The way the Needs system works - and why it is flawed

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Novbert
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The way the Needs system works - and why it is flawed

Postby Novbert » Wed Aug 28, 2013 7:55 am

Note, that I don't have insider information on how the Needs system really works, so the below remarks are only supported by experimental evidence. If you think it doesn't work this way, please share your experiences.

While browsing these forums, I've regularly ran into people complaining about the nonsensical way the Needs work. Some says that they see the Food need rising abruptly right after lunchtime, others complain about the fast increase of Hygiene need during sleeping. I think the source of these problems lie in the way the Needs are calculated now.

Intuitively one might suspect that the needs work like this:

1) Needs increase in a linear fashion. If a prisoner has eaten, then after X hour the Food need raises to level1, after 2x hours the need increases to level2 etc.
2) Prisoners fulfill their highest need first if they have a chance to do so.
3) Once need level rises above a certain level, the prisoner becomes 'unhappy', as long as all the needs of a given prisoner are below a certain threshold, they feel 'well-treated'.

My experience is that while 2) and 3) are true, 1) isn't necessarily so.
Yesterday I've played around with my 180 inmate prison. I've set up a kitchen, that is able to produce enough food to feed all the prisoners during breakfast, and enugh breakfast time to let all of them eat. I've also set two additional eating times (one to around noon, and one before bedtime). I've also had showertime set to morning, right after sleeptime. The Shower was scheduled long enough for all my prisoners to clean themselves.

What I've experienced is that - while about 120-130 prisoners are happy through the day, once they go to sleep
- Their food need increases abruptly
- Their Hygiene need also does so

This leads to only about 30-50 happy prisoners at night, which effectively prevents me from doing Shakedowns at night, when it's the simplest to do so.
I've tweaked around with the kitchen setup - removing a couple of cooks and cookers. This led to a kitchen, which isn't able to feed all my prisoners in any of the eating times, yet the overall happyness of my prison has increased. Now about 100 prisoners felt 'well-treated' at night (without any significant change in daytime happyness), making me able to do the regular shakedown at that time.

Which led me to this conclusion:
- Needs don't increase in a linear way. Once a need gets fulfilled, it doesn't increase for a while, it only starts increasing after a given amount of time.

The effect is that in my original setup - where virtually all of my prisoners got a healthy shower in the morning and filled their stomach right after that - only a couple of prisoners ate during lunch and supper, and only a couple of prisoners had showers during the day; but once sleeptime arrived and their 'need timer' reached zero, these needs started to increase for many of them, and increase very fast.

For me that sounds rather counter-intuitive. Bottomline I've created a more successful prison by employing less cooks.
The above theory also implies that Hygiene need doesn't increase that fast during sleeptime because prisoners do dirty things in their beds; it increases because most of them had a shower long ago, and the built in delay in the Hygiene needs starts to increase this need about 12-18 hours after the latest shower.

I'm not sure how these problems could be solved but here are some ideas:
- Needs should increase in a linear fashion - depending on the activity the prisoner performs.
I think this is more intuitive and prevents sudden changes of them - or changes would at least correlate with the regime in a more understandable way (i.e. no abrupt changes in Hygiene need during sleeptime)

- Prisoners should not only focus on fulfillment of their highest need, but also on the probability of fulfilling that given need in the near future.
This one is harder, yet I think something like this would be necessary. The fact that prisoners don't eat supper, while it's apparent that their food need will pass the 'bad feelings' threshold soon (i.e. it's known that they'll get very hungry at midnight) should have an effect on how they choose the needs thes fulfill. Prisoners should be smart enough to eat supper if they are close to the hunger threshold (or have a shower if they are close to the Hygiene threshold) especially if the regime is set up in a way that they know that they won't be able to fulfill their need at that time. I know it sounds a bit convoluted, and really hard to implement but I also think that it's more intuitive than the current system.

What do you think?
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Postby Spectre Incarnate » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:46 am

Um...... I like cake? :D

...


No, I'm kidding. I did read i all. I agree, I think the current Needs system should be looked over sometime. To me, it most resembles The Sims, in which a Sim will take it upon him/herself to fulfill the most urgent Need and that will very often mean that another Need that is actually more important might get completely ignored and then they go to work without eating breakfast. The difference is, in The Sims you as the player can interfere and force a different task if required, whereas you can't do that in PA. You can't directly tell prisoners what they should be doing, so they end up causing themselves problems and somehow that makes it all your fault as warden. :?

This makes me curious about how Dwarf Fortress handles all the Needs of the dwarves, cause you have no control over them individually just like PA, but yet they seem to be pretty damn self-sufficient. They generally know what is best to take care of before it becomes a problem as long as accomodations and supplies are provided for.
Last edited by Spectre Incarnate on Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Novbert » Wed Aug 28, 2013 11:56 am

Spectre Incarnate wrote:Um...... I like cake? :D

...


No, I'm kidding. I did read i all. I agree, I think the current Needs system should be looked over sometime. To me, it most resembles The Sims, in which a Sim will take it upon him/herself to fulfill the lowest Need and that will very often mean that another Need that is actually more important might get completely ignored and then they complain to the sky. The difference is, in The Sims you as the player can interfere and force a different task if required, whereas you can't do that in PA. You can't directly tell prisoners what they should be doing, so they end up causing themselves problems and somehow that makes it all your fault as warden. :?


Yeah, the situation would be rather different if PA would work like Sims i.e. there would be no regime, and you'd have to micromanage prisoner activities based on needs. You can still do it tweaking the regime all the time, but it's rather tiresome.

Spectre Incarnate wrote:This makes me curious about how Dwarf Fortress handles all the Needs of the dwarves, cause you have no control over them individually just like PA, but yet they seem to be pretty damn self-sufficient. They generally know what is best to take care of before it becomes a problem as long as accomodations and supplies are provided for.


The DF model is much simpler. Dwarfs fulfill their needs whenever they want and that (might) cause them various 'good thougths'. They eat when they want, they drink when they want, sleep when they want. If their need can't be fulfilled - or not in the way they want - they'll have 'bad thoughts' (sleeping under the sky; eating without a proper dining room). It's as simple as that. The way their needs increase or decrease is rather irrelevant as they don't leave on a schedule - your only carpenter will leave his workshop if he gets sleepy/hungry/thirsty, even if you've assigned tons of work to that workshop beforehand.
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Postby _alphaBeta_ » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:11 pm

I think a big part of what you're talking about revolves around the fact that prisoners currently do not fulfill a need unless the need is high enough. As I say here, prisoners won't eat during the "eat" regime unless they've reached a certain hunger threshold. So if you have two hours dedicated to eating, there's still some prisoners that aren't hungry enough to bother eating. Then ten minutes after, on their way to work or back to their cell, they decide they're hungry and the next mealtime is hours away.

Same goes for the shower. I've seen prisoners stand in the shower for two hours and then realize they needed a shower shortly after.

This becomes really profound with larger prisons since the minority of prisoners that are "off sequence" becomes larger and quite a problem. An easy way to fix this is to simply have prisoners "top off" their needs during the appropriate times. Along this line of thinking, during the shower regime all prisoners should shower and reset their hygiene need regardless of the current hygiene need. Same for food.

As my linked post above says, I'm not sure how realistic this is, but I would think in prison you eat and shower when you can despite whatever mood you're currently in. Only potential con here is that this would make managing needs even easier than it is now. I've had the opinion for a while now that needs should be harder to control but have less extensive consequences, at least at first. This would promote more minor incidents, and a full-scale riot would only ensue if you leave the bad situation for a while.
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Postby Novbert » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:30 pm

_alphaBeta_ wrote:As my linked post above says, I'm not sure how realistic this is, but I would think in prison you eat and shower when you can despite whatever mood you're currently in. Only potential con here is that this would make managing needs even easier than it is now. I've had the opinion for a while now that needs should be harder to control but have less extensive consequences, at least at first. This would promote more minor incidents, and a full-scale riot would only ensue if you leave the bad situation for a while.


I'd totally support that. It would make much more sense if prisoners would prioritize eating and showering in the designated timeframe considering how little time you can generally assign to fulfill those needs. About your second note on how easy it would make to manage needs - this is Beta stuff and should be addressed in that phase. Personally I think that the entire game is way to easy as it is now, so I wouldn't mind if it would be made just a bit easier if this is the price for making the needs system more reasonable.
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Postby Spectre Incarnate » Wed Aug 28, 2013 12:48 pm

Novbert wrote:Yeah, the situation would be rather different if PA would work like Sims i.e. there would be no regime, and you'd have to micromanage prisoner activities based on needs. You can still do it tweaking the regime all the time, but it's rather tiresome.

Not saying it should be like The Sims, just that it kind of is currently and that doesn't really make much sense because you can't deal with individual issues that come up. And yeah, I've fiddled with the regime on a daily basis some and it is a hassle. Usually end up forgetting somewhere down the line that the cooks need four hours to prepare food.. lol

Novbert wrote:The way their needs increase or decrease is rather irrelevant as they don't leave on a schedule - your only carpenter will leave his workshop if he gets sleepy/hungry/thirsty, even if you've assigned tons of work to that workshop beforehand.

Oh right, good point. No schedule... duh.
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Postby henke37 » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:03 pm

Simple solution: drastically lower the minimum need level while the regime says that they should do something.
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Postby _alphaBeta_ » Wed Aug 28, 2013 1:42 pm

henke37 wrote:Simple solution: drastically lower the minimum need level while the regime says that they should do something.

This may be a good compromise. This way we don't have prisoners eating if they have absolutely no hunger need. But they will eat if they have even the slightest hunger need.
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Postby Xoligy » Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:15 pm

Everything needs tweeking, but this will not happen till beta stages we all know this.
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Postby xander » Wed Aug 28, 2013 10:50 pm

I am a little curious as to why you think that needs should be / are linear in nature. Personally, I would probably model them logistically. To me, this makes intuitive sense. Once you have eaten, you feel full for a while, and your level of hunger increases slowly for a while. Then the need to eat becomes more intense, and you are HUNGRY. If you continue to not eat, you may get hungrier, but your level of dissatisfaction increases less quickly because, relatively speaking, you are still HUNGRY. There is then also a maximum possible level of hunger, after which you die.

Again, this is what my intuition says should happen---I have no idea what the game is doing. However, if this is what is going on, it might be relatively easy for the period of maximum slope to occur right after a designated time for a eating or showering, leading to a rapid increase in the need just after such time.

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Postby Novbert » Thu Aug 29, 2013 7:32 am

xander wrote:I am a little curious as to why you think that needs should be / are linear in nature. Personally, I would probably model them logistically. To me, this makes intuitive sense. Once you have eaten, you feel full for a while, and your level of hunger increases slowly for a while. Then the need to eat becomes more intense, and you are HUNGRY. If you continue to not eat, you may get hungrier, but your level of dissatisfaction increases less quickly because, relatively speaking, you are still HUNGRY. There is then also a maximum possible level of hunger, after which you die.

Again, this is what my intuition says should happen---I have no idea what the game is doing. However, if this is what is going on, it might be relatively easy for the period of maximum slope to occur right after a designated time for a eating or showering, leading to a rapid increase in the need just after such time.

xander


Actually I don't really mind how exactly the needs are modelled as long as common sense scenarios work.
- If I set up three mealtimes distributed equally during daytime, and my cooks are able to produce enough food for each to feed the entire population, I don't think hunger should reach a near-riot levels every morning.
- Similarly - if I set up enough time each day for each prisoner to have one shower, I'd expect them not to complain about hygiene the next day just before showertime.
Whether the needs increase in a linear or sigmoid fashion is indifferent.
As I see the problem here is that prisoners are forced to follow a regime, but they don't fulfill their needs based on the regime.
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Postby Ric666 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:15 am

Novbert wrote:- Similarly - if I set up enough time each day for each prisoner to have one shower, I'd expect them not to complain about hygiene the next day just before showertime.

Why wouldn't they? It's been a day since they've had one.

Novbert wrote:As I see the problem here is that prisoners are forced to follow a regime, but they don't fulfill their needs based on the regime.

Can you post a pic of your regime? Do you use a lot of freetime? they're not great at deciding during freetime what to do(usually just go to the toilet all the time..lol) & never fulfill their needs aswell compared to using stricter regimes.
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Postby Novbert » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:01 am

Ric666 wrote:
Novbert wrote:- Similarly - if I set up enough time each day for each prisoner to have one shower, I'd expect them not to complain about hygiene the next day just before showertime.

Why wouldn't they? It's been a day since they've had one.


Oor even an entire year if you consider gametime (sentence-time)! That must be rough :D
Seriously, I'd expect these guys not to behave like Disney Princesses who need a good bath twelve times a day. They should be fine even if a day is passing without them having a shower.

Ric666 wrote:
Novbert wrote:As I see the problem here is that prisoners are forced to follow a regime, but they don't fulfill their needs based on the regime.

Can you post a pic of your regime? Do you use a lot of freetime? they're not great at deciding during freetime what to do(usually just go to the toilet all the time..lol) & never fulfill their needs as well compared to using stricter regimes.

[/quote]
The start of the day looks generally like this:
- 6 hours of Sleep
- 1 hour for Shower
- 2 hours for Eating
+2 hours of eating at noon, and 2 hours before sleep.

It's not that regime-dependent though. The point is that if there's enough food for them to fill their stomach in the morning, they won't eat too much for lunch and supper, but start whining about hunger right after sleeptime starts.
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Postby Ric666 » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:17 am

Novbert wrote:Or even an entire year if you consider gametime (sentence-time)! That must be rough :D
Seriously, I'd expect these guys not to behave like Disney Princesses who need a good bath twelve times a day. They should be fine even if a day is passing without them having a shower.

But in a needs based game, there has to be some sort of threshold. A daily shower seems sensible to me. After all, this is the least you should have unless you want to stink ;)

Novbert wrote:The start of the day looks generally like this:
- 6 hours of Sleep
- 1 hour for Shower
- 2 hours for Eating
+2 hours of eating at noon, and 2 hours before sleep.


Try cutting out 1 of your eat times & see if that makes a difference. 3 times a day seems a bit extreme to me. I'm half tempted to mine down to once a day but I work my prisoners like a beast so they need 2 eating times. This may allow them to get into more of a rhythm of eating instead of having 3 times to eat in a day. It may or may not upset the balance. Just a thought.

6 hours of sleep?! you're too kind :P Mine get 4 if they're lucky..lol...although I set 1-2 hours freetime before bedtime so if they need to sleep more they can pop too bed early. :)
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Postby Novbert » Thu Aug 29, 2013 1:08 pm

Ric666 wrote:But in a needs based game, there has to be some sort of threshold. A daily shower seems sensible to me. After all, this is the least you should have unless you want to stink ;)


If they can survive on 4 hours of sleep daily, I don't think they shouldn't be bothered by a little bit of smell.

Ric666 wrote:
Try cutting out 1 of your eat times & see if that makes a difference. 3 times a day seems a bit extreme to me. I'm half tempted to mine down to once a day but I work my prisoners like a beast so they need 2 eating times. This may allow them to get into more of a rhythm of eating instead of having 3 times to eat in a day. It may or may not upset the balance. Just a thought.

6 hours of sleep?! you're too kind :P Mine get 4 if they're lucky..lol...although I set 1-2 hours freetime before bedtime so if they need to sleep more they can pop too bed early. :)


Actually it only underpins my argument on how flawed the needs system currently is. I think that the needs logic should at least push the player into the direction of providing prisoners a chance to eat three times a day and sleep eight hours a day. And it shouldn't 'punish' players who actually set up such things.

About your comments on my regime: I stick to the 6 hours of sleep because it seems sustainable for me. Any smaller amount seems to lead to ever increasing sleep need - even with free time before - though I haven't done too much experimentation on it to see the long term effects. And I maintain 3 meals a day to control contraband: With metal detectors at the entrances of my kitchen I can make sure that all my prisoners get screened about 6 times a day. Maybe an overkill, but anyway, I like it this way.

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