Note: The following was written before the most recent offworld tournament began. This was because whenever I make a prediction about potential fundamental problems I see with the game then it never comes to pass. Those potential problems did indeed come to light as a result, so games from the tournament will be used here as examples, so spoilers beware.
Currently in the next_version there s a new buyout mode. This buyout mode is supposedly a hybrid between beta 8's buyout mode and beta 7's buyout mode, which I shall call step buyout and bulk buyout. In step buyout, stock is bought 1 at a time, with your own owned stock costing double to be bought, and when you run out of stocks in your own company, you lose and your HQ becomes a subsidiary. In bulk buyout your stock has to be bought all at once, at double your stock price, but once again when you run out of stock in your own company, you lose. There is an extra rule however, which states that you also lose if a single person manages to buy up 6 shares in you, this is called majority buyout. This rule was implemented for 2 reasons: 1. to help punish a greedy style of play, where you ignore defence for the sake of rushing upgrades and offworlds and using your larger income to stabilise yourself and proceed to win and 2. because there was very little weight to the stock market until the late game, buying stock was seen as a waste of money when you could spend that expanding. Power robot was the only deviation from this norm.
Both buyout methods however had their problems, bulk buyout involved a lot of cash hoarding, steamrolling, and often would cause buyout battles to be tunnelled into just 2 sides, with a third party being unable to affect the outcome of the fight, and often times being unable to win after the buyout occurred. This lead to fights between the strongest players, which once won would effectively end the game. Meanwhile step buying had too much of a 'kingmaker' aspect. This is where an outside source, a third player, could interfere with the buyout, tip the scales a little too heavily and allow the weaker player to win in a buyout war, at very little cost to the third party himself. Often, 1 stock purchase, perhaps as little as $30k, was required to tip the scale in someone's favour.
In an attempt to combat these issues, a new mode was created, which supposedly combined the 2 advantages of both systems. This 'hybrid buyout' was what was played with the tournament. In this buyout step rules apply until you reach 5 stock, whereupon you have to buy it out buyout style. This prevents kingmaking from step buyout by making the investment a kingmaker would have to spend much higher, more than enough to weaken their own position, whilst also preventing a player from being unable to affect the outcome as they sit there waiting to die. However, the merging of 2 modes in my eyes was messy, and produces 2 more problems that need to be solved in order to effectively merge the 2 modes, if indeed they are compatible at all. These are:
1. The new herd mentality majority buyout system
2. An unfair buyout system that allows for kingmaking
The first of my issues stems from a new rule created specifically for the implementation of this mode. If the owner owns less stock in his company than all the other players combined, he loses. On the surface, this looks like majority buyout, if someone owns 6 stock in you, you lose. If we were evaluating this as a 1 vs 1, then that would be correct. The problem here lies in the fact that this is not a 1 vs 1. In this situation, if 2 people both own 3 of your stock, you lose. There is a way to protect yourself from this, just buy 4 of your own stock and then this rule is negated, and the bulk buying method is used instead. But... you have to buy 4 of your own stock, they each have to buy 3, you see where this is going? Take it to the extreme.
Assume that a stock costs $13K. Your in an 8 player match. In order to defend yourself, you need to buy 4 stocks worth, so $52K. However, each opponent only have to buy 1 stock in you, in fact one person doesn't even have to spend anything at all. They each have to spend $13K. How is it fair that you have to pay quadruple what another person has to pay to survive? What's more, with this rule if multiple people own you at the time you lose and then you become a subsidiary. In this situation stock that cannot be divided becomes sold at the market value and distributed to the partial owners. So, if you start buying into yourself to defend yourself but do not have enough money to go all the way to 5 stocks, your a more juicy target than someone who did not, because when your bought out they get a partial refund because you spent money on yourself to defend yourself. This goes completely against the design decision to wipe a subsidiaries cash when they become a subsidiary, and leads to situations where you have to either buy up all 5 stocks, or no stocks at all.
There is a way to prevent yourself getting bought however, and that is to have enough cash to buy 1 stock in the person attacking you. This means then that if they attack you, the pack will descend upon them instead, because they bought stock in you, so when they die the pack as a whole gets the money they spent on that stock. This is only a theory, it isn't something I have seen happen in practise, but almost everyone, subconsciously or not, recognises that pulling the trigger and attacking a person who can't defend himself but can attack you back is too much of a risk. So, instead there's a stand-off This stand-off means you have cash just sitting there, acting as a buffer to prevent anyone else attacking you, but also unable to be spent defending or upgrading yourself. The current meta-game consensus is that this stand-off occurs at level 4. If someone upgrades, the rest pounce and kill. If someone begins an attack, the rest pounce and kill either the attacker or defender, whoever is more juicy. Expansives and Scientists have an inherent disadvantage in this, as their subsidiaries pay more than a robotic or scavenger. This happens until people have enough to buy all 5 of their own stocks, and begin to do so. In my opinion this is very unhealthy for the game, it slows down the game by a large amount. At level 4 it can take as much as 2 sols, in game days, for a level 4 to get the $80K+ they require in order to both upgrade and have a defensive buffer against the pack.
It just isn't a fun situation for anyone to be in. Being swarmed by multiple other players feels dumb and unfair, and for new players who do not understand this psychology it can feel especially terrible, like they had no way of stopping that from happening, no agency. This extra amount of knowledge a new player has to have is yet another barrier to entry, and one that if I was that new player, I would just give up with the game completely It feels awful to get picked on and bullied because you are new, and that is what the game currently actively encourages, for multiple better skilled players to jump the one who made the mistake. Another issue with the design is that, once again, It costs more for the defender to defend himself than it does for attackers to kill him, and that is unintuitive. Usually there's a defensive bonus, a defenders advantage, and in the original majority buyout there was, it had to be 1 single person. In the original rule 1 person had to have more money than the defender in order to win, and a 5 stock tie was a win for the defender. This was the defenders advantage, but with a pack mentality that can help each other that no longer exists. It's now an attackers advantage.
Proof that this is happening can be found in the last 2 games of the finals. In those games in the first buyouts a single person did not have enough to get the kill, but with multiple people a 'greedy' person could be punished, or indeed a person who the group just decided to randomly lynch. Yes, greedy is in quotations there, because this nedefinition of greedy was not the old one that the original majority buyout rules wanted to prevent. The old rules wanted to prevent someone getting too far ahead of the group and taking on a ton of debt to do so. The new rules actively force you to hinder yourself, to keep yourself as weak as the groups second weakest player, and failure to do so is considered 'greedy' when the group comes down hard. Note that in that game that player who upgraded was not actually in a stronger position than the others either, he just had more cash invested into his own business than the others, making him a juicier target. The rest of the group could have upgraded as well, but chose not to out of fear that they would be the one lynched.
My proposed solution to this issue is simple: Bring back majority rules in their original form. If a single player gets 6 stocks, then the player becomes a subsidiary In this situation the group can still help with the buy, or choose to hinder it. Here's some examples showing this.
Example 1: Player 1 has 1 stock in himself and no money for defence, player 2 starts buying into player 1. Players 3 and 4 both also start buying into player 1. After 9 stocks are bought the results are 4 stock for player 2, 3 for player 3 and 2 for player 4, with 1 for player 1. At this time, any player in the game could buy that last stock that is owned by player 1, and then player 1 becomes a subsidiary In effect, 10 stocks worth was required from the group to complete the buy, rather than 6.
Example 2: Player 1 has 3 stocks in himself. Player 2 begins to buy. Players 3 and 4 do not want the buy to go through, so they each buy 1 themselves. After all stocks are bought the results sit at 5 stocks for player 2, 3 stocks for player 1 and 1 stock each for players 3 and 4. They have successfully defended player 1 from the majority buyout, and now player 2 has to buyout all the rest of player 1's stock at once, with the bulk buy method.
The best part here is that a successful defence still requires some form of defence by the one being attacked themselves, but they do not need to buy nearly as much stock for a successful defence to be mounted. Having just 1 stock in yourself means that an attempt at defence does not change how much the attacker had to buy, but if a player buys just 3 of his own stock then the attacker has to buy 2 more stocks than they normally would. At this point a player 5 could come in and buy the last 3 stocks themselves, helping with the buy. Above all however, more money was needed by the group to attempt this. This heavily lowers the amount of money you need in reserve before you can upgrade, perhaps even negating that aspect of play altogether.
The second of my issues is one of unfairness and kingmaking, and the fact that it does still exist. In the original bulk buyout you had to pay double for someone stock. In step buyout, you had to pay double for someone's stock. So why is it that you do not need to pay double in this hybrid? For the initial 5 stocks in someone you have to pay either normal price if they don't own the stock, or double the price when they do. For the remaining 5 stock however it's single price even though they own it. If we assume that a person did own all 10 of their stock before buying began to happen, then compared to both modes the total price for one person to cause a buyout is 75% of the amount you would have to pay in the old methods. This is shown here:
5*double price + 5*single price = 0.75*10xdouble price. Simplified: 15/20 = 0.75.
Now, for a 1 vs 1 this isn't much of a problem, if it is at all. I am inclined to think that only paying 75% of the usual price is not an issue. However, what is an issue is that these 5 normal priced stocks can be bought up by a different player. If we assume stock price is $20K then player 1 spent $200K for 5 stock, player 2 can then come in and spend $100K and also get 5 stock. How is it fair then that 1 person gets something of equal value for half the price? Well, part of it is it's not truly half price. Stock rises in value as it gets bought, so in actual fact player 1 would have spent $280K and player 2 would have spent $200K. This is still less, but it's not half-price. The issue however, comes from the fact that this stock price increase only increases the stock price of the price created by assets of the company, not the price created by the amount of shares that company owns. You can see this in game 1 of the finals, 2 players started with a share price of $30, and once 5 stocks was bought from someone this rose to $43. Without the stock in other companies that player owned, it likely would have jumped from $20 to $33. The same increased value of $13, but as a percentage of the total stock price it would have been much more.
The result of this, the cheaper price for an outside player, is also shown in game 1 of the finals. A third player was able to sweep in and help choose who lost and who won, when they were so weak that they honestly shouldn't have been allowed to. If that person hadn't bought either play out, then he wouldn't have won. If he tipped the scales, he also wouldn't have won. The fact that he was allowed to help choose at all is the issue, he was very much a kingmaker. Being a kingmaker is harder now than in step buyout, but it is still present. There is no way he should have been allowed to influence results that much, since he spent far less to choose the result than the other players did in causing the result to be a choice.
The other potential result of this is someone sitting on enough money to buy a player out, but refusing to do so. Instead, he waits for someone else to buy the expensive shares and then swoops in for the cheaper shares afterwards. This saves him money, when really he should have been pursuing the buy himself long ago. In the case where everyone owns their own stock this actively encourages people to not buy, to sit back and wait for someone else to begin. It's a different kind of group mentality, one in which the big fish gets more of the spoils for less of the cost, less of the risk.
What if, however, there isn't 10 stocks bought at the start? What if 5 are completely empty? Well then the buyer doesn't have to pay double price, and so he actually ends up spending less on the buyout than the outside player. Now, perhaps you think that might an issue, but I think this isn't an issue, it's a benefit. In the old methods it was always encouraged to be an early buyer, an early investor. This leads to earlier buys, sometimes faster games, and more importantly encourages action above sitting on money not spending it. By encouraging action, action will be done. A large piece of skill in the game comes from knowing when to take the risks and attack earlier, the early bird gets the worm after all. So for that reason, I do not see rewarding the player who attacks first as a problem.
To fix this issue I propose one of the following:
1. Apply the stock price increase due to stock being purchased to the entire stock price, not only the asset half.
2. Remove stock price increase due to availability completely, and change the buyout formula. Make the buyout double price like in the original bulk buyout, but for every stock a player owns, the buyout at the end is reduced by 10%, additive. This means that if A player owns 5 stock, it costs the same price to buyout as it does currently. For an outside influence however it would cost double, the same as if it was bulk buyout.
I prefer the second solution. It seems surprisingly intuitive, at least to me, that if you partially own someone it should cost less to own more of them than an outside influence. Buying early becomes encouraged even more than before, leading to more stock purchases in total. A player will not want to sit on a lot of money and wait for someone else to buy, he'll go for it himself. Additionally it would no longer cost half price for an outside influence to come in and take the last stocks, in fact it would cost more than the original player currently paid, which is why I also suggested to remove the stock price value increase. I can't help but feel that now that buying your own stock does not increase your actual stock price value that mechanic should no longer exist. With this change in effect, it would cost the normal 75% of the value from the old buyout systems that we see right now, but for a third player to swoop in it would cost 100% of the value that the old methods had. In total it would be 100%, but now the cost would be shared amongst 2 people, rather than an unfair 50% and 25% value we see now.
Thanks for reading, I know it was long and these 2 issues could probably have been their own forum posts, but the solutions were designed to work together. Trust me, this was not written due to the result of the tournament, it would have been written whether I won or lost, so try to ignore that factor