefit.

So that's it guys, I tried (and failed) to keep it short, but thank you for reading and looking forward to your feedback/ideas!

Level 8 Human Salesman
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Any time you make population more available, you accelerate the combat portion. Personally, I think Gold is nearly perfect in terms of its combat pacing, which is why while I see the initial appeal of using slaves to bump population, in the long run it feels like a poor choice for this particular game. It also would create a fairly aggressive "slippery slope" mechanic where the more engagements you win with a given opponent, by taking slaves you not only hurt your opponent but buff your own combat ability. That seems abusable to me and damaging in the long run as you've made the tangible combat advantage simply too large.

I see the "meatshield infantry" or equivilent proposals as different because you can't recycle slaves into 1st string infantry, which with 4 stacks of 40 slaves even at only 3:1 population:slaves is quite feasible in a 100% recruit tapped out city.

The way I look at game design is "style" trumps "powerful" every time.

What I mean by that is in game design its easy to add things that are bigger and better and more powerful, or that help make the player more powerful. You can do this invisibly, see any and all stat buffs. But what is the gain from this? In general, more powerful player = less difficult game... Is that the goal here? I don't think so.

It's a much more difficult thing, but ultimately much more rewarding for both the designer and the player to instead create multiple options so different types of players can pick their preferred way of accomplishing the given task. For me, meatshield infantry is one of those things that, compared to a regular military unit is freaking worthless - *but* it is cheap-as-free and would allow for some new tactics (the one I threw out last time we talked about this was blocking up canyons to prevent raiding parties).

Something super cheap doesn't have to be good - Just good enough - Think of Slaves like a secondary resource generated by conquest. What things are currently *not* addressed in this game that this resource could be used for? What options can we give people with it?

The way you're approaching it seems to be the tail wagging the dog... We don't have a resource/population/mining balance problem here, we have an overabundance of slaves - So why screw with the part of the game that *is* working to try and shoe-horn additional functionality into what isn't? I really encourage everyone to think outside the box on this one and come up with things that would be meaningful additions from the slave problem, because this is a real opportunity.

Level 8 Human gamer, Giant Microwave operator, stalker, Rapist
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: TN, USA, maybe
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Lol when I first asked about slaves being a new unit itself, never thought they would be called meat sheild's. i agree though really like this idea, and the only way to refill the unit after a battle would be to add more slaves. But I do mean what rob said about just taking 25% of 40 slaves and putting them into the recruit. it won't give too much of a advantage and it'd be easy to put in this game and leave it out for a better future.

Level 8 Human Salesman
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 7:17 pm

"Meatshield" is a pretty generic term in gaming for a unit that soaks up the damage without much ability to do much damage in return.

Level 8 Human gamer, Giant Microwave operator, stalker, Rapist
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: TN, USA, maybe
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm

lol, well i am a microwave operator for a very, very big microwave, so when your talking about meat, I automatically think about warming it up in the microwave then sending it to the "grinder". Grind it up into ground beef and sell it to walmart. people say walmart is bad, but they are not bad when they are buying your products.

Level 8 Human Salesman
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 7:46 pm

lol, well i am a microwave operator for a very, very big microwave, so when your talking about meat, I automatically think about warming it up in the microwave then sending it to the "grinder". Grind it up into ground beef and sell it to walmart. people say walmart is bad, but they are not bad when they are buying your products.

I think in this economy whatever you're doing that pays the bills is A-OK ;)

Level 8 Human gamer, Giant Microwave operator, stalker, Rapist
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: TN, USA, maybe
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Right now make 250 a week, making 10 bucks an hour overtime after 40 hours of 15 bucks an hour, and double pay on sundays during the months of Jan thru august, I work 100 hour work weeks, with 14 hours on sunday. Care to do the math. average work day is roughly 12 to 14 hours. it is tiring, but fulfilling when its slowed down like this.

Level 8 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 10:20 pm

First of all, thank you very much for the feedback guys, it's much appreciated!

Secondly, I also think the population pools' recovery rates are ideal as they are. I'm not suggesting any significant increase in that, the average rate should stay the same, you'd just have the opportunity to move some of your cities higher on the city-size scale which already exists. It'd be very expensive too, so you couldn't max out all your cities to Pella/Athens levels.

I also don't mean to give benefits solely to the player either, the AI should be taught how to use these features as well. If you can teach the AI to use the new features effectively, there's no change in the balance because there's nothing available to you that the AI itself can't benefit from.

The concern that the AI right now hardly ever seems to capture slaves is a valid one though. Naturally, this thread implicitly hopes for a change in that. Otherwise the slave system will always be unfair if left as a sole privilege of the player. It's unfair even now, just not so visibly, thanks to the general uselessness of slaves (and the fact that AI mines seem to come pre-bundled with slaves).

However the unfairness will become more visible the moment you add *any* additional purpose to slaves. With the meatshield idea you'd get to field a troop type which the AI can't. With Rob's disband-into-recruitment-pool idea you'd gain access to a source of recruits not available to the AI.

There seem to be only two ways to go:

- Either improve the AI's slave handling to open up the potential for these new suggestions

- Or only make suggestions where the benefits can be instantly granted to the AI while the player must earn them, with a potential for the player to eventually surpass the AI's levels of its granted benefits.

In less abstract terms, it's like the mines and the AI: The AI can't capture slaves, so it couldn't man the mines, but it's given slaves from the start so the problem is solved. The player needs to work for the same thing though, but he/she can eventually surpass the AI mining by capturing/building more mines and manning those too.

City improvements would suit such a formula quite well, you can grant various levels of them to the AI right off the bat, while making the player work to get them him/herself, yet leaving room to eventually build them up to a somewhat higher level than the AI already has (though at a very high cost of course).

Level 8 Human Salesman
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Bay Area, CA
Posted on November 10, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I'm gonna nitpick here for a second and say that the meatshield idea would actually be correcting a fundamental disadvantage that the player has, which is (notably) that he can only be looking at one place at a time. This is not a problem that the AI has, so given better AI programming this really isn't even any gain at all, given that you still need at least one unit to guard the slave unit, so at best it's an efficiency gain i.e. well, you were gonna have some skirmishers sitting there anyhow as guards so now you have a almost-cheap-as-free unit to clog up traffic to keep your skirmishers company. Does the AI currently even guard their passes? In my experience, they do not - so why would how you block up those passes impact the AI either way?

Level 8 Human Vault Technician
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Posted on November 11, 2010 at 1:19 am

Yes, the advantage would be somewhat blunted by the fact that AI nations aren't attacking eachother so they have less defending to do (not sure if that's still the case with Gold, didn't get to play enough to see that yet).
As for you not being able to look at multiple fronts at the same time - the gods have given us the gift of pausing to make up for that. ;)

However you'd still have a hard time balancing such a slave army to be strong enough to make it worth using while leaving them weak enough to not give you an unfair advantage.

Notably because a unit that's weaker than anything else the enemy can send against you won't block jack squat for more than a few seconds before it routs. If they're weaker than spearmen, it doesn't matter if you have skirmishers behind them, they'll be exposed and slaughtered once your slave band breaks within moments of engaging anything stronger than a single peltast company.
So what did you gain? A few seconds before you have to look at what's going on in that pass? Because you *will* need to look at it, especially if you had skirmishers there you don't want to lose.

If you make them stronger however, you could hardly argue not having the advantage of an extra source of pretty much free battlerworthy troops which can not only seal your borders but also flood the enemy flanks and/or keep them from reinforcing/resupplying if you ever decide to use them on the offense instead.

Also if the AI ever improves to the point where AI nations fight eachother constantly just like they fight you (which they should, sometime in the future), the unfairness of you having such free units would be unquestionable.

Level 8 Human gamer, Giant Microwave operator, stalker, Rapist
Alignment: Chaotic good
Location: TN, USA, maybe
Posted on November 11, 2010 at 1:29 am

Actually, all I have seen the ai do to slaves is execute them on the spot. So its their fault that they don't want to use a feature of the game lol.

Level 8 Human Gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Location: Alaska
Posted on December 13, 2010 at 12:36 am

Why not have the ability to have a slave unit be given spearman like equipment and just have a buttload of moral but next to no anything else, thus creating a sparta like army(yes sparta used their slaves like this in dire situations). They could be a low upkeep unit like spearmen but just incredibly weak with alot of moral. They could be a unit like regular slaves where if some of them die then they can only be replenished with other slaves in a city

Level 8 Human gamer
Alignment: True neutral
Posted on December 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Helots (Spartan slaves) were not that good of a unit and prone to rebel, so not sure why they would have high morale. They should have low morale and bad equipment. Since the game as of right now does not take into account battlefield psycology beyond a simple morale system, any slave military unit should have lower morale and melee combat power than even skirmishers, and no range combat power. They should also rebel once out of sight and be quite a large pain in the ass as they wretch havoc around the country side.

Freeing slaves for manpower is a bad idea imho. In reality the most slaves could do is be either logistics support (what they do now) or skirmish/light support troops (helots). Manpower right now goes into all, from skirmishing, to hoplites (which required the combatant to pay for his own equipment and provide his own training, except Spartans, in either case slaves can't do) to cavalry (what percentage of freed-slaves would have equestrian training and be rich enough to efford arms, armor, and THREE horses). That's why in real life most peoples don't use slaves as troops except in dire emergancies, and even then it was more often to free up garrison/logistics troops for frontline duty or very light support troops. And of course afterwards they were quite often disbanded and given their freedom as reward. Helots were used in combat large quantity especially because the Spartan training meant thw number of elite Spartans was TINY compared to everyone else. And bringing helots on campaign made sure they can't wreck havoc at home.

In addition, right now the game is designed so that manpower actively act as a hard check on expansion speed. If you loose so much men, even if you annialated the enemy army, you can't proceed. This system goes entirely to pieces if disbanded slaves could be used to replace fallen men.

Additional production bonuses (Part II) I agree with. Adding more nodes too. However not expanding cities (same reason as above, and cities don't work that way). Though by the time you have enough slaves the only check left on you is probably logistics and manpower, which means it doesn't really effect that much.