What do you think of the new patents system?

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What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby TwiceCircled » Tue Aug 04, 2015 2:13 pm

See title.

EDIT: Thought I might add a few questions to help get people rolling:

1. Did the addition make your game any more fun?
2. Do the AIs use patents effectively?
3. Do patents seem overpowered or underpowered or neither?
4. Are there any cool strategies you've come across?
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby arne.kiesewetter » Tue Aug 04, 2015 4:41 pm

Well, one thing about them that made me go "that's not how patents work!" was when the AI got a patent that blocked something I produced before them... I guess it means that they use it effectively, but it's also not how real patents work, as in, that your patent application is invalid if someone can show that they produced something before you.

However when you are first to create x-drug with no side effects and are raking in a good profit, it's quite nice to be able to patent it, even though you don't really get a feedback on whether the AI is affected by it, if you don't reverse what I described before.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby Tallinu » Wed Aug 05, 2015 8:55 am

I just got the game a couple days ago, after watching youtube video series on it for almost a week, and constantly grumbling at the screen about how "you don't have to do that" or "no, you really can make that work, just..." and stuff like that. Needless to say, I'm hooked. The random generation of everything is such a wonderful change from games like SpaceChem or even Factorio (which I absolutely love) - making all these clunky machines fit and do something wonderful with the amazing or awful ingredients you're presented with in any given game is a

Needless to say, the patents caught me completely flat-footed in my first game since I hadn't seen them in any of those videos, and I suddenly found myself unable to sell 2/3 of my drugs and ended up so far in debt I abandoned the game. But then I achieved an "expert" and "master" level in two intermediate games (would've been two "masters" if I'd been one month faster on getting that anti-anxiety medicine line actually set up instead of just planning for it and working on my bottom line - I sold far more than required but despite an excellent rating the successes didn't come until Feb).

I've played most of an advanced game now too, and I have a much better idea of how to deal with the early patent war. If the AI is selling something, you have to be prepared to either patent it before they can, be diverse and ready to switch drugs around when necessary, and/or get into level two products as quickly as possible to simply stay ahead of them. There's the potential to really stick it to an AI that doesn't diversify enough at the start if you can quickly snatch up a really good level 1 patent - in my latest game, one of them simply never recovered and is stuck even now with a 23% profit margin and under half my number of products with nothing higher than level two (the AIs generally outstrip the number of drugs you can sell by far, seemingly unlimited on the floorspace they can acquire).

For the most part, I like it - although some of the more litigious AIs have a tendency to kick you out of the few decent early drug markets as soon as they get a chance, and if you aren't prepared, sufficiently diversified (which is really hard early on), or don't research patents fast and go for broke with loans so you can afford to protect your better selling products before they can, you can end up in a lot of trouble.

Even worse (especially in the early game), if you try but the AI gets a patent before yours finishes, losing 50% of the money you put into the attempt on top of suddenly no longer being able to sell it can hurt far worse than having not tried to patent it at all. You lose not just the investment of money (and time) in setting up the equipment, plus whatever amount of ingredients and processing costs are sitting on the belts unsold, you also lose half of what you put in to try to protect that investment - and losing $10k in the early game can really hurt even if it didn't block you from selling something. This is one area that might need more consideration. Getting locked out early with no saleable products and no money to change matters sucks.

On the other hand, I do like the balancing of longer duration patents taking longer to file (as well as more money), increasing the risk that an AI would get a shorter patent first. And if you can afford to go for a 3+ year patent, you can most likely afford to lose that money. The discount on two and three year patents not continuing or increasing with longer or shorter terms seems a little odd. I wouldn't have expected a dip in the middle like that.


One of the biggest issues with patents, though:

The AIs generate SO MANY new drugs, so frequently, that it's hard to keep track and identify ones which are actually a patent threat. Having all such "new product" notifications fall into a single notification category is rather limiting - you either ignore all of them, or you have to try to sort the important ones from the chaff. Going to the company screen and reviewing the limited information visible per column every time would be a huge nuisance, but the notification doesn't always give you enough information either.

Also, when it states that a product is "in direct competiton" with one of yours, that doesn't mean they're the same for patent purposes. And you can't hide notifications about products that aren't in competition with yours, in full or in part (I don't care if someone releases a basic antihistamine that "competes" with my antihistamine, cold, cough, and painkiller - that's not competition, that's a joke)... Nor can you hide all notifications EXCEPT for when AIs start producing drugs you're already selling that are identical for patent purposes. That event needs a unique message with big, obvious warnings.

(Also, the "BOOOO!" every time I have to read through one of those notices to check if it's a patent threat gets really annoying after a while, can we have a way to turn that off? :) Please?)
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby Azivegu » Wed Aug 05, 2015 11:22 pm

I like the patents, but some balancing issues would be nice.
For one, a patent can be ignored if you can prove you where making the product before the patent applier made theres. Maybe if you apply for a patent, the only people being blocked are those who start selling there product after the patent went into effect, while anyone who sells the drug before the patent can keep on producing.
This will hurt me greatly, but I did notice that when I started generating a profit, I would often just develop a drug and patent it out of spite so the other company would have to cease their production. Although fun, I think it is a bit unfair.

Also I feel that the costs for a patent may be a bit on the high side. Maybe the price of the patent application process goes up as the game progresses so that the relative investment in a patent stays somewhat equal throughout the game.

But I am on the edge on these arguments. I definitely like the patents, but my points I feel are up for a healthy debate. Maybe someone else can show me the light of other paths?
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby SCHMID6SIG » Sat Aug 08, 2015 10:37 pm

Will try to answer more comprehensively after more experience, but for now I have 3 questions:

1) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (adding/removing some effect)?

2) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (alternate delivery, e.g. pill, cream, syringe, sachet)?

3) Do AI's employ either above strategy when a patent (theirs) expires?

I haven't observed either behavior but perhaps am playing wrong scenarios/not enough experience yet.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby Omnirach » Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:30 am

SCHMID6SIG wrote:Will try to answer more comprehensively after more experience, but for now I have 3 questions:

1) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (adding/removing some effect)?

2) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (alternate delivery, e.g. pill, cream, syringe, sachet)?

3) Do AI's employ either above strategy when a patent (theirs) expires?

I haven't observed either behavior but perhaps am playing wrong scenarios/not enough experience yet.


I had an AI swap to making a cream of one drug with no side effects as I was patenting a pill. Once the patent came through they also started making a syringe. The cream seemed almost pre-emptive to my patent.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby TwiceCircled » Sun Aug 09, 2015 3:43 pm

Thanks for all the feedback guys, it's really useful. For the most part what I'm taking from this is that the patent system is pretty good but could use a couple of tweaks to reduce the frustration associated with it. Here's what I plan to do:

1. Tweak the wording on the new competitor product message so that if it is identical to one of your products from a patent perspective, it says so.
2. Add two new settings to control which new competitor product messages you receive:
- 'In competition' - only tells the player when an ai product is in competition with one of the player's IE shares an active cure
- 'patent threat' only tells the player when an ai product is identical to one of the player's IE shares all active cures and side-effects.

I believe this will help make patents feel more "fair". If the player gets a heads-up that a product might be patented soon they know the risk they are taking if they don't diversify/patent themselves.

In response to other stuff I've read:
Azivegu said the cost seemed a bit high, but Tallinu said that in the early game a particularly aggressive AI (Barclay or Tess most likely) can really cripple you with patents. Therefore I would say that the cost is probably about right, if a patent can be this powerful then it's not fair if it is cheap. Suffice to say the AIs are probably crippling their own profits along with yours! ><

arne.kiesewetter noted that the in-game implementation is not true to life and they are right. However I've said on many occasions before where I am on the realism vs playability discussion -> playability always has priority. I feel that the alternate implementation (companies already producing the product are not affected) would really take the sting out of the mechanic. For a long time people have commented on the lack of interaction with the AI in Big Pharma and I think with patents added, there is finally a real need to keep an eye on what your competitors are doing.

SCHMID6SIG asked:
1) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (adding/removing some effect)?
Not in the current build, in fact they never even try to remove side-effects for any reason. This will be added in the next round of AI improvements.

2) Do AI's attempt to get around existing patent that player has (alternate delivery, e.g. pill, cream, syringe, sachet)?
Yes.

Thanks again for the feedback.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby SCHMID6SIG » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:50 pm

Curious on why I'm seeing an AI w/ a Patent Cost of only $10,000? (on the "Company" tab).

My basic/lowest patent costs $20,000. (Duration = 12 months, Cost = $20,000, Draft Period = 3 months).
My Co. tab also shows patent cost of $20,000 (I've only applied for one).
Do AI's get cheaper patents? Is it in work? Is patent cost randomized (before launching a game)?

TimTC mentions Barclay or Tess as being aggressive AI's. If it matters, mine is Hard Hat guy, which is "Chan " I guess.
The AI file shows "patentValueThreshold" 150, and 180 respectively for those two, but Chan's is 300. (like most other AI's).
Neither of my two AIs has actually patented anything yet, so I guess it is in Draft Period.

----------------

Also, both my competitors were producing the patented product (Pill, "Alleviates Insomnia", no side effects). It now disappeared from their company tabs.
For a bit it showed on both tabs and showed patent icon (w/ "My Patent" on it, or similar wording).
Never noticed AI drugs disappearing before... is that b/c of the patent? If so, what happens when the patent expires?
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby SCHMID6SIG » Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:12 pm

SCHMID6SIG wrote:Curious on why I'm seeing an AI w/ a Patent Cost of only $10,000? (on the "Company" tab).
...
----------------
Also, both my competitors were producing the patented product (Pill, "Alleviates Insomnia", no side effects). It now disappeared from their company tabs.
For a bit it showed on both tabs and showed patent icon (w/ "My Patent" on it, or similar wording).
Never noticed AI drugs disappearing before... is that b/c of the patent? If so, what happens when the patent expires?


I think I can answer my own question. From the info in strings-en.dat (shown below), I think the AI patent application was "CANCELLED" and it got a 50% refund from the $20,000 it applied.
===========
// PATENT CANCELLED
{"code":"patentcancelled","text":"Patent cancelled!"},
{"code":"patentcancelledtext","text":"{0} have completed a rival patent forcing you to cancel your own application.\n\nIt covers any &BPBLUE>{1}&W> with the following active effects: {2}&W>\n\nYou have been issued with a 50% refund."},
============
I still don't know the answer to the 2nd part, but guessing that I happened to see the 2 AI screens just when my patent went into effect and they had not yet stopped their production line.
FWIW, in my case when my patent expired, neither of the 2 AI's started producing that drug combo again.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby james.braley » Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:53 am

TwiceCircled wrote:See title.

EDIT: Thought I might add a few questions to help get people rolling:

1. Did the addition make your game any more fun?
2. Do the AIs use patents effectively?
3. Do patents seem overpowered or underpowered or neither?
4. Are there any cool strategies you've come across?


1. Yes and no. I think that it's an interesting thing to add in and would actually be really interesting if anybody added in a way to play the game multiplayer. But as it stands it's something I will leave on in about 40% of my saves and disable via the custom map options of disabling that tech research (given that disabling tech disables it for the AI as well, it should but I haven't spent enough time testing things out to make sure it does). So as long as it stays an option for custom maps to disable and not forced into custom maps its a good addition.

2. I have only seen the AI create two patents both of things I wasn't making anyways but where profitable things at the time, so yes it did seem to not just pick something to patent willy nilly and actually choose something that made sense.

3. I would say neither if your production line of that cure stops until the patent is up, but what I would say is that having espionage (or what ever it's called) I noticed that the AI was gaining research and ingredients at a much faster rate then is possible for a player to get, I made a save with cheap scientists and explorers and started with espionage (or what ever its called) to see how fast the AI grew compared to me, and the AI filled out all 15 ingredients and about 95% of the tech tree in the same time I had about 9 or 10 ingredients and about 60% of the tech tree even with 75 scientists and 75 explorers all doing as much research as quickly as possible. So some how the AI was learning things quicker then is possible for the player with both people having infinite research resources.

4. Nothing that isn't just common sense. Most of my play so far since this last patch has been mostly doing stuff like in question 3 of screwing with custom map settings to see how different mechanics work of tech that would take a really long time to get in a non cheaty save. Mainly because like Factorio I don't want to spend 20-40 hours playing one map on normal difficulty to only have an update entirely break the map having to start from scratch (Which is why all my new maps on Factorio right now all have large ore deposits that are all plentiful just to quickly get to the newer additions when the updates break the map).

All in all, I am really enjoying this game so far, only thing that I can think of that I would like to see added that would make for some interesting machine set ups is maybe having some ingredients have zero positive effects but have some of the negitive effects be able to morph into positive effects, something like plant madusaous has the negitive effects of paralysis and asphyxiation where diluting it down a lot and then sending it through an autoclave changes paralysis into mussel strengthening (because people want figurative rock hard abs but they don't want literal rock hard abs). Obviously that's a silly example, but the point of having ingredients that start with 2 negatives and no positives being able to become something good (and valuable) could be interesting.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby SketchyGalore » Sun Aug 16, 2015 2:55 pm

My opinion of patents was a bit of a rollercoaster. I heard the idea and thought it was neat, read about it and felt a little dubious, played it and didn't like it, got used to it and now I kinda love it.

1. So, originally, my first playthrough with patents destroyed my company unexpectedly, which wasn't too fun! I was putting a lot of faith into one cure and took out a big loan to patent it, only to have a rival patent it first. With no fallback options or research tricks (delivery methods etc), there was no way to come back from it. It was interesting, but I'm not sure it was fun and I can see people unfamiliar with the system being very put off by it. However, once I got the hang of it, I can't imagine the competition portion of the game without it. Before patents, competitors were just kind of an annoyance to occasionally work around. With patents, there are a lot more nasty tricks they can pull (boo!) and, more importantly, tricks I can pull to effect them directly (yay!). So, ultimately it did make the game more fun, but also potentially more daunting for the uninitiated.

2. As the above story suggested, I'd say yes! I would actually suggest a tweak to how industrial espionage works with patents, as (I believe) it currently requires max level research to see when a rival is working on a patent. It would be nice if that information came sooner or easier somehow, since it seems very integral to playing the "patent game", like being able to outspeed a rival or plan ahead when your giant production line is suddenly going to stop working. Since patents are so expensive, it seems like it would still be a challenge to respond to those situations, perhaps even better if the player was given "patent pending" notices, but no indication as to how long the patent was going to take without espionage.

3. Certain parts of patents seem unbalanced, but the core idea seems to be on point. The point that made me understand and start liking patents was the idea that they expire and can't be renewed. That made the whole system make sense! It puts more emphasis on the idea of evolving the company, coming up with new drugs as opposed to relying on "set it and forget it" systems like I did in the past, and encouraging those quick money situations (I never responded to global events before patents, for example). One part that seemed too punishing was the refund for being beaten out, since as I said in point #1, that can be quite crippling. I wonder if a flat refund might be better, so failing a cheap early-game patent was less punishing, while a more expensive patent would be a greater risk. I also thought the patent development times were a bit too long for higher level patents, and it seemed like in a situation where I actually needed a patent to protect a product, buying a long patent would be too much of a risk, and I'd always prefer the short term/public domain route to risking having nothing at all. The only other thing that I was unsure of was how easy it is to circumvent patents in certain situations. It seemed like later in the game, 95% of patent issues could be solved by switching a pill printer to a creamer, or something simple like that. It's hard to say if it would be too frustrating, but I'd like to be able to cover more possibilities with my patents. Maybe instead of adjusting the length of my patent, I could adjust its scope, paying twice as much to lock down all delivery methods by patenting the ingredient list, or something similar. Currently this could be done by making, say, multiple versions of the same drug under different deliveries and patenting each one, but it'd be nice to be able to streamline this through the patent process itself.
I also found it a bit difficult to tell what the actual "payout" of a patent is, but it did seem like they were mostly there to stop other companies from patenting first, not to protect or enhance profits. I'm not sure if this was intended or not.

4. The most common strategy I've come up with so far is the one I mentioned before, coming to the conclusion that I'd rather have a drug be on an expired patent rather than losing out on it entirely, and going for a cheap patent ASAP just to make sure. I'm not too fond of this strategy though, since it's basically paying to circumvent the patent system entirely and make the game like it was. There were a few times, though, that I made a really evil spiteful patent and just watched an opposing company's numbers dwindle...

I'm hoping as the game evolves, there'll be even more ways to both attack competitors and see my effects on them. Patents were a really good step towards making competition feel... well, competitive! I can imagine brutal long games battling it out for corporate supremacy in the future, bringing down companies entirely and using more devious tactics to manipulate the market in my favor... For the good of everyone's health, of course!

-Sketchy Medco
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby pablo.gomez » Sun Aug 16, 2015 4:31 pm

Hi,
patent system is nice, but I would like to be able to patent not only the form I am selling. Of course, paying a lot more, I would like to patent cream, pills, sachets... (select all of them, or some of them..,) at the same time, even if I do not produce them. If this is done, you would be able to patent delivery form you have already researched. (again, paying a lot more). Adding more possibilities to the patents will make the game awesome. (200.000.000 for a lifetime patent? :D:D)

I would like to suggest also a "new system" for discover ingredients. What if every plant or insect is able to have up to 4 ingredients (or more). Some of them useless, some only with negative chemicals... etc etc (lots of possibilities in here). This way, you can research a plant several times to analyze all the chemicals on it... and... be able to patent compunds!!

What about being able to synthesize chemicals in bioreactors? It is expensive to set up the bioreactors, but onces they are running the products is cheap. And... why not sell some of this synthetic ingredients to other companies? Maybe... a bonus in your products because you are not destroying the forest, and instead you are producing your stuff.

Thanks for this awesome game Tim, and I hope my english is understandable.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby pablo.gomez » Sun Aug 16, 2015 5:02 pm

PS:

1. Did the addition make your game any more fun? Yes. I bit dissapointed about how just changing between final form alouds to sell the same product.
2. Do the AIs use patents effectively? I think they tend to patent stupids things at the begining, but in the late game I have seen how the only patent good cures, I did not pay attention to AI fighting each other, and I´ve been affected twice by a patent.
3. Do patents seem overpowered or underpowered or neither? For me they are underpowered. I would like to see how a good patent destroy one AI business forcing him to die or reinvent.
4. Are there any cool strategies you've come across? It´s possible to mimic the most profitable chemical of other AI and patent it for 6 years... but is not funny :D
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby MeduSalem » Sat Aug 22, 2015 8:35 pm

I like the patent system as it is working currently...

I really like that one can avoid a patent by just activating/deactivating various sideeffects or combining several cures to create a new pill/cream that has the same cure effects but better/worse than an already patented one. This gives some real strategy as to what is worth patenting and what is not and how to get a workaround to some patents.



The only major problem I have been experiencing several times though is that some of the AIs are not quite well balanced:

- On easier settings it's pretty easy to overcome the AI and prevent them from selling anything at all because they take too long to get to patents.
- On normal to harder settings it pretty much depends on luck which AI (due to their internal AI priorities/preferences on what to research/specialize on) you get paired with and which Ingredients/Cures as well as rooms are available to you.

The later showed to be problematic for me more than once because the AI starts doing the same with me as I would do to easier AI. They will basically patent EVERYTHING in one turn once they researched patents and then you are completely locked out of selling anything which leaves you with a major problem because sometimes you don't see it coming because it takes nearly forever to get enough upgrade points for the industrial espionage to finally see if somebody is patenting something.

And why didn't I see it coming or patented it myself? Because I don't have nearly as much cashflow as the AI! And why is that?

Well to answer... That's the real problem I found which didn't matter as much before patents were a thing... It's basically the way the AI is too overpowered right from the beginning. It seems like they are not really restricted by room design or belt/machine layouts like the human player is. They don't have to face any space restrictions and thereby are able to build like 3-4 times the capacity of producing one single cure and they are ramping up their production rate much faster than a human player could possibly do.

With the additional money they gain in return they are able to progress through the tech tree in a much faster rate than the average human player and that's why they will reach patents much ealier than the human player does and then the game is basically screwed at that point in my opinion because after that it's a race to even be able to fulfill some of the challenges because once you come up with an alternative cure the AI will have the money to patent that as well before you can do the same because they try to compete with you. And all that because you lack the cashflow to change the production line, research another ingredient and patent that in one go.

The patent-lockout isn't forever, yes, but it severely hampers some of the challenges if you have bad luck because the AI patented exactly the one you need to complete the challenge.



The only way I think this can be fixed in a reasonable way is to give the AI the same space/layout restrictions the player has to face. Like giving them the same amount of "buildsquares" (the total combined number of all squares in all rooms)... and then each time they build a new production line the production line removes a certain value of "space" from the available buildsquares.

How much "space" a production line takes up should depend on the average complexity of a cure of course. (Which can be easily measured by trying various cures at different levels and build production lines and count the amount of squares it needs and calculate an average).

At least that would make it much more feasable to compete with AI, because they have to face "nearly" the same space restrictions as a human player. They wouldn't be able to cramp more virtual production lines in their factory than actual buildspace available.
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Re: What do you think of the new patents system?

Postby MeduSalem » Sat Aug 22, 2015 9:01 pm

After some more scrolling through the forum I actually found TwiceCircled's official statement about the issue of over-expanding AIs:

viewtopic.php?f=49&t=12745#p76029

So seems like the AI does have some calculation of how long a production line is and thereby how much space it needs, sort of. But it doesn't have a max room/space limitation and that's why the AI will at somepoint inevitably outperform the player at an exponential rate no matter what.

I think that this needs to be changed. They should have a max cap like the player has. Otherwise they become completely annoying. Not only because they are sophisticated patent-trolls but also because they kill the entire market by insane oversaturation (which is something I also find awkward) in an attempt to drive other AIs and the player out of business.

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