Dynamic Difficulty and Evolution

So as I understand it, JG and the Devs are sitting down early this week to figure out where to go from here, so I thought I’d give them something else to think about. This post summarises some of my thoughts spread all over these forums and also makes one BIG suggestion which I don’t really expect them to address immediately – if they decide to address it at all.

While we may not know exactly how it works, I think the consensus among players is that the Dynamic Difficulty Algorithm (the DDA) isn’t working well at the moment. From what I can tell, it’s severely punishing perfectionist play, to the extent that it ultimately renders the game almost unplayable. I haven’t experienced this yet, but then I’m hardly a perfectionist where games like this are concerned – I expect to take losses and I don’t think the game is difficult enough unless I do. I don’t want to cruise through this like a superhero, I want to earn my victories and feel a sense of both relief and achievement when I do.

However, there are several things about the so-called ‘Difficulty Spike’ that I think could be managed better:

  1. Easy should be easy. If that means completely disabling the DDA, then so be it. Not sure how doable that is in the current build, but you do need to address the fact that the Rookie level shouldn’t punish you for doing well as you’re learning how the game works.
  2. The number of Sirens per mission should be capped and linked to Difficulty Settings. I’d advocate 1 for Easy, 2 for Veteran, 3 for Heroic and Infinite for Legendary. They should also be introduced before Chirons, rather than alongside them, which would ease the spike a great deal.
  3. Ditto for Chirons, at 1/1/2/3. And the damage dealt by Explosive Chirons probably needs nerfing, though I’ve not found them a problem so far.
  4. Lairs & Citadels are the wrong way round (see Lairs vs Citadels for more details).
  5. Crabbie HP & Damage should be nerfed, or imho done away with completely!

Which brings me to the main thrust of this thread…

As I’ve said before, I love this game, but the one thing that severely disappoints me is the fact that we didn’t get what was advertised where Evolution is concerned. The sales pitch says: “The Pandorans will evolve in response to your tactics.” Wow! That sounds amazing! So if I fall into my usual pattern of Snipers backing up a fast-moving Alpha-strike team, the Crabbies will adapt to neutralise that and force me out of my comfort zone….? Now THAT’s a game worth backing :+1:

Unfortunately not. I’m sorry, but “We need a bigger gun” is not ‘evolving in response to my tactics’. Frankly, XCOM did it better – at least there, you got different and more interesting enemies every time your Research unlocked a new weapon type, which you had to adapt your tactics to deal with. Here, the Crabbies just get tougher until all you can do is rely on Snipers and Magic Superhero Alpha-Strikes, which is what you were already doing anyway!

So – and I’m aware that this is neither a short-term nor easy fix – I’d advocate retooling the DDA so that instead of merely adding HP and Damage to ever-increasing numbers of Nasties in response to how well we’re doing, the DDA looks at the types of Squaddies we’re using and adjusts the Panda loadout accordingly. So when the DDA kicks in, it checks the number of each class of the highest Lvl Squaddies in your roster, as these are the best indicator of the type of tactics you are using:

• Ignore Assaults, as everyone multi-classes into them by default unless they’ve hit on a better combo – though I think there should be a check that says if 50% of your Squaddies have Dash, Nasties automatically default to Overwatch at the end of a move and Crabbies evolve a Goo Spitter, which they squirt in front of them before going into OW.
• If we have more Snipers than any other class, the Crabbies evolve Tower Shields that hide all their extremities and all other Pandas evolve shield technology (so Sirens start protecting their heads, and Scyllas turn their Smashers into giant shields that cover all but legs and abdomen – more on that later).
• If we favour mainly Heavies, the Nasties evolve Ablative Armour which is immune to Shred, and their bullets become Armour Piercing.
• If we have more Interceptors, their Perception doubles.
• More Priests, Will increases.
• More Berserkers, Armour goes down, HP go up.
• And so on… I expect you know better than I the strengths and weaknesses of the classes.

The Nasties should probably have some kind of Evo Budget, which means that a buff in one direction is paid for in another. So, as a completely arbitrary example, say the Crabbies had an Evo Budget of 1000, which gave a standard Crabbie 6x100 HP on its locations, a 150HP MG, a Shield costing 100, and the rest spread around Will, Perception etc: if it evolved a Tower Shield that completely blocked it from Sniper fire, that would cost it an extra 120, which would have to be stripped from its HP – something like that.

I’d also link it to Difficulty: so on Easy & Veteran the Nasties just react to the single highest Class on your roster (or both if you have equal #s of classes); Heroic reacts to the top 2 Classes; and Legendary reacts to every Class which is at your highest Lvl.

Now I know that this is complicated, and I know it can’t be implemented overnight, but I do think it will be much more interesting and more in line with what was advertised than the current system, which tbh isn’t working very well.

It would also intuitively start responding to the OP combos that players are coming up with: ‘So you’re using Sniper/Heavies are you? Get RB through this impenetrable Shield Wall, you suckers!’ (yea, I know you can outflank them, but it would force you to do so, rather than taking pot-shots from your baseline as you can at the moment). ‘100% Infiltrators? Not any more, they’re not!’ ‘Try doing a Dash Alpha-Strike through this goo-infested Killzone, you Turkeys. :face_with_raised_eyebrow:’ Much better than: “Ooh look, a bigger gun.”

If you don’t want to limit Squaddie Combos, and given the Skills Sandbox vibe I can understand if you don’t, one way of making Sniper RB less powerful is to limit the amount of overall HP that can be inflicted through any individual location: say 2x the current Maximum listed on the location. So eg. an Abdomen listed at -200HP would have an overall max of -400 (or -300 if that works better). It means you can still empty your rifle at a Nasty to your heart’s content, but taking out the bit of leg or abdomen sticking over the rocks won’t auto-kill it. It would also make RB with an HMG preferable, as that naturally spreads the pain around.

That’s it. Hope it makes sense - and good luck with the patches, I’m looking forward to them :yum:


I’d hate the idea of how you suggested some stat scaling there. Take will for example. I just did a haven defense where the turn after i caused a mass panic by knocking off a Scylla, two sirens and a chiron the tritons recovered 16 will the following turn. So they had 32 to start with? I didn’t bother checking stats… but that seemed absurd. Now imagine if that scales up because you brought a priest. Is there any armor, mutation or skill combo that even puts a priest close to that 32 will in this example?

I don’t know if limiting sirens or chirons based on difficulty is the answer. At squad level 3 they can be a problem, but by the time i have two assaults with dash and shotguns i just dash up and go for the heads. I’d take two sirens in a battle over say 6 arthrons with machine guns any day. Those machine guns have nasty damage and are fairly accurate, especially on return fire. Too often i’ve dashed up to shotgun off the gun arm and had an assault disabled for the effort, or just outright killed.

Definitely agree the scaling needs some scaling back somehow. Maybe a good start is just some new weapons for the arthrons? As it is it’s melee (and i’d love to see a double melee claw variant like in one of the trailers), which i find extremely rare, or the machine gun. Right now the machine guns act as an accurate, high damage armor stripping weapon. Their melee is also incredibly brutal, if they get to you with 2 ap someone is getting some limbs disabled, even had one do this through a wall once. I’d love to see arthrons with some new arms and setups…maybe a 1 ap pistol to go with the shield, kind of like a riot cop setup. Something like a PDW for them, 1 ap short range machine gun arm that isn’t so damaging. Then for the machine gun arm either nerf its accuracy or up it’s firing cost to 3 ap.

I think one other issue that needs looked at along with this is how the game determines what enemies to spawn in. A good example is the time i had 17 infiltrators on a mission to extract some guy from Synedrion. Another would be someones video around here where it was something like 20 arthrons up at once plus two mist sentinels, two high level assaults cleared the field in one turn… but it was a ridiculous AI army pick is the point. A final example was 4 chirons on a haven defense with i think 2 or 3 arthrons.

Huu? Totally disagree, ok the auto scaling need be tuned for each difficulty level, but what is this Sirens cap??

Such cap can only be temporary at the beginning of the scaling, but no way a hard limit for a campaign. I’d say that 5 sirens is fine it’s less Cheron and less crabs, I play at Easy, ok would have been Normal is Normal was really Normal, lol.

I agree the game needs ensure some learning curve and not apply blindly an auto scaling, 1 Siren, then 1 Chiron, then a Mix, the more free. All of that with some consideration with the difficulty level picked.

Disagree like for Sirens, such cap even at Easy or Normal should be only temporary at beginning of difficulty scaling, not for a full campaign.

Moreover I’ll add, if there’s no problem don’t fix it. There’s a problem of learning curve, and a problem with 3 Chirons throwing worms and no powerful tool to manage it, otherwise no point to hard limit Chirons.

No or they need add new enemy type to fill the hole.

Perhaps an intermediate solution would be to divide crabs variations into two categories, the second would be stronger and would look different.

But it’s going against the initial design inspired by shooter against humans, enemies look very similar but are very different from some attributes and or equipment category you won’t notice until have checked the detail or endure the problem with the specific unit in the specific combat.

Mmm that’s team limitative too. A team not using any RB will suffer from this limit too. I don’t agree with the focus you do on RB to remove it. I don’t see any problem but with current Citadels.

I’d advocate again, more focus on ammo care, if it’s really efficient to use a RB sniper team, then penalize on ammo:

  • Ammo weight, ammo with more weight, have weight overcharge hurt precision.
  • Ammo price, more expensive ammo for SR and eventually Cannon, and provide a cheap weapon in each category that has a cheap ammo price.
  • Smaller clips for SR, so each ammo cost more and RB is less powerful.

For the comments on Evolution, the problem is rather complex, no real comment on OP suggestions, looks like stuff to consider, or develop.

It creates some very special combats, why not. If all your combats against Synedrion was that I understand it’s a problem, but it’s not the point, just one combat.

For the 20 crabs, if they was most with the big AR, that would have been a very special combat for me, I don’t have any powerful setup for mass kill. I’d like see the video. But again if it’s just once, I see no problem here.

I think you misunderstand what I’m suggesting. Each individual mission doesn’t scale up just because you’ve added a Priest to it; but if, for example, you start abusing Priests to the extent that your modus operandi is to take 3 Lvl 7 Priests on every mission and MC everything you encounter, the DDA would take account of that and start evolving the Pandas to counter it.

I’m merely responding to the howls of anguish which cite 5 Sirens appearing on an Easy Mission and how unfairly difficult this is. Sure, once you know what you’re doing, Sirens can be dealt with, but almost by definition you don’t know what you’re doing if this is your first playthrough on Easy.

Some people don’t want to be swamped by unstoppable Nasties that overwhelm them on Turn 1 or 2. Limiting the Nasties based on Difficulty deals with that.

You need to read the rest of my suggestion. I just think the difficulty scaling is both uninteresting at the moment and not working.

There’s nothing else it ends with some pointless crab nerf request, after it’s another topic, evolution.

Even in evolution context I don’t see any utility for such crab nerf.

I agree with most of what you say, definitely with the general spirit, perhaps not all the specifics.

Panda deployment and reinforcement has to be on some kind of increasing budget. I think it would be OK to just make the budget increase with time, with different multiples depending on difficulty level (so at rookie say 0.75, and at legendary 3)

Each type of panda, their health, armor, weapons, abilities, etc. would have a cost, and how the budget is spent would be determined by averages of player’s behavior: that would be the Panda evolution.

Another take on it would be to take a true evolutionary approach and for the Panda budget to be spent fielding improved versions of those Pandas that survive the most and deal the most damage, dividing the budget among different departments: 1) small shellfish (:crab: and tritons), 2) chirons and sirens, and 3) Scyllas, so that you don’t get all Scyllas or Chirons.

Yes, so what @Dorrin describes wouldn’t happen, unless the player relied overwhelmingly on priest abilities.

No, the two are linked. Imho, Evolution is what you call ‘the pointless crab nerf’ should be replaced by. You might find it pointless, but the vast majority of posts on these forums suggest that most players find the current Crabbie buffs OP, and (in my opinion) not very interesting. So in the long term , why not replace it with a system where the Crabbies actually adjust their configurations to counter the tactics we most favour?

Exactly. If the trick you most rely on is Mind Controlling Priests, the Pandas eventually evolve enough WP to counter it. If the trick you most rely on Sniper/Heavy Rage Burst, the Pandas come up with a way of blocking the shot, and so on.

That’s what I thought we were signing up for - not an endless run of the same creatures just with more Damage & HPs.


Gotta agree that current “evolution” is boring. My cat could have come up with a more engaging idea than HP/armour increases. Especially in contrast to the early pitch that Pandorans would take on more mammalian features the further inland the Mist crept. Why am I still fighting crabs and fish in the middle of Switzerland or the Sahara?

1 Like

Hm that could work, though if it’s just scaling up the will how absurdly high will it go? Or perhaps a better solution is to give some pandorens a mind control immunity head mutation or something, kind of like how berserkers get a trait for that. Then mass panic would still be possible, though a bit hard to pull off with above 32 will like that one triton.

I’ve had the luck to pull one of those spawns, and early on it does suck. Seems like it was New Jericho mission 2 or 3 i drew that one on. Maybe early on in the game it has a strict limit like you mentioned though that increases over time so its not 1 chiron, 1 siren, 1 scylla and 20 crabs and tritons on a map at once. I’d like a mix of all enemies.

Works for me :blush:
I’ve generally been pretty lucky in that respect. The only multi-Siren missions I get are in Lairs, and they usually only appear in sequence.

I do wonder whether it’s the DDA that’s causing it or a simple RNG issue. In any event, putting a limit on the number of Big Nasties until the ODI reaches a certain level is no bad thing.

I’d say its the RNG. Few time’s i’ve reloaded to the global map to restart a mission. Had a lair once where the only way forward was a long corridor. From the start of the map i saw one siren at the end of that, turned out it had two hiding in the wings beside (and a fourth that spawned on turn two) it that sent my guys into a ten turn long panic due to constant screams while hiding out of line of sight. On reloading the map it was just 1 siren and some arthrons or tritons. Much easier. Reloading from global resets the spawns, so what might spawn in as 4 goo chirons one attempt at a mission can be a decent mix of enemies the next load in.

Tieing the amount of them to ODI might work, though might also make things harder with more armored machine gun arthrons on the field at once. Something like a 30 strength attack wave with 2 sirens, 2 chirons 1 scylla then a few little guys is what i have been seeing in my current game, and it’s manageable with single class level 5-7 soldiers working in squads of six. Swap a siren and chiron out for several armored machine gun crabs that my assaults can’t one shot an arm off of and it becomes much harder, without maybe getting a mass panic. Might have to work in more snipers if they come in more arthron heavy… and then the suggested dynamics cause them to swap over to more shielded guys (who would hopefully come with less armored limbs to blow off at point blank) so maybe it would cause constant swapping around of squads to keep adjusting my own tactics to what the pandorens do. Could be better than what it is now.

That’s the idea :blush:
It would certainly make life more interesting than endless waves of unkillable Crabbies with 1-shot MGs.

Really interested to read yet another post about waves of 20-30 Crabbies backed up by multiple Sirens & Chirons, though. Assuming this is not an exaggeration, what am I doing differently to you? The most I’ve ever faced in anything but a Lair is 12-15 Crabbies, and Sirens have all but disappeared from my game except in Lairs.

You’re not restarting missions when they go south. So PP thinks you’re really super overpowering if you need five restarts to clear a really stacked against you situation like that scylla + 12+ pandas + 2x rocket Chiron and a couple of sirens. All with souped up guns and armor of course.

DDA should consider how many times you restart / reload a mission as well as the final outcome.

1 Like

As mentioned elsewhere, there’s no need for elaborate game-breaking changes to tame RB, just simply limiting number of shots gets the job done and has already been done in a mod. 4 shots / RB seems to work pretty well althought I’d make it more fine grained depending on the weapon, e.g. 3x SR, 4x Cannon, 6x other weapons.

No i’m not getting 20-30 crabs mixed in with a pair of sirens, chirons and a scylla. Maybe a mix of 8 arthrons and tritons with a 30 attack force on a haven defense. I find that to be manageable using my basic setup of 1 heavy, 2 snipers, 2 shotgun/AR assaults and then either a tech or priest to finish the team out. That’s my basic squad setup, though some guys i do grab assault for, like my techs so they can dash in to heal, or help with some shotgun use to finish off wounded guys.

Not restarting often anymore, if i play 6 hours in a row i might restart one map. If i make my first move and find 4 sirens, 1 chiron and 2 arthrons on the map it’s not a fun setup for a fight, so its back to the map and then back into the battle. I want a mix of enemies rather than 4 sirens who i disable/kill on the first turn (at least if line of sight isn’t terrible) and cause a mass panic. While i love it if i can pull off a one turn run in a lair, i don’t want that anywhere else. I want a chance at employing some tactics, not the same moves every time. It’s not so fun splitting my team where 3 guys run off and handle a siren each on turn one, have the snipers disable the fourth and the rest of the hostiles just panic… i want some resistance there so reloading to get a better fight is more fun.

Not personally had a wave of 20+ crabs… that’s just something i’d worry about if the enemy is limited to 1 siren, 1 chiron, 1 scylla in a 30 strength assault wave… Will they fill out the rest with armored machine gun arthrons? That’ll be a pain, especially as my recent encounters with them are mostly them hiding in the far corner of the map thinking they are overwatch snipers… move 3-4 tiles and overwatch the nearby wall.

Did have another map with a ton of infiltrators today… story mission from a neutral haven to recover some tech. Believe it was 14 infiltrators and 1 assault on the map. Not challenging (or fun to be honest, once you’ve had one shotgun assault mow down a dozen infiltrators in one turn it isn’t so hilarious), but a hassle to find those hidden guys with no pings. Perhaps there’s some more perception items i need to invest in for these rare events (well honestly not so rare, i seem to draw a LOT of infiltrators if they can spawn).

@ MichaelIgnotus

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying in the OP with regards to evolution not being anything like what it was originally advertised to be (isn’t that always the case when games claim evolution? Spore, Humankind, PP, it’s never as great in practice as it sounded on paper).

Regarding perfectionist play in particular I think you need to look at what type of perfectionist you mean. If it’s a player who generally plays exceptionally well, then evolution should be a good thing (when balanced) as the game is making sure that its giving that player a continual challenge (the alternative being a game that remains too easy and leads to boredom). If however you mean a player who is experiencing perfect results because they save scum and otherwise would not be performing perfectly, then I feel that that player is bringing too difficult a challenge upon themselves, in that case it’s not the game’s fault.

I think what would be interesting from Snapshot’s point of view is too see how often a player’s action of saving/reloading turns is being performed in game, and how that correlates to the players who is claiming that the game has unfair difficulty spikes.

1 Like

What would be interesting is to see how many time player restsrts/reloads and then adjust difficulty accordingly.

So is this another idea to punish people who play without the ironman mode? If someone is already struggling and feels the need to restart multiple times on a level it doesn’t seem like a good idea to me to further boost difficulty on them. Is the idea also to boost difficulty every time the game locks up on the pandoran turn? Technically that is a reload, so it should be the end of an ironman campaign or increase in difficulty for each reload for non ironman games.

Had one battle in the last 3 days that locked up on me every time one of the mindfraggers from a destroyed scylla tried to move. Either they were under the ground or stuck under the scyllas body. If the game bugs out and players HAVE to reload, is it really right to boost difficulty or end their ironman campaign for that? If someone honestly believes so, should the player be punished somehow for the game locking up on the bugged aliens turn and forcing a shutdown, thus restart of the battle, 3 times for this one haven defense. Would it be right to punish me by upping the difficulty for each of those 3 reloads of the game? If you’re playing ironman does it really feel right to you if your campaign ends because of a bug like that? Or perhaps you just go with the “didn’t happen to me so the bug doesn’t exist” mindset and ignore any such issues that others have,

I think you got my meaning reversed…