Ultra and ISF Comparison

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Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby szurkey on Mon 01 Sep 2014 03:27

Over the summer I had a chance to reread the ISF (including SM#2) rules and compare it to Ultra. What really stuck out is just how much more habitable real-estate Ultra adds. In ISF, max population size for a ST planet by a T species is Settlement. Likewise maximum population size for T planet by ST species is Settlement. This one change opened up a huge amount of habitable real-estate.

ISF also had a a lot more World Types. I reverse engineered Ultra into ISF, what I found is that colonization in ISF is more expensive than in Ultra. Plus the infrastructure requirement, while a pain to track, especially those (CHS#), Cargo Handling Systems with generation code, it did force the player to build infrastructure, something sorely lacking in Ultra. One the plus side for Ultra has fixed REI, ISF's re-rolling REI for every HT (EL in Ultra) does tend to result in eventually all habitable planets being rich to very rich.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby Cralis on Mon 01 Sep 2014 10:07

I'm not sure a direct comparison of ULTRA and CLASSIC STARFIRE are going to be very meaningful.

CLASSIC STARFIRE had more T worlds overall (practically every star system) but colonization was expensive and NPRs were rampant. Growth was slower, but overall income was a lot higher in the long run (and ramped up much more quickly). The focus in CLASSIC STARFIRE was on partnerships/amalgamations and the slow crawl of colonization over hundreds of T worlds.

ULTRA evens out the costs of different investments. The focus in ULTRA tends to be colonization and trade. NPRs and benign worlds are less numerous but more meaningful, but with GG5.06 there are more race types to inhabit all of those worlds.

And you didn't get into the major differences in diplomacy, R&D, graded leaders, survey, etc. Many of these areas of the game are so very different from each other that it's hard to compare them directly.

Many players didn't like the paperwork-intensive nature of CLASSIC STARFIRE -- reducing that was one of the primary goals of ULTRA. Building infrastructure, building and shipping every. single. missile, calculating the navigation of every single unit, etc., were all time-consuming and made the game too much work for many players.

But to each their own. Each has a different focus. That's why we continue to offer each of them for the players who want to play those versions :)
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby szurkey on Sat 06 Sep 2014 04:34

We are going to have to agree to disagree here. I've crunched the numbers, and there is no effective difference in the number of habitable planets, but 2/3 of the habitable planets in Ultra are cheaper to colonize.

Graded leaders are ridiculously over powered in Ultra, especially if they have special abilities. Trade is so broken in Ultra, that it should not be used. R&D is the one area in Ultra I like.

While tracking infrastructure in ISF isn't that difficult if you use a spreadsheet, the "magical infrastructure" that builds itself in Ultra is ridiculous and further makes colonization in Ultra even cheaper.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby Cralis on Sat 06 Sep 2014 11:54

szurkey wrote:We are going to have to agree to disagree here. I've crunched the numbers, and there is no effective difference in the number of habitable planets, but 2/3 of the habitable planets in Ultra are cheaper to colonize.


I don't have time right now to dig up the old numbers, so lets presume you're correct. Considering that colonization is a staple of science fiction, don't you think that the ROI should be shifted towards colonization? As opposed to Classic Starfire, where it is pointless to colonize anything but a T world (and that's why there are so danged many of them...)

Graded leaders are ridiculously over powered in Ultra, especially if they have special abilities.


Granted, the special abilities were intended to make them singularly unique. But take those away -- and why do you think they are overpowered?

Trade is so broken in Ultra, that it should not be used.


When I played ULTRA, we eventually reduced the trade by 50%. That's one of the areas we are trying to fix in SSF with Trade Hubs.

R&D is the one area in Ultra I like.


We definitely agree on this. R&D is MUCH more interesting IMHO.

While tracking infrastructure in ISF isn't that difficult if you use a spreadsheet, the "magical infrastructure" that builds itself in Ultra is ridiculous and further makes colonization in Ultra even cheaper.


Simply having a ornery paperwork requirement that makes the player work harder to get the same results is not "more expensive", that translates to "less people want to play it."

Costs in ULTRA have been subsumed into other parts of the game. You could argue that the costs could be higher, but that is easily solved with some house rules. The biggest goal with ULTRA's campaign game was to streamline as much of the paperwork as possible. The second goal was to only have the player deal with meaningful choices. Something that you HAD to do every time was considered part of whatever it dealt with (such as assuming all populations automatically have spaceports) so it was one less "automatic choice" that wasn't really a choice at all. The third was the R&D system. For the most part, the tactical combat system has a little detail added (especially where technology is concerned) but remains pretty much the same.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby szurkey on Tue 07 Oct 2014 03:35

Cralis wrote:I don't have time right now to dig up the old numbers, so lets presume you're correct. Considering that colonization is a staple of science fiction, don't you think that the ROI should be shifted towards colonization? As opposed to Classic Starfire, where it is pointless to colonize anything but a T world (and that's why there are so danged many of them…)

It's too profitable not colonize every single orb (orbital body, planet, moon, asteroid belt) in Ultra. There is an order of precedence, but it is still too profitable.

Cralis wrote:Granted, the special abilities were intended to make them singularly unique. But take those away -- and why do you think they are overpowered?

Graded governors leaders as is give the players way too much money. A small bonus is one thing, the bonuses you get by the time they are LG3+ are ridiculous.

Cralis wrote:When I played ULTRA, we eventually reduced the trade by 50%. That's one of the areas we are trying to fix in SSF with Trade Hubs.

Good luck fixing it. I don't have Solar.

Szurkey wrote:While tracking infrastructure in ISF isn't that difficult if you use a spreadsheet, the "magical infrastructure" that builds itself in Ultra is ridiculous and further makes colonization in Ultra even cheaper.


Cralis wrote:Simply having a ornery paperwork requirement that makes the player work harder to get the same results is not "more expensive", that translates to "less people want to play it."

Costs in ULTRA have been subsumed into other parts of the game. You could argue that the costs could be higher, but that is easily solved with some house rules. The biggest goal with ULTRA's campaign game was to streamline as much of the paperwork as possible. The second goal was to only have the player deal with meaningful choices. Something that you HAD to do every time was considered part of whatever it dealt with (such as assuming all populations automatically have spaceports) so it was one less "automatic choice" that wasn't really a choice at all. The third was the R&D system. For the most part, the tactical combat system has a little detail added (especially where technology is concerned) but remains pretty much the same.

The costs in Ultra for infrastructure are NOT subsumed in other parts of the game. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so profitable to colonize every orb out there. By the way, the single more repetitive thing you do in Ultra is colonize every single planet, moon, etc. It's too profitable not to. I've run the number and know the economy I was able to build in 80+ turn in a real campaign by colonizing everything. Why? The ROI for colonization for every last rock is too high when you look at how it is compound over time. Compound interest is extremely powerful.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby Cralis on Tue 07 Oct 2014 13:27

szurkey wrote:
Cralis wrote:I don't have time right now to dig up the old numbers, so lets presume you're correct. Considering that colonization is a staple of science fiction, don't you think that the ROI should be shifted towards colonization? As opposed to Classic Starfire, where it is pointless to colonize anything but a T world (and that's why there are so danged many of them…)


It's too profitable not colonize every single orb (orbital body, planet, moon, asteroid belt) in Ultra. There is an order of precedence, but it is still too profitable.


Eventually everything is profitable, it's a matter of how long until it is profitable. For example, an extreme body in the 2-4 stmp range took something like 40-50 turns before it turned an actual profit. It sounds more like you're advocating that some bodies should never be profitable...

Cralis wrote:Granted, the special abilities were intended to make them singularly unique. But take those away -- and why do you think they are overpowered?

Graded governors leaders as is give the players way too much money. A small bonus is one thing, the bonuses you get by the time they are LG3+ are ridiculous.


I went back to ULTRA's rules since that is where you are coming from. LG3 is +14% is too much? That's only an additional 140 MC per 1000 MC. So if you placed your governor at an average very large population, your only looking at a roughly 360-500 MC increase.

You could always reduce the rate of promotion if you want to make this take longer to achieve, or just house rule that percentages down.

Szurkey wrote:While tracking infrastructure in ISF isn't that difficult if you use a spreadsheet, the "magical infrastructure" that builds itself in Ultra is ridiculous and further makes colonization in Ultra even cheaper.

Cralis wrote:Costs in ULTRA have been subsumed into other parts of the game. You could argue that the costs could be higher, but that is easily solved with some house rules. The biggest goal with ULTRA's campaign game was to streamline as much of the paperwork as possible. The second goal was to only have the player deal with meaningful choices. Something that you HAD to do every time was considered part of whatever it dealt with (such as assuming all populations automatically have spaceports) so it was one less "automatic choice" that wasn't really a choice at all. The third was the R&D system. For the most part, the tactical combat system has a little detail added (especially where technology is concerned) but remains pretty much the same.


The costs in Ultra for infrastructure are NOT subsumed in other parts of the game. Otherwise, it wouldn't be so profitable to colonize every orb out there. By the way, the single more repetitive thing you do in Ultra is colonize every single planet, moon, etc. It's too profitable not to. I've run the number and know the economy I was able to build in 80+ turn in a real campaign by colonizing everything. Why? The ROI for colonization for every last rock is too high when you look at how it is compound over time. Compound interest is extremely powerful.


I think you're confusing what I'm saying. Costs _are_ subsumed into the initial cost. That's why an extreme planet has a much lower ROI than a benign planet. What we didn't do was have an ongoing "maintenance" cost for infrastructure because that increases the paperwork.

And ironically, the amount of MC generated is less in ULTRA then it was in CLASSIC.

It sounds to me like you're more of an advocate for having some sort of infrastructure limit. Something that prevents the player from continuing to colonize unimpeded. That is, in fact, a problem with ULTRA (and until we make changes, with SSF). Because the costs are subsumed into the initial costs, there is no ongoing maintenance (like for fleets) that will eventually eat your income if expanded unchecked.

One of the proposals that we had in the past for SSF (and admittedly, never got to looking at) was to have incomes drop-off as the distance between your worlds and some sort of infrastructure point (like an ICC) increase. So you either have to build more ICCs on your fringe or you start getting modifiers to reduce income from populations further out. I think the proposal was -20% cumulative for every jump beyond the second (so a population 5 jumps from your ICC would have a -60% income).

Does that sound more interesting to you?

Along similar lines was a proposal for limiting how far the CFN was willing to go away from populations. Sure it might be willing to take those 6 jumps to another world, but would it really be willing to transfer maintenance to your ships 10 jumps away from the nearest population? Probably not.

My question is this: what home rules do YOU use to accomplish what you want the game to do? (I'm curious)
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby szurkey on Mon 10 Nov 2014 05:46

Cralis wrote:And ironically, the amount of MC generated is less in ULTRA then it was in CLASSIC.

True, but that is because in Classic, every HT (EL) you get to reroll REI, and keep the new roll if it better than your old one. Colonization costs in Classic are a lot more money.

Cralis wrote:It sounds to me like you're more of an advocate for having some sort of infrastructure limit. Something that prevents the player from continuing to colonize unimpeded. That is, in fact, a problem with ULTRA (and until we make changes, with SSF). Because the costs are subsumed into the initial costs, there is no ongoing maintenance (like for fleets) that will eventually eat your income if expanded unchecked.

The goal is to better model reality and to increase the cost of colonization.

Cralis wrote:One of the proposals that we had in the past for SSF (and admittedly, never got to looking at) was to have incomes drop-off as the distance between your worlds and some sort of infrastructure point (like an ICC) increase. So you either have to build more ICCs on your fringe or you start getting modifiers to reduce income from populations further out. I think the proposal was -20% cumulative for every jump beyond the second (so a population 5 jumps from your ICC would have a -60% income).

Does that sound more interesting to you?

I've been working on house rule where the CFN charges a percentage based on distance, end infrastructure, and node infrastructure.

Cralis wrote:My question is this: what home rules do YOU use to accomplish what you want the game to do? (I'm curious)

Better model reality (I know, we're talking sci-fi), slow down colonization a bit, and force players consider where and how they build their infrastructure. Remember, I'm playing on an open strategic map with a few wormholes, most similar to Honor Harrington.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby Cralis on Mon 10 Nov 2014 12:50

szurkey wrote:Colonization costs in Classic are a lot more money.


Initial colonization costs, yes. But like every other version of Starfire, there are no on-going costs. That's why every version of Starfire has problems with run-away incomes.

szurkey wrote:The goal is to better model reality and to increase the cost of colonization.

I've been working on house rule where the CFN charges a percentage based on distance, end infrastructure, and node infrastructure.


If you're trying to better model reality, then the up-front cost of colonization is not going to fix it for you.

In reality, the problem with colonizing further from your empire's infrastructure is going to be that trade is going to cost more (shipping is more expensive so what you need will cost more and what you can get from trade is reduced, probably making some of your trade goods worthless), regular shared functions of infrastructure will cost more and be the sole burden of your distant colony, certain industries won't exist (like tourism), etc.

In reality, what this means is that your far-flung colony is going to cost more to maintain. And that's assuming perfection with no corruption, deadweight losses from economic choices, etc. But no version of Starfire has these maintenance costs. And we don't force the user to pay for all those underlying shipping costs either (they'd be subsumed into maintenance).

That was why I brought up the proposal to reduce income based on distance from infrastructure. Instead we can model increased maintenance as "lost income" instead. This makes it so you can't just put a colony anywhere without penalty. And if you add some sort of "node limit" you can easily model overloading your infrastructure without improvements to that infrastructure, resulting in lost income from a colonies associated with that node.

The point being, of course, that unlimited expansion will eventually put you in a position where additional colonies provide no net income, or depending upon how you model it, are a net loss of income to the empire.

THIS will force players to consider colony emplacement and to build infrastructure.

Remember, I'm playing on an open strategic map with a few wormholes, most similar to Honor Harrington.


Functionally, the difference is mode of travel. The rest should be the same as far as the rules are concerned...
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby szurkey on Sun 16 Nov 2014 04:52

Cralis wrote:If you're trying to better model reality, then the up-front cost of colonization is not going to fix it for you.

It's part of a solution.

Cralis wrote:That was why I brought up the proposal to reduce income based on distance from infrastructure. Instead we can model increased maintenance as "lost income" instead. This makes it so you can't just put a colony anywhere without penalty. And if you add some sort of "node limit" you can easily model overloading your infrastructure without improvements to that infrastructure, resulting in lost income from a colonies associated with that node.

I first played around with that idea years ago. The node restrictions are based on the infrastructure at the node.

Cralis wrote:The point being, of course, that unlimited expansion will eventually put you in a position where additional colonies provide no net income, or depending upon how you model it, are a net loss of income to the empire.

THIS will force players to consider colony emplacement and to build infrastructure.

I know, but I would prefer if they had to build more infrastructure than just an ICC every 5 to 10 Stmp or so out.

Cralis wrote:Functionally, the difference is mode of travel. The rest should be the same as far as the rules are concerned...

The difference is distance between systems goes up, increasing both the transportation costs of emplacing colonists and getting the resources back. The end result is that you have a lot lower ROI.
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Re: Ultra and ISF Comparison

Postby Cralis on Mon 17 Nov 2014 00:26

szurkey wrote:
Cralis wrote:That was why I brought up the proposal to reduce income based on distance from infrastructure. Instead we can model increased maintenance as "lost income" instead. This makes it so you can't just put a colony anywhere without penalty. And if you add some sort of "node limit" you can easily model overloading your infrastructure without improvements to that infrastructure, resulting in lost income from a colonies associated with that node.

I first played around with that idea years ago. The node restrictions are based on the infrastructure at the node.

Cralis wrote:The point being, of course, that unlimited expansion will eventually put you in a position where additional colonies provide no net income, or depending upon how you model it, are a net loss of income to the empire.

THIS will force players to consider colony emplacement and to build infrastructure.

I know, but I would prefer if they had to build more infrastructure than just an ICC every 5 to 10 Stmp or so out.


True, whether you choose to use ICC and/or some additional forms of infrastructure, the result is similar. If you require additional infrastructure you just raise the costs. Not saying that is bad, but you do have to answer the question "how much?"

At some point if the cost is too high, then trade and other forms of income become better and more important. This goes back to that other question, "which seems more like a 4X space game? colonizing or managing the interstellar shipping corporation?"

Of course that is a simplification. But the point being, colonization can easily be supplanted by trade, CFN leasing, treaties, or all of the above. Kind of like how it was in CLASSIC STARFIRE.

Cralis wrote:Functionally, the difference is mode of travel. The rest should be the same as far as the rules are concerned...

The difference is distance between systems goes up, increasing both the transportation costs of emplacing colonists and getting the resources back. The end result is that you have a lot lower ROI.


But eventually all those costs will pencil out. You don't stop the snowball, you only delay it. That's what _I_ learned with GSF. If your costs aren't continuous then it won't stop the exponential growth.
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