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The Problem with Striders

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Branched off a post from the recent BAR playerbase thread.

Hi all, its train factory guy JPrankQrow here. If you're relatively new to this game, you probably have no clue who I am, and that's probably a good thing because a lot of the stuff I'm remembered for is generally stupid and useless. As such, please set your expectations accordingly for this post.

I'm sure if you're reading this, you have likely played in countless games in the infamous "big teams" ZK lobby and are well aware that most games, regardless of being short or long, stuff usually devolves into strider versus strider game play. At this point in the game, generally the way things are playing out looks like this:

* Eco is well established, both sides usually have full grid up w/ multiple singus
* Normal units are still being produced but usually are given a supportive role around striders being produced at that point (think flea screen)
* Porc is usually extremely prevalent and a majority of non-strider supportive units generally end up being cons or arty units

Now you may be asking: Why does this even matter? This is just the way ZK big teams fundamentally works, right? For years it has always been this way, and for years it will remain as tradition demands it.

I'm not sure that it has to be this way, though.

The main issue revolving around striders goes something like this:

* Striders provide a predictable endgame to most large scale team games, which while being an easy roadmap to follow for players, removes from demanding decision making, unit selection strategy, and other aspects which can make big teams interesting
* Striders require building a non-free factory, which conversely of being an easy roadmap to follow for mid and upper level players can screw new players pretty hard if they see tons of other people rushing strider factory every game and have no idea of whats going on
* Striders don't promote player engagement if they're rushed because rushing normally consists of multiple players rushing and doing nothing else except maybe eco actions
* Striders are needed (or at least are the easiest way by far) to counter other striders, which makes it so that both sides must change their existing game plan in order to counter a textbook situation (not exactly unhealthy for gameplay, but boring nonetheless)

So, in theory, if we managed to keep the solutions that striders provide (big scale units that have the power to push through porc, with some other features), but moved it somewhere else, that would work, right? I won't go into detail about where to move specific units, make new units, etc - I'm sure plenty of lobsters already have ideas for that, but my general systems design philosophy would probably look something like this:

* Delete strider hub. Begone, evil.
* Move toned down versions of some striders and their various abilities to whatever factory fits them best.
* IF A strider does not fit in some factory, ideally the design philosophy and use of that strider should be kept in a toned down sense, and then a new unit should be designed with that focus in mind. IMHO, 1 strider per normal factory, toned down. (Sea gets 1 extra because of unit dis-balance).

Now, obviously this will not fix all systemic issues that striders cause, or the issues that striders are designed to fix. While I won't go into it in a lot of detail here, porc should probably see a revisit from the dev gods, and some others thing should also probably be looked at, but in general I think these changes would allow regular factory units to see more of a profound impact on big team games without having to make major changes to the rest of the units in the game.

I will make a drop down spoiler below this note when feedback is received, so that it may be compiled and kept for further discussion in an easy to find place.

[Spoiler]









+4 / -0

9 months ago
I like your philosophy in general. (Also: the strider hub model and means of operation is out of place.)

I have no particular complaint about porc as it stands.

Big units seem like an inescapable, natural and even desirable end game state. However, there is much more going on with "demi-striders" than the actual striders. There should be more types of strider. (Also I think there is an opening for commanders to re-appear on the late-game battlefield in some role.)

In order to provide unit slots and to generally improve the feel of things, I propose that "striders" are made from "strider plates" attached to regular facs like current plates are. (Which may offend some, as it resembles a tech tree.) This also signals strategic intent to scouts. There may be fewer types of strider plates than facs, but each fac leads to only one of them.
+1 / -0
quote:
* Striders are needed (or at least are the easiest way by far) to counter other striders

I don't really think this is true. The striders which I might build to "counter" other striders are:
  • Ultimatum, but this is a trick play. Keeps the other team honest if they haven't made enough chaff, and sometimes comes in as a desperation move, but I don't think this is the "main strider counter" in 2023.
  • Scorpion. This is a pretty good option against Dante, or Paladin if you have enough of them.
  • Paladin. But this is more of a "natural escalation" than a counter per se.
  • I guess you could argue Funnelweb as a counter to Merlin or something. But ordinary shields will do this adequately.

So Scorpion kind of fits the bill... but I think it is often outperformed by several factory-level units. Cyclops, Widow and Racketeer immediately come to mind.
+2 / -0
9 months ago
quote:
So Scorpion kind of fits the bill... but I think it is often outperformed by several factory-level units. Cyclops, Widow and Racketeer immediately come to mind.


Yeah, I agree with this. When typing the post I was thinking "this is probably not true, but I'll put it here and have the community leave some opinions on it" so looks like that worked out fine.
+0 / -0

9 months ago
quote:
So Scorpion kind of fits the bill... but I think it is often outperformed by several factory-level units. Cyclops, Widow and Racketeer immediately come to mind.

Yeah there are sort of counters to paladins, but my lobpot experience says that (in long games) usually it degenerates into paladins out-attrition-ing various lesser units. Merlins and funnels all over as well. I mean sure I've seen the big boys go down (jacks often), but the safest bet is to go big and play a war of attrition while superweapons are prepared.

Random arty is enough to wreck most units, and there is a lot of arty in the pot.
+1 / -0
I have two comments on Paladin.

First, it does normally need an army of conventional units backing it up, so non-strider units are still playing a pretty big role. Just a Flea screen is normally not going to cut it. (The potential exception being on very rough terrain, where any attacking units may find it extremely hard to get close enough to fight the Paladin.)

Second, (as has already been alluded to) I think that Paladin is strong not because it inherently has super great stats, but because it matches up well against the other things going on in a late game scenario. By which I mostly mean artillery. In a straight up fight against a factory-based army Paladin will quite likely lose. So I don't think it is necessarily fair to describe the Paladin late game meta as a problem with Paladin, or with striders in general.

For that matter I don't particularly dislike the Paladin late game meta.
+2 / -0
9 months ago
While I think it is good to discuss and think about it, I think I disagree with most points.

quote:
* Striders provide a predictable endgame to most large scale team games, which while being an easy roadmap to follow for players, removes from demanding decision making, unit selection strategy, and other aspects which can make big teams interesting

Striders provide some way to escape boring late games where everybody built porc and turrets. And they don't even work that well even in that case. The large scale team games suffer from being "too balanced"

quote:
* Striders require building a non-free factory, which conversely of being an easy roadmap to follow for mid and upper level players can screw new players pretty hard if they see tons of other people rushing strider factory every game and have no idea of whats going on

I have seen people doing useless strider hubs as much as they do other useless stuff (storages, heavy def in base, wrong unit types, multiple factories, etc.). You can't get people to be better by hiding stuff.

quote:
* Striders don't promote player engagement if they're rushed because rushing normally consists of multiple players rushing and doing nothing else except maybe eco actions

Depends on perspective. The other team might need to coordinate better when there is a strider. The building team needs first to agree to rush. Many games players engage even less than building together a strider.

quote:
* Striders are needed (or at least are the easiest way by far) to counter other striders, which makes it so that both sides must change their existing game plan in order to counter a textbook situation (not exactly unhealthy for gameplay, but boring nonetheless)

The same can be said about any unit. Also there are few striders that require excessive stuff (I mean ulti, scorp, merlin, dante, funnel, scylla) can be dealt very easy with normal units)
+3 / -0
9 months ago
quote:

Striders provide some way to escape boring late games where everybody built porc and turrets. And they don't even work that well even in that case. The large scale team games suffer from being "too balanced"


What qualifies as boring? If one was attempting to qualify this into a non-opinion based and quantitative argument, one may think that the easiest way to do so it to quantify boring gameplay as "X repeated trend equals boring", but if one were to do that it would instead indicate that arty is a root cause of strider-prevalent gameplay, so maybe its worth addressing both issues instead of writing off one problem as the solution to another problem.

quote:
I have seen people doing useless strider hubs as much as they do other useless stuff (storages, heavy def in base, wrong unit types, multiple factories, etc.). You can't get people to be better by hiding stuff.


Remove chance to do stupid thing -> probability % that stupid thing happens goes down.

quote:
Depends on perspective. The other team might need to coordinate better when there is a strider. The building team needs first to agree to rush. Many games players engage even less than building together a strider.


Once again, our only real chance at quantifying such information into a usable statistic for this is trying to pull a trend from games where this happen, but I also think that such teamwork, if used for a strider rush, ends up taking away a greater number of players that might otherwise be doing something useful (think negative teamwork).

quote:
The same can be said about any unit. Also there are few striders that require excessive stuff (I mean ulti, scorp, merlin, dante, funnel, scylla) can be dealt very easy with normal units)


See spoiler post.



+0 / -0
9 months ago
Strider rush is fine. It's cool having the whole team actually touch grass and talk to other people to make a strider. the communication that goes on is a great breathe of fresh air compared to the stale silent pot games with maybe one or 2 screaming lobs. the harmony of a team all set on the goal of making paladin is truely so joyful to watch and participate it. I don't care that I can't control the pala because the friends we made along the way to the pala was the real reward

Strider meta is fine. because the alternative is arty meta. No matter how stale paladin wars is it will never be more stale than 10 lances spamming away at 20 aegises. ZK endgames are similarly just as predictable without striders, as the 2 sides escalate onwards to more shields and bigger (read: longer range) artillery. Striders are more fun because they actually need to come in range of your units to do their job. Paladins are actual units that can move, die, and even ressurected. You can fight palas with a range of stuff from shockley to widow to cyclops, where as the main counter to a big ball of aegis-lance-merlin excluding palas is an equally large ball of aegis-lance-merlin

Striders, especially Detris, are also more fun to micro than arty balls

Besides, the game gets even more predictable when the the next stage of escalation reduces the game down to 3 units: zenith, starlight, and shockley

TL:DR - Paladin wars might not be ideal, but artyporc wars is even less ideal
+4 / -0

9 months ago
quote:
Second, (as has already been alluded to) I think that Paladin is strong not because it inherently has super great stats, but because it matches up well against the other things going on in a late game scenario. By which I mostly mean artillery. In a straight up fight against a factory-based army Paladin will quite likely lose. So I don't think it is necessarily fair to describe the Paladin late game meta as a problem with Paladin, or with striders in general.

I generally agitate for any form of new unit that is relevant in an artillery-dominated late-game pot. The big armies that might beat pally kinda sorta exist, sometimes. (Merlins want to eat those armies.)

I have basically never made striders, can't use them well. Heck I mostly play one fac, never build anything more expensive than the occasional cerberus. I mostly play bodyguard for NOrankskuggtheother who gets the striders. I have discovered that cowardice is virtue once the front line settles in. Just chill while your wingman gets those striders. (Or someone makes the superweapon.) I have to brag a little here, this got me to 17th place in the casual ladder, before I burned that down in nonstop losses 3v3 and 4v4 just this past sunday. (Not that good of a player really. Not a fan of starting with two comms, and/or inheriting all the resigner units.)

Anyway, I love the game, but the striders aren't quite perfect yet, I insist. Its just a bit too formulaic compared to the masterpiece that is the regular land facs.
+1 / -0
9 months ago
quote:
What qualifies as boring? If one was attempting to qualify this into a non-opinion based and quantitative argument, one may think that the easiest way to do so it to quantify boring gameplay as "X repeated trend equals boring", but if one were to do that it would instead indicate that arty is a root cause of strider-prevalent gameplay, so maybe its worth addressing both issues instead of writing off one problem as the solution to another problem.
Your initial comment was "Striders provide a predictable endgame to most large scale team games, which while being an easy roadmap to follow for players, removes from demanding decision making, unit selection strategy, and other aspects which can make big teams interesting" => so I assume that for you "interesting" means "more options, more decisions". I argue exactly that striders fit your idea of "more units", "more decisions" and without them we would have even more just "build more arty" (and even now, you can still win with arty versus striders)

quote:
Remove chance to do stupid thing -> probability % that stupid thing happens goes down.
I would not like a game that forces me to do only "smart" things. I prefer to have some freedom and accept the issues that come with it - trying to teach others why some things at some moments are really a bad idea. Of course this is personal preference, you might prefer a game that "protects more".

quote:
usable statistic for this is trying to pull a trend from games where this happen
My impression based on the games I play is that it happens quite rarely since the strider hub got the energy requirements. So, I don't think it is worth the effort assembling such a statistic. But you are free to do it yourself if you think is worth it. Maybe it could be extracted from the data on units damage I gather with some guesses (like: if there is lot of palladin damage in short game => assume rush). Data described at: http://zero-k.info/Forum/Post/258941#258941

quote:
See spoiler post.
I am not sure about your position. Are more units and options a good or a bad thing? Anyhow I think there are more counters than listed (ex: silo, phantom, etc).

For me the current issue is with the newer, metal rich maps. Too much metal, makes people do fewer costly mistakes (frontline easier to hold) resulting in long games in which you need supers (or droves of striders). Some people like this game types, I try to spec if map changes to one of those and join smaller hosts. (note: at least for me having large games that I don't like encourages me to look more for smaller games - talk about indirect effects....)
+0 / -0

9 months ago
quote:
I argue exactly that striders fit your idea of "more units", "more decisions" and without them we would have even more just "build more arty" (and even now, you can still win with arty versus striders)

You may be arguing past each other. JPrankQrow said:

quote:
I won't go into detail about where to move specific units, make new units, etc - I'm sure plenty of lobsters already have ideas for that

quote:
Move toned down versions of some striders and their various abilities to whatever factory fits them best.

+0 / -0
Btw, another big driver of lategame Strider meta is nukes.
It is hard to protect the frontline with anti-nukes, and any push forward is likely to put your units at risk of being nukeed in the lategame or on high resource maps.
Frontline anti-nukes are easily stunned by missile silo. Even Widow or air could snipe that anti-nuke at low density or inadequate protection.

Units that are below 8000 HP are much more squishy and will be completely destroyed in a much larger radius by nukes than beefier units.

Personally, I put Grizzly, Cyclops, Scorpion and Dante in the same category as they are around the same HP and fast enough to move away from the center of the blast if you can expect the target zone of the blast.
However they are also about as likely to be countered by the various anti-heavy counters that are Widow, Ultimatum, Gnats and Skuttle that can usually kill or disable them in 1 swift blow.

Paladins are the next step up as none of anti-heavy counters are really fitted towards killing it and Ultimatums have been nerfed to degree that they require several shots to take it down and are also too slow to hunt them down.

Personally, I avoid making Paladins and Detriment in the lobpot as they are typically too low impact units as they take too long to pay off and usually go directly for Superweapons instead.
+4 / -0
9 months ago
The biggest driver for endgame striders is they save on metal.

Under normal circumstances striders are very inefficient for their price.

But late game they save a lot of metal when they are able to assault enemy strong points and come back only needing E to be repaired vs M+E to be replaced.

I assumed this was always the intention of late game, though I also don't enjoy strider fights. I think we just need an alternative to the Pala so there is a little more variation.
+2 / -0
9 months ago
So, just to clarify my position on new units - Units should be rearranged or adjusted in a way that makes sense. If a new unit is absolutely required in order to take on the responsibilities of a retired (removed) unit, it should do so in an intuitive manner that allows the abilities it has and the roles it holds to be easily recognizably by the player base.

I feel like this discussion has boiled down to "artillery, superweapons, and pala" being the main offenders of creating this types of hard to navigate, predictable big team game scenarios.

This is naturally a much harder design roadmap to plan out and follow versus just rerouting striders into factory-based units or roles, but I feel like the strider design changes combined with a realistic plan to remove or tone down some of the main superweapon and arty offenders may be a key piece to solving this issue.

Will respond shortly when I have a bit more time to think this out.
+0 / -0
9 months ago
Maybe we just need "late game" assault units in more factorys. Amp has griz, HV has goli, jump has sumo.
+1 / -0
quote:
But late game they save a lot of metal when they are able to assault enemy strong points and come back only needing E to be repaired vs M+E to be replaced.

Exactly, its all about the attrition. A guy like SErankGodde maybe micros smaller units to the same end, but most people have way better odds going big.

quote:
Maybe we just need "late game" assault units in more factorys. Amp has griz, HV has goli, jump has sumo.

Indeed! I'd like to see at least one additional unit roughly the size of dante ("fast lazer assault" maybe), and I'd like to see detri brought down to be a sort of pally alternative.

Also, perhaps I am the only one thinking this, but wouldn't it be cool with a unit or two that specialized in combat reclaim? Not funnelwebs. I mean tanky things. That would be an interesting twist on trench warfare. Its not assaulting you, its stealing that wreckage. Perhaps equipped with a weapon suitable for aiming at slow targets. Or allow some comms to get really tough if enough time passes, so they stand there on the battlefield next to a paladin, doing a touch of fighting but mostly up to mischief. Reclaim, repair, terraform, taunt.

So much potential.
+1 / -0
9 months ago
quote:
jump has sumo.
I wish it had, the real sumo from the original. Slow and armored and shoots kick ass lasers. Few could even challenge a paladin. I wish BA and ZK had a baby(the feeling of fighting from BA and economy from ZK keeping crazy unit count in check). ZK striders are such a meh.
+0 / -0
Old Sumo was unfortunately good at everything. Multi role units aren't as fun. From what I understand it's the biggest game design philosophy in Z-K.
+0 / -0
9 months ago
Yeah, dante and cyclops don't quite cut it as late game assault, more middle game.
+0 / -0
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