Making Heroes Interesting...

By on January 28, 2009 6:04:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Aeon

Join Date 03/2008
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It would be great if the heroes in Elemental are not merely powerful units, but characters that the player really gets involved with. These are some ideas I have drawing from general fantasy themes.

1) Hero Groups

Heroes may belong to groups e.g. Knightly Orders, Wizards Councils, Royal Families, Assasins Guilds, etc. These groups are entities in the games that may become affiliated with factions permanently, or until some task or quest has been performed. They may switch allegience through the course of the game. Having buildings related to a particular group could increase your standing with that group, or increase that heroes from that group will work for you. If a member of a group if killed while in your service then that group might send another hero to average the fallen, or conversely become hostile towards you blaming you for the death. A player's hero who evolves to a particular level might be offered membership of one of these groups giving the player's faction and/or the hero certain abilities/advantages.

2) Legendary Items

When a hero is killed some of his/her abilities become instilled in a piece of their equipment. This becomes a legendary item and takes their name e.g. Crown of Bob, Ring of Dave, Sword of Simon, Wand of Mike (but with better fantasy names). There is then a natural instinct for the player to redeem the item and average the death of the fallen hero. If they are sucessful then can give the legendary item to another hero/unit, but obviously this item could be used against them in the meantime.

3) Interesting Story Arcs for Heroes

Betrayal, Redemption, Corruption,  Exile. These sort of themes are fantasy staples. Whilst it might be aggravating to have a hero corrupted and defect from your faction, you'd be delighted to bribe away your enemies finest. A hero might be forced into exile in the wilderness only to return stronger. The corruption of good characters and the redemption of evil ones makes for much more interesting heroes and a game with a strong role playing theme as well as strategic challenge.

4) Returning Heroes

What I mean here is that heroes that you developed in previous games could reappear in subsequent games. As heroes evolve through the course of the game copies could be made of them at different stages. In a subsequent, game heroes that you have lovingly crafted in a previous campaign could turn up to fight for you or your opposition. I think this would really add a lot of replayability - you could take one of your old heroes down a completely different path, or find yourself facing the challenge of one strongest previous creations battering their way through your kingdom. This way each time you play you are building up an increasing rich world of colourful and diverse heroic characters. This could also provide the best of both worlds between 'growing your own' heroes and recruiting pre-existent ones. When the ability to add others players heroes into the mix, things get really interesting.

5) Relationships between Heroes

Another idea to create more sense of story around the heroes is have relationship between particular characters. Two obvious ones that spring to mind. First, Arch-Enemy, meaning that two heroes hate each others guts. The two characters could then have particular abilities that only come into affect when battling their hated enemy. If two heroes with this relationship were set to join the same faction then the player would be forced to choose between them, leaving the other likely to side with an opposing faction. The second idea is Endebted meaning that one hero fights alongside another until whatever the debt is has been paid. Going back to the Hero Groups idea, particular Hero Groups could be opposed to each other e.g. all members of the Circle of the Sun hate all members of the Black Cowl.

Often in fantasy games the character background and storyline has felt a bit tacked on to the game. It would be great to see features that work both from a game mechanics point-of-view and a involving storyline/roly-playing point-of-view.

Anyway, them's my thoughts...

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Jonny5446
Denryu
January 28, 2009 6:22:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think giving them self-creating stories.   Like having events or quests related to your heroes.  As well as have heroes do things that reflect personalities.

 Age of Wonder had quests, but they didn't amount to much.    Sins of a Solar Empire have quests that different factions requested things like (go kill this guy, or give me money) but they didn't really create colorful characters as they were all the same.

Quests might include having a random artifact on the field become labeled as a 'lost family hairloom' and gives a particular hero a bonus over what it normally does (the hero's controller would get perhaps a notification of an added quest to go find it).  
- Another example is a monster might be spawned on the map, and your noble hero wants to go kill him (doing so would grant even more experiance and/or reward gold than normal).  
- A third example would be a necromancer hero wants to found an undead city, so if during the quest you found a city with an undead "settler" with the necromancer there as well he gets bonus EXP and or you get bonus mana (since he helped bind life and death in that city or something flavorful like that)

 I think this is doubly important because I think having little quests of any kind will really help encourage players to go out of their little 'turtle shells' and face the challanges of the map.

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January 28, 2009 6:45:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As soon as I started reading the OP, I started thinking about the betrayal/redemption/rebellion aspects.Wouldn't it be cool for heroes to have ego/honor/charisma. Sure they are not as powerful as you, but they are rubbing shoulders with the troops every day. what if they start thinking of leading some of your army away either to another side or as independents. Maybe they could beome a little more demanding of whatever you are paying them. The possibility to "better offer" another player's heroes - nice! Maybe worth taking a hero that may be a little weaker statistically but has a high honor or loyalty rating.

 

All 6 of your ideas are OUTSTANDING! (karma inc!)

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January 28, 2009 6:45:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like most of your ideas, but the story-related ones especially seem like they might be harder to implement than they'd be worth. I'd love to be proven wrong, though!

Returning heroes could be fun, too. That said, I wouldn't want them to appear in a new game at their full strength from a previous game - that would be wayyy too much. However, if there are inherent traits or characteristics, or a story behind the hero, it would be great if things like that at least would follow them.

Quoting ,
1) Hero Groups

Heroes may belong to groups e.g. Knightly Orders, Wizards Councils, Royal Families, Assasins Guilds, etc. These groups are entities in the games that may become affiliated with factions permanently, or until some task or quest has been performed. They may switch allegience through the course of the game. Having buildings related to a particular group could increase your standing with that group, or increase that heroes from that group will work for you. If a member of a group if killed while in your service then that group might send another hero to average the fallen, or conversely become hostile towards you blaming you for the death. A player's hero who evolves to a particular level might be offered membership of one of these groups giving the player's faction and/or the hero certain abilities/advantages.

I like this idea. I'd like this to also function somewhat like guilds do in Medieval II: Total War. I really liked the idea of guild - independent organizations that players can try to attract in order to recieve various benefits. It could be taken even farther, even, and allow limited diplomatic interaction between players and 'guilds'. If you're in very good standing with a 'guild' your entire empire could get various benefits - from combat to production bonuses.

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January 28, 2009 7:35:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

oh right!   the hero groups could give the quests as well I guess!  the main suggested idea all point towards the same idea though.

Pigeonx2, you made me think of something.   If these channelers are supposed to be near ageless or something (since they obviously live for many generations) the way you could both keep a hero between campaign levels and not be stupid broken by the end of it is by having the heroes be generations as well.   I mean, Bob the Awesome-dude could get up to level 30...   then the next level would have his son, Steve the Awesome-dude, who would start with stats based on Bob's ending level, but generally still the same as a normal level 1 character.

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January 28, 2009 9:54:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting landisaurus,
Pigeonx2, you made me think of something.   If these channelers are supposed to be near ageless or something (since they obviously live for many generations) the way you could both keep a hero between campaign levels and not be stupid broken by the end of it is by having the heroes be generations as well.   I mean, Bob the Awesome-dude could get up to level 30...   then the next level would have his son, Steve the Awesome-dude, who would start with stats based on Bob's ending level, but generally still the same as a normal level 1 character.

That would be awesome! And, it would mean that even if there are no actual generations (ie family trees or whatnot) during gameplay it could still be there in spirit. Having the descendent of a hero from a former game appear would be exciting. I'd definitely be sad if I had to fight said hero, too (and happy if he/she wanted to join my cause). Anything that creates emotional attachment is good.

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January 29, 2009 9:20:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

All 6 of your ideas are OUTSTANDING! (karma inc!)

Cheers.

I like most of your ideas, but the story-related ones especially seem like they might be harder to implement than they'd be worth. I'd love to be proven wrong, though!

Me too! Well, I'm a software developer myself and if the Stardock devs are anything like me then they'll enjoy the challenge of doing something that hasn't been done before.

That said if any idea can't be implemented in a way that works and is fun to play then it has to be discarded.

Returning heroes could be fun, too. That said, I wouldn't want them to appear in a new game at their full strength from a previous game - that would be wayyy too much. However, if there are inherent traits or characteristics, or a story behind the hero, it would be great if things like that at least would follow them.

What I was thinking is that you have multiple snapshots of each hero at different stages in their development. So you might get one of your former heroes in a youngish guise, allowing you to see what happens if you make different choices. Alternatively, if you might get one of your most powerful heroes appearing at a moment of dire need e.g. you are down to only a couple of cities with your back against the wall. Obviously, there would probably have to be a limit on the number of hero snapshots for each hero, particularly if it is repeatedly possible to take a hero down different paths.

That would be awesome! And, it would mean that even if there are no actual generations (ie family trees or whatnot) during gameplay it could still be there in spirit. Having the descendent of a hero from a former game appear would be exciting. I'd definitely be sad if I had to fight said hero, too (and happy if he/she wanted to join my cause). Anything that creates emotional attachment is good.

I also really like families and trait inheritance in some form or other. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters ending up on opposing sides. Lord of the Rings style names such as Gimli, son of Gloin, etc.

 

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January 29, 2009 10:51:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My favorite part of the OP is the 'transnational associations' idea (#1). It would be especially neat if the back story might be able to support some pre-cataclysm remnants to give Elemental flavor to ideas like a knightly order, a council of mages, or a guild of bards. I don't know how much I'd like to see that sort of stuff connected to 'autonomy' for champion units, but I'd definitely enjoy playing with something along those lines to see if it was fun.

Quoting aeon,
...I also really like families and trait inheritance in some form or other. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters ending up on opposing sides. Lord of the Rings style names such as Gimli, son of Gloin, etc.

Several threads have touched on this theme, e.g. A time and Weather idea. Folks have balked at the idea of a champion being able to die of old age during a game, but I really think that both the functionality and presentation of time will be a big part of whether the game takes a Big Step Forward in the 'epic feel' area. And some sort of lineage system for champions still seems like it could do a lot, without necessarily overcomplicating player decisions about investing essence.

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January 29, 2009 11:41:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

Good Ideas  Aeon...   one which I would like to add which is popular on Dominions_3:

7) Hall of Fame:  Commanders/Mages with the most experience and kills recieve a Heroic Ability... for the game Elemental it would be Champions instead of Commanders/Mages. 

These heroic abilities provide a special ability such as Fear or Ambidexterious or an ability can also improve one or more statistics. 

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January 29, 2009 4:30:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting GW Swicord,

Several threads have touched on this theme, e.g. A time and Weather idea. Folks have balked at the idea of a champion being able to die of old age during a game, but I really think that both the functionality and presentation of time will be a big part of whether the game takes a Big Step Forward in the 'epic feel' area. And some sort of lineage system for champions still seems like it could do a lot, without necessarily overcomplicating player decisions about investing essence.

I agree with you. I can understand the reaction to heroes dying of old age, but I think it is definitely worth considering, both from a storytelling and game enjoyment point of view.

I know there has been a thread discussing how to avoid the dull endgame problem, where you reach a point in the game where you know you are going to win and it is not really worth playing out the rest. I think having all heroes potentially alive for the duration of the game could contribute to this boring forgone conclusion sort of endgame. Just wait until you have a couple of heroes at godlike level and sweep the board. It's very linear and boring. If you want things to be interesting then there should be some ebb and flow to the game. You took some major knocks on the way but came out on top, rather than you gradually got better and better until you won.

So I'm in favour of heroes having natural lifespans (there can always be immortal or near-immortal exceptions).

The best example I can think of is Rome TW and Medieval II TW where your family members would die of natural causes. I always found this abrupt - you'd suddenly get a message telling your awesome battle/crusade hardened faction leader had snuffed it and your weedy stay-at-home crown prince had taken his place. This did make for some interesting strategic choices though - if you knew that a general was in his autumn years you would have make sure you had a reasonable replacement in place. The problem is the abruptness of the characters death sort of makes you care less about them rather than more.

A couple of ideas around making natural lifespans for heroes more interesting:

1) When a hero passes a certain age they go into an Elder phase. This restricts their movement - they are pretty much city bound. They gain political, cultural, economic, advancement-of-knowledge abilities at the expense of more youthful running around slaying things type abilities. Perhaps during this phase they could take an Apprentice hero, passing on some of their abilities given enough time. 

2) When time finally catches up with the Elder Hero there are three potential ways in which they could 'live on' in some sense. First, some of the traits might be passed to their offspring in a similar way to M2TW. Second, they could leave behind a piece of equipment instilled with some of their power as suggested before. Third, there could be a building left behind - a Last Resting Place - which might be a shrine or mausoleum. This building would then provide some benefit to your faction or the city in question. It would be great if this benefit could somehow be linked to the characteristic of the hero in question.

Natural lifespans for heroes also helps with the problem of too many heroes at one time, seeing as your heroes would all be at different stages of life.

(I had another spin-off idea around heroes/quests. Heroes could catch diseases or be poisoned and be incapacitated until some obscure cure or antidote has been found. This could be pretty good, particularly if the cure in question is piece of some exotic creatures anatomy and you have to kill it first.)

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January 29, 2009 6:10:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Love all these ideas! Have they discussed how hereos will appear in the game? Do we purchase them,  make them or do they just randomly show up? Sorry if this has been discussed before but Im pretty new to the forums.  

 

 

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January 29, 2009 7:35:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting CapnWinky,
Love all these ideas! Have they discussed how hereos will appear in the game? Do we purchase them,  make them or do they just randomly show up? Sorry if this has been discussed before but Im pretty new to the forums.  

 

I believe the general idea as it stands is that they'll exist as NPCs and occasionally wonder into your territory and then you'll have the option to hire them. Can't remember where I got that from though so if anyone knows any different feel free to say

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January 29, 2009 8:21:49 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah, they have not said anything.   They HAVE said that they want some parts of the game like quests and such feel more RPG-ish.   That could mean that we get a lot of focus on our heroes, or it might mean we get very little in favor of having an awesome channeler.  I really am not hurt either way.  

I assume however you meet them, you'd have to pay for their services.  Maybe you can get one through a quest or something, but I can't imagine it would be that far away from MoM or HoMM.

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January 30, 2009 7:34:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting CapnWinky,
Love all these ideas! Have they discussed how hereos will appear in the game? Do we purchase them,  make them or do they just randomly show up? Sorry if this has been discussed before but Im pretty new to the forums.  

It's quite handy to point google at these forums sometimes:

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fforums.elementalgame.com+heroes&btnG=Search&meta=

There's not been too much official detail on heroes that I've seen. There are these:

You must decide how much of your power to imbue into your heroes as you build new cities, explore dungeons, perfect spells of ever increasing power and negotiate with friends and foes.

Unlike previous strategy games Stardock has developed, Elemental will have optional quests. How in-depth these get will really depend on how much time we have.  But ideally, we would like players to be able to see their sovereign as a quasi-RPG unit that can go out and deal with a particular quest. There would be a huge, and ever growing, quest pool for the game to make use of. We are budgeting for an initial quest pool of around 500 quests.

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January 30, 2009 12:19:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the info! Karma for all 3 of you!

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January 31, 2009 11:20:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Also, from Brad's initial description of the game:

 

4) You cannot build heroes. They have to be recruited and there's no Inn. Ones ability to attract heroes is one of the game mechanics and "interesting choices" players have. Those heroes can be wimpy or powerful depending on how the player chooses to use and invest in them.

The possibility of having heroes promoted/emerging from units is discussed here: http://forums.elementalgame.com/329053

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