Rise of Nations is not a perfectly balanced game, and CBP doesn’t make it one either.
RoN is a reasonably balanced game though, and (by most people’s counts) CBP is a net-improvement of that balance.
There are a lot of areas which I’d like to probe further for CBP but am unable to due to lack of playtesting and quality discussion. This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of literally every possible change, but it can be used as a somewhat comprehensive starting point. Here’s what’s been left on the table.
B is for Bugfixes
The good news is that this section is comparatively short. At this stage I’ve implemented almost every bugfix from my to-fix list. The last stragglers are generally either immensely difficult, low value, or some combination of both. In a few cases it’s not clear whether something is a bug or not.
I’m still working on seeing if I can fix up the game’s nation select RNG1 without breaking replays, but it’s arguably the most technically-challenging thing I’ve ever tried to do so I can’t just exactly just churn out a quick solution. If I get something working beyond simply overwriting the rng result I’ll of course share it as best as I can, but if I can’t find something that I can get to work then we’ll have to live with it until someone more skilled at reverse engineering steps in to do it instead or until MS decides to spend dev time fixing the game (..or until they provide source code access, but there’s dreaming and then there’s dreaming).
B is for Balance
There are… a lot of things to cover here, so buckle up. I’d like to be very clear that this is all my personal opinion unless noted otherwise: I’m not speaking for the whole Advisory Group. I’m also not saying that these changes should be implemented, but I do definitely think they’re worth discussing and thinking about.
These are listed in no particular order except for the Misc category which contains minor changes which I think are correspondingly less important.
I, like most CBP users, think the ruins change is net-positive. However it definitely has downsides, and I think I’ve probably spent longer contemplating them than CBP’s critics.
An obvious one is that it’s directly affected strategies that rely on specific ruins breakpoints, such as Chinese Sci2 and Korean Sci2.
The first could be remedied fairly cleaned by buffing the Chinese Science discount from -20% to -25%, a buff that they could fairly be assigned even without this reason. There are reasonable grounds to worry that either Chinese are no longer weak in CBP (unlikely in either Standard or Nomad imo), or that Chinese are now a strong booming pocket pick (especially on sea maps in Nomad). If the latter is the case, it doesn’t necessarily seem like a bad thing; it’s good for nations to have niches where they’re strong so long as they don’t simply overwhelm other options.
The Korean strat could potentially be restored by increasing the raze bonus for Temples by 5 Wealth. I don’t know if it’s worth doing, but I also don’t see any notable downsides (I really doubt anyone will suddenly be raising Temples on a regular basis to generate Wealth any time soon).
There is an argument to be made (that has been made) that both of these strategies should not be supported anyway, but opinions are mixed on that. I’m personally a mix of apathetic and ambivalent about them but would like to have a designated stance on each from community consensus so that we know whether to try to keep these two strategies supported or not.
Some other, broader side-effects of lowering ruins bonuses:
- Early game economy is slightly lower (although it’s debatable whether this is actually a problem or not).
- Rushing is actually slightly weaker because rushing units will no longer gain as much average benefit from ruins.
- Scouting for the purpose of intel gathering is also weaker because even if you didn’t care about picking up ruins, you still inevitably would.
A change I’d like to see discussed is increasing the number of ruins slightly to compensate for the reduced pickup bonus, which would also have the added effect of probably leveling out ruins RNG slightly further.
Monarchy / Democracy
I’m content with where Monarchy and The Monarch are right now. I’m still uncertain about whether +1/+1, +2/+1, or +2/2 (or something else entirely!) is the ideal bonus for The Monarch to give, but +2/+1 seems a good starting point. I also think the 15% Monarchy discount is a pretty good place to land. If nothing else, lowering it further would begin deviating perhaps too far from what players are used to. If it gets changed again (which it probably doesn’t need to) it would have to be much further down the line.
The siege-related bonuses of The Monarch I’m not convinced about. Being an unkillable Supply Wagon is already a large buff to siege and I don’t like the dynamic of how weak The President is when defending against the slightly improved siege. Maybe the bonus could be lowered? 50%, for example, would surely still feel like a large bonus while also cutting out some unnecessary power which most players don’t even fully appreciate.
Speaking of The President: he sucks.
Democracy itself isn’t terrible (and because of sea maps it’s hard to buff it much beyond perhaps going from 20% to 25%), but there’s a large gap between how useful The Monarch is and how useful The President is.
In many respects The Senator is actually more useful than The President. The only standout uses for the President that I’m aware of is training civilians faster (a marginal economic boost) and building wonders faster. Skilled players are almost never bottlenecked by the speed at which military units can be made, but rather the speed at which resources are being generated to supply that. Making them faster is of course a gain regardless, but only a minor one.
I’d like for The President to gain some kind of buff that is specifically good at non-offensive, non-sea map situations (so as to actually fulfill his niche properly without messing up those two). There are a few technically-feasible ways to do that which I’ll spitball:
- The President’s bodyguards are able to shoot things, allowing The President to put himself in danger in order to participate in fights. This is cool, but feels quite out of place.
- Graft additional passive abilities onto him from unique CtW generals (such as faster Forced March or enhanced healing rate while in friendly territory).
- Detect hidden units (like Scouts do). By itself this seems to be an inadequate buff.
- Add “Restock Supplies” ability which can refill craft meter when near Cities for a very small cost (such as 100 craft, or 20 resources in order to prevent spamming decoys etc).
- Add “Move Capital” ability (which does exactly what it says). This seems quite niche though – in most situations it doesn’t help.
- Graft The Senator’s passives onto him (and maybe the Bribe ability would come with it too? I’ve yet to test it). I don’t personally like this much from an elegance standpoint, but balance-wise it would be decent.
- Change his stats, such as increasing his turn rate. I also don’t like this option because it breaks the “rule” of Patriots following a clear pattern stats-wise.
One other option is to make Democracy unlock a special defensive-focused unit (such as one with low movement speed). You could, for example, do something like allow you to create Minutemen (or some equivalent unit?) directly at Cities (without the Minuteman tech researched) or have a new unit which later folds back into e.g. Riflemen once you tech up (similarly to how elephants fold into tanks at higher tech).
When upgraded from Cuirassiers, Light Tanks gain a large HP boost, a large movement speed boost, and a large LOS boost. They lose a modest amount of DPS due to lower attack speed but become ranged, which is almost always an enormous net-positive. Worse still, they don’t simply gain “a bit of range” like Fusiliers do (+6 range vs Elite Pikemen). They gain +12 range (!!!!).
There are two and a half issues I have with Light Tanks:
- They have only one significant losing matchup: Anti-Tank Rifles, but that unit has losing matchups against every other unit, and lower range than every other unit. This makes Tanks enormously difficult to kill, tying into the second point:
- They contribute to Industrial Age being an overwhelming power spike, as Fusiliers (6 range) fare significantly worse than AT Rifles (8 range).
- The half-point: although the upgrade to Light Tanks is gated by Oil, a half-decent player can literally just buy their way out of this gating mechanism because of RoN’s unique market mechanic, meaning they can very quickly turn a deployment of Cuirassiers into a wall of steel.
Typically in this scenario the natural solution is to buff their counter, but in this case buffing AT Rifles just allows an Age VI player to annihilate the melee cav of an Age V player. I believe power spikes from aging should be strong, not automatically game-ending, and so would prefer to avoid buffing AT Rifles much.
Helicopters usually help to hold tanks in check but are unavailable in VI, so we have to look elsewhere. I’m interested in some kind of modest nerf to Light Tanks, or instead a buff to Biplanes to enable them to better deal with tanks (or perhaps vehicles more generally). Right now Biplanes do okay damage but it’s not enough to compensate for their abysmal range/airtime. A small buff to their range and a targeted buff to their damage (against specific units or unit categories only) might be enough to make them a viable defending unit against tanks.
Naval combat (primarily submarines)
In general I think it’s okay as-is with the Barks and Triremes no longer afflicted with a terrible case of Bugged-In-EE-itis. There are a few things that could be tweaked to make naval combat better, but one standout:
When Heavy Fire Ships upgrade to subs, they’re basically naval Light-Tanks in terms of their power spike.
- They gain range
- They gain stealth
- They no longer kill themselves to kill their target (!!)
Without sufficient data to go off of, I’ve kept the changes targeting this to two of the most anemic options available. The ramping cost of subs is up slightly (which doesn’t help much because they’re so fucking cheap anyway), and the modern-era Light Ship line has +1 LOS so that you have 0.2 seconds longer to run your big ships the hell away if you’re paying attention at the time.
I don’t actually have a suggestion on what should be addressed, but I think subs should be made somehow less dominant in naval combat for something so cheap and versatile in its matchups (like Light Tanks, they lose meaningfully to only a single unit).
Bantu movement speed
We started out of the gate with the lowest possible change that was reasonable: a 5% reduction from 25% to 20%.
I feel quite strongly that 20% is still too high and that something like 15% would be a much more appropriate value (and there is some agreement by high level players about this, although some clear disagreement as well). I also think that 15% would still be a significant nation power bonus for them to have.
Bantu pop cap bonuses
These bonuses are part of Bantu’s identity – I’m not talking about removing them.
They do scale very high very quickly though, and also lead to Bantu being the strongest ultra-late-game nation exclusively because of their pop cap.
There’s also the matter that they get a boosted pop cap but then can exceed it anyway?? Like what’s that all about – it seems unnecessarily confusing.
Inca “gold” bonus
Basically everyone agrees that the original +10 is too high, but there is little agreement about how low it should go. +8 is the original (and current, as of Alpha 7) value, but some people have argued as far down as +5.
Without more playtest data, I’m thoroughly unconvinced that any specific value proposed is the right one.
Indians / Persians (and elephants in general)
Elephants were considered roughly balanced in T&P, then MS/Skybox fleeced us and bugged over 20,000 damage modifiers, completely breaking elephants in EE and making War Elephants arguably the strongest unit in the game (and its upgrades plenty strong too).
With that shitfuckery undone Indians in particular seems.. weak? Their bonuses are boom-centric but look weaker than those of more stereotypically strong booming nations.
Their increased city radius is perhaps undervalued slightly, but I don’t think it’s undervalued substantially. How exactly they should be buffed I haven’t even bothered to consider yet though – we need playtest data for them, Persians, and elephants in general to figure out where the appropriate compromise in overall power is between two markers that were both considered balanced in contradiction of one another (T&P with unbugged elephants vs EE with bugged-to-hell elephants).
A minor interim elephant buff is in Alpha 7, but I expect it to be comparatively inadequate, at least for Indians (which seem a bit worse-off than Persians).
One avenue which I think would be beneficial is a decrease to the damage bonus which archers (unit category) receive against elephants – maybe just against the ranged elephants. With functioning masks they get +70%, plus an additional bonus against all the ranged elephants because they have the horse archer mask. Pulling that down to, say, 50% would still leave archers by far the most effective unit at killing ranged elephants, but would level the playing field slightly against the uberstrong Crossbowmen that show up in Age III at the same time that Mahouts do.
Ashigaru Spearmen (and Age I HI in general)
Comparing Ashigaru Spearmen to every other Age I unit, and factoring in Japanese bonuses, leads me to a single conclusion. This unit is fucking stupid.
Many UUs have one or two bonuses. Ashigaru Spearmen have six.
- +5 HP
- + 1 attack
- + 1 armor
- + 3 turn speed
- -2 attack recharge (6.67% faster attack speed)
- +12% damage vs buildings
Because army strength scales non-linearly, and the armor of cities increases the value of +attack non-linearly, this makes them absurdly good in Age I rushes. I want the unit to refocus its identity from “better at everything” to “finesse”, leaving the Solduri to fill the “power” niche. So instead of +HP and +armor, just have the +armor. Instead of +attack and -attack recharge, just have the -attack recharge.
Bear in mind as well that when you’re in Age I the stats of units is at the lowest point in the game, making small flat (not %) numerical differences like +1 attack and +1 armor disproportionately powerful in comparison to other units.
Hoplites have a -12% damage modifier vs buildings as an anti-rush balance tweak (added by BHG in the original RoN, before you get up in arms with me), and it’s not even clear whether this is supposed to apply to the UUs or not. Given all the other oversights in the damage modifiers, it’s very plausible that this is another one, and that every Age I HI is supposed to have the same -12% damage modifier vs buildings.
It’s not like the Age I HI UUs (well, except Iro Spearmen) need the missing modifier to be good in rushes since they have extra stats over Hoplites already.
As it stands it’s my opinion that Age I rushes – mostly coordinated rushes in team games are slightly too strong, which is why in CBP there’s a very small -4% damage modifier vs cities applied to all Age I HI. I find this solution to be rather inelegant and would prefer something else, but it was the only proposition that was blessed by the Advisory Group so it’s acceptable as a compromise if the AG and/or community remains unable agree on an alternative. I would hope that further discussion would be fruitful on a different set of changes than what we have now.
Dutch in Standard vs Nomad
I’m not satisfied with the current place of Dutch, being still very strong in Standard but bottom tier in Nomad.
The main issue is that their Market and Armed Merchant starting bonuses are hardcoded, so it’s thus far not been possible to reduce those bonuses for Standard so that we can buff them slightly more (to make them still strong overall in Standard, but less-bad in Nomad).
Every now and then I poke around in Ghidra looking for whether their hardcoded bullshit is, but I’ve yet to find it and it would likely be a challenge to change it in multiplayer even if I did because the RoN exe doesn’t like syncing multiplayer games if it’s been changed.
Weakest / strongest nations
I don’t like how Lakota is so dominant, but unfortunately their food eco nation power does not accept decimal or fractional values. It’s likely that nerfing them from 4 to 3 would kill them, but there are so few ways to change them that it’s extremely difficult.
The ruins change is an intentional indirect nerf to Lakota, which helps somewhat, but it still seems silly that they’re top tier in both Standard and Nomad without needing any particular prerequisite (such as only in pocket, or only for rushing, or only for booming).
The weakest nations are still a bit too weak imo. Unfortunately it’s hard to know how far off they are from being “close enough”, so it’s hard to buff them more until (really unless) people play more CBP and actually bother to discuss and analyse nations in detail. I don’t want over-buffed weak nations running rampant so for now (and perhaps forever) they stay probably-too-weak.
Javelineers / Elite Javelineers
Javelineers (and to a lesser degree Elite Javelineers) are basically fucking useless even after being buffed. I have no idea what to change about them and by how much. They don’t have a clear identity to build towards so it’s near-impossible to target changes.
I’m extremely hesitant to just keep giving them generic buffs (such as +damage) until they’re “good”, since this risks them crowding out other units due to their relatively cheap resource cost. It also puts the dynamic of archers being the dominant pre-IV ranged unit in danger, and that’s actually a cool dynamic to have (and keep) imo.
Interestingly to me, dave suggested a 20% damage buff to Age I-III LI, which seemed a bit drastic to everyone else. I wonder sometimes if he’s right about how much of a boost they would need to be worthwhile. Certainly the more I test the units, the more I start to agree more with the idea of a larger buff.
Elite Pikemen (+ Tercios / Arquebus Immortals) cost
Right now Elite Pikemen still cost more than Pikemen but I’m not sure there are any reasonable grounds for doing this. Their stats are not proportionately stronger with that increased cost – I’ve kept it in there almost exclusively to make it less-different from the original (seemingly bizarre) cost scaling.
Tercios and Arquebus Immortals were also given the slightly shorter end of the stick, since they have an additional +10 Metal cost (or rather, they have a cost reduction that’s 10 Metal less than Elite Pikemen). There is some reason to do this (they’re a very strong upgrade with range + gunpowder), but I’m nonetheless unsure if it’s necessary. I’m also not sure if they should be costing 50f/50m instead of 60f/40m (currently they’re the former).
I imagine that if Elite Pikemen move down to 50f/30m to match their scaling, Tercios and Arquebus Immortals could slot in nicely at 50f/40m and it would feel like a more reasonable (less drastic) sudden price hike for Spanish / Persians players.
Crossbows projectile speed (vs other Age III archers)
The projectile speed and superior attack animations of Crossbows make them far superior to the otherwise statistically idental Heavy Archers, and they can even match up to the same-age UUs despite having otherwise worse stats than those units.
This is probably the single biggest change that’s yet to be addressed in CBP, because the Advisory group couldn’t come to a firm agreement about it. We could agree to a piecemeal decrease in projectile speed (such as 200 -> 180) for Crossbows and a piecemeal increase for the other units (like +5 or +10), but is something more drastic better?
For example, it could be that everyone gets Heavy Archers, and that then everyone automatically gets a free, automatic upgrade to Crossbows with the next military tech (for example). Dave seemed to like this idea but it’s quite a departure from what people are used to so I expect it would be somewhat unpopular by virtue of being too different from what people are used to. I also quite like the idea but wasn’t willing to implement it until we got more feedback about it from more players (which never happened).
The reason that the piecemeal changes weren’t implemented in any fashion is because doing them and then switching to a more drastic option later seemed too confusing. The problem is we never ended up getting a decisive answer on the drastic option, and I’ve yet to double back to implement the piecemeal option since the drastic option is still on the table.
One hairy detail with the drastic option is that it’s not clear how UUs fit into it, and factoring them in can make the overall idea seem a bit messy (but not unacceptably so, imo). Perhaps the Age IV UUs could have their upgrade cost reduced if this option was taken.
Another issue is that it actually affects nation balance as well, not just unit balance. Currently the majority of the nations that get Heavy Archers are actually stronger than average. Swapping everyone into a Heavy Archers –> Crossbows pattern would make them comparatively stronger. Much stronger? I’m not sure, but it’s something that has to be kept in mind when adjusting the Crossbows / Heavy Archers dynamic.
I wish more of the wonders were in the “good to build most of the time” category, or at least “good to build in a specific but common situation”. Right now, despite a nerf, I think Colossus is still dominant and that other favorites like Hanging Gardens are still overshadowing the alternatives slightly.
I also don’t think this is a huge deal, but obviously I think the game would be better if there was a little bit more strategic variety available. One option might be to reduce the cost of all Wonders by, say, 10% or something. Or maybe just target buff the weakest Wonders a little more – I’m not really sure.
- Apply the “C” Mask to Armed Supply Wagons? They end up with some unusual (and imo unintuitive) damage-taken modifiers because they don’t have this.
- Give Red Fort some extremely limited anti-air capabilities? In some quick tests, I gave it enough that it was still very easy to destroy with even just a couple of Bombers, but just enough to potentially deter small groups of fighters.
- Should Egypt’s wonder-spamming be tapped down a little? Especially with Marble being buffed I’m a little worried about their edge-case, as I think it’s actually easily but rarely abused, an odd combination in competitively-played games.
- Should Colosseum get another small buff? It still seems slightly too slow to be viable in anything but turtle-based gameplay. A larger buff was avoided due to my concern about lower-skilled games (where attrition, border push, and Forts/Towers are proportionately stronger) being affected too much, but I’d hazard that tapping up its discount another 5% most likely still wouldn’t lead to abuse in lower-skilled games. I just also don’t think it would make it generally viable in mid-skill games either, let alone high-skill games.
- Is French + Despotism a bit too overbearing in Nomad? But then how would you even address this without affecting everything else?
- Inca UUs (Clubmen / Macemen) are basically fucking useless even after being buffed. Maybe they should get the +1 attack buff which I stiffed them out of (but even with that they’re probably fucking useless 99% of the time but omgwtfbbq the other 1% of the time). What else can be done for them without making them just somewhat-too-durable cannon fodder?
- Minor change to Koreans??? There was some discussion about changing the way their bonus Citizens scaled from e.g. 1/3/5 to 2/3/4 for example.
- Korean Age IV UU HP reduction? This wasn’t implemented previously with the Crossbow stuff unresolved, but they actually have an enormous amount of HP lol. Some of the other Age IV UUs are the same.
- Is the one-time Oil bonus of Capitalism a hair too high (500 -> 400?)
- V2 Rockets are too weak?
- Cruise Missiles are too spammable given their power and lack of immediate counter? (increase cost slightly?)
- Pre-modern bombardment ships have slightly too much range maybe? (leading to players that lose naval losing slightly too much coastal land as a consequence)
- Modern Heavy Ships dominate land slightly too much? (high range + high DPS)
B is for.. Enhancement?
I’d like to add what is essentially a limited mod manager into CBP Launcher, so that people can use mods that are otherwise incompatible with using CBP.
For example, increased pop cap / armageddon limit mods have no place at all in CBP itself, but are a great fit for secondary integration that can be toggled on / off. Here’s a few other things I’d like to implement, but may or may not:
- An open source DLL injector / patcher that can raise the commerce cap beyond 999, and/or fix the random nation rng mentioned previously. I believe I already have enough information to do the former of the two.
- Option to install a text-only version of Rise of Babel (no copyright issues) for players that don’t have it already.
- Option to note the source of taunts in text form, such as by adding a prefix like [RoB] to them. Important so that e.g. Rise of Discordance can be used too.
- Option to use open source XML editor to automatically add a CBP icon to your multiplayer game lobby name while CBP is loaded (I already have a working proof of concept of this).
- Press key (e.g. F7) to toggle an overlay for a nation tier list for tournaments.
- Use the aforementioned DLL injector to replace or add to the replay navigator, so that more information can be displayed for each replay (such as whether it was played on CBP, and if so what version). At its full implementation, this might be able to load or unload CBP (and different versions of it) as appropriate for whichever replay you request to watch.