COMMENTS ON THE 2V2 LADDER'S TEMPLATE:1-3:
Final Earth is almost 50% larger than Medium Earth (183 vs 131 territories). Yet the starts and wastelands didn't increase. Was this because the ME template already had a bit too many starts? No. Some (myself included) always wanted MORE starts on Medium Earth. So, it could be argued that the ME 2v2 ladder's template itself had too few starts for a 2v2 game.4:
Final Earth has better "standardization of bonuses" than does Medium Earth. With respect to Final Earth, I know the logic behind the design, since maybe 90-95% of the strategic design was of my creation. When Ra and I made Final Earth, I specifically asked for all bonuses to be equal to t-2 (number of territories in the bonus -2). So, 3 territories = 1 army; 4 t = 2 a; 5 t = 3 a; 6 t = 4 a. I also specifically asked that no bonus have more than 6 territories (to keep the t-2 standardization fair and to make almost all non-island bonuses possibly worth picking). When designing Final Earth, I wanted to make a map that would be good for team games, 1v1s and FFAs.
Medium Earth lacks standardization and balance and was not made for team games. With respect to territory-bonus values: 4 t = 3 a; 5 t = 3-4 a; 6 t = 4-5 a; 7 t = 5-6 a. This is fine for 1v1 games: as Fizzer writes on its map page, ME is "tweaked for 1v1 matches." It was not designed for team games. In fact, Fizzer doesn't much care about team games: over 90%-95% of his total games played have been 1v1s and his ladders are focused on 1v1s (20+ seasonals, not a single team season; Warlight is all about the 1v1 ladder; RT ladder is 1v1). If you watch Fizzer's performance in the 2v2 ladder with Szeweningen, he seems utterly confused about proper team tactics and strategy. If he wasn't the creator of Warlight, Szeweningen probably would have stopped playing with him after the first game! So, it is safe to say that Fizzer is incapable of making good team templates without outside assistance. If you don't much understand the dynamics, tactics, and strategies of team games, how can you make a template for team games? Simply using the settings of one map (ME, which was not made for team games, so the settings of the original 2v2 ladder were a bit bad to begin with) on another, bigger map is lazy template making.5-6:
"Optimal starting spots" on "strategic" maps/templates are bonuses with (a) bonus-territory ratios closest to 1 (eg, 6 territories / 6 armies = 1) and (b) 2-6 territories (the quicker you get a bonus that gives at least 2 armies, the more powerful you can be. Thus, the following are optimal starting spots on almost every non-standardized map: 2b/3t, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6).
To get an idea about how many starting spots might be best, let's look at the team template that has undergone the most experimentation: Europe 3v3 (warlords). Europe has the most ratings and second highest average ratings, so the map itself is good. With respect to the warlords 3v3 template that has been played the most, we decided after thousands of games that 4 starting armies is best. Why? Well, Europe has 206 territories and 32 bonuses. It has 10 optimal starting spots and 12 decent starting spots. If we add counters in bad bonuses that are adjacent to the optimal starting spots (depending on warlord location), the board almost always has at least 24 worthwhile picks but never has 30 worthwhile picks. So 3v3 Europe has 4 starts per person (24 total) and not 5 starts per person (30 total).
The ME ladder template had 131 territories and 24 bonuses (the basis of the current 2v2 ladder settings). It had 14 optimal starting spots and 8 decent starting spots, for a total of 22. It's the same as Europe, right? Not really. Spacing and bottlenecks in ME make Europe comparatively more compact, so the decent starting spots on Europe are far better in terms of positioning/countering than are the decent starting spots on ME. Additionally, the decent starting spots on Europe tend to have fewer territories (4-6), while the decent starting spots on ME tend to have 7 starting spots, making Europe's decent starts better than ME's in terms of dynamism (see General Principle #8 above). So, while all of Europe's decent starts are worth picking, only maybe half (at most) of ME's are worth picking. So a better comparison of worthwhile starting spots would be 22 (Europe) vs 18 (ME).
So the ME 2v2 template should have had 8 or 10 starts per team (4-5 per player), right? Not exactly. 2v2s don't play the same as 3v3s. My favorite 2v2 Europe template had 3 starts per person: 10 optimal starts divided by 4 players = 2.5 starts per player. Add in the 2 best counters on the board and we have 3 starts per player. ME had 14 optimal starts, so without wastelands or the gift card a 2v2 template should be played with 4 starts per person: 14 optimal starts + the two best counters on the board. But it also had 5 wastelands and a gift card (General Principle #7). So 3 starts would have been better, or we should have got rid of the gift card and make it 4 starts per person.
Final Earth has the same settings as the ME 2v2 ladder template but it is a completely different map. It has 183 territories and 37 bonuses, including 8 neutral territories and 3 (3-territory) buffer bonuses that provide greater spacing. Most importantly, the bonuses have been standardized (b = t-2) and restricted in size (t = 6 or less). Thus, all bonuses with 2-6 territories are optimal or decent. So, after we subtract the 3 buffer bonuses of 3 territories each, we find that there are 34 bonuses worth picking. So 34/4 players = 8 territories per player? Maybe that would be a fair number of starts, if there aren't any wastelands or gift cards. 7:
But since there are 5 wastelands (subtract 5 worthwhile starting spots, according to General Principle #7), there are more likely to 29 bonuses worth picking. So, the best number of starts for the template should be 7 (29/4 players)? No. According to General Principle #7, gift cards put downward pressure on starting spots). If you have 7 starts per player and a gift card, the game would be less "strategic" and more "fun" (if you like that sort of thing -- I'd consider it a bit of a mess). 8:
Based on General Principle #8 above, top players tend to focus more on bonuses with 4-5 territories when starting spots are decreased. If you watch current 2v2 ladder games, you will see that many of the top teams do this. There are 23 bonuses with 4-5 territories on the map. Subtract 2 for the effect of wastelands and factor in the downward pressure of the gift card and we find that the strategic tendency of the top teams on the 2v2 ladder is a function of the limited number of starting spots.
So, again based on General Principle #8 above, if we increase the number of starting spots to 4 per player, we should witness top players change their picking strategies -- from a focus on dynamism and countering (picks for expansion heavily focused on the 23 bonuses with 4-5 territories) to a focus on long-term growth, higher b-t ratios, and countering (the 27 bonuses with 5-6 territories will be emphasized to a greater degree).
These general principles support the general clamor for 4 starting spots. Add in the effects of wastelands and the downward pressure on starting spots caused by gift cards, and 4 starts seems about right, given the 5 wastelands and gift card.
But let's disregard the effects of Fizzer's settings on top players and instead focus on what a good template's settings should be, to the top players pick and play more based on how they would prefer to pick and play, and not how the settings force them to pick and play. The ideal 2v2 template would be best to follow the inherent logic of the map. 6:
If we return to General Principle #6, we see that the total number of starting spots should be based on the total number of optimal starting spots. In terms of income growth and expansion, Ra and I designed Final Earth so that the bonuses with 5-6 territories (27) would be the optimal starting spots, bonuses with 4 territories (7) would be decent, and bonuses with 3 territories (3) would be buffer zones. If you look more closely, the bonuses worth 2 (4 territories) tend to be situated between or among the optimal bonuses, functioning as buffer zones as well as having good positioning as counters.
With no cards and no wastelands, 27 optimal starts divided by 4 players = about 7 starts per player. If it were a 3v3, 27/6 = about 4-5 starts per player.9:
If we analyze the map from a regio-interconnectivity perspective, however, we find that there are 5 core regions: (1) Anglo-America + Greenland; (2) Latin America; (3) Africa (+/- Middle East); (4) Western Eurasia; (5) Eastern Eurasia. I would classify "Oceania" (SE Asia + Australia + NZ) as a peripheral region.
I would say that Europe has 3 core regions ("Islands" + "Center" + "Russia") and a peripheral region (Balkan Peninsula). The optimal bonuses are located in the first three regions. My favorite Europe 2v2 template has 3 picks per player. Final Earth has 5 core regions. According to General Principle #9, Final Earth 2v2 should have 5 picks per player.
In my example template (https://www.warlight.net/MultiPlayer?TemplateID=488530
) there are 8 wastelands and no gift card. The 27 optimal bonuses comprise about 75% of the map, so let's say 6 of the 8 wastelands are in 6 of the 27 optimal bonuses. That makes 21 optimal bonuses. Based on General Principles #6-7, my template should have 5 starts. Using General Principle #9 and considering the effects of wastelands, 4 starts per player also appears to be acceptable.10-11:
The current ladder template has many cards and weighted luck of 16%. Its "fun" factor is slightly higher and its "strategic" factor is slightly lower. My template is focused more on the "strategic" factor.
Edited 8/23/2015 09:39:16