Sovereign & Faction Customization

Beyond Asthetics (Traits/Skills/Perks/Quirks/Physical Forms)

By on September 27, 2009 7:31:52 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Tourresh

Join Date 04/2003
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[As with most of my detailed posts I would appreciate any feedback on better formatting/bulleting/colors/sizes to help out readability]


 

Having nations with bonuses. weaknesses, and affinities are always a nice way to add diversity and longevity to a game.

However, I really want to see the game go beyond just minor differences. I would like to see that factions and sovereigns could be customized to the extent that they can be in GalCiv 2 where there are dozens of point based traits.

For me, designing factions for a unique strategy was half the fun. I can still load up GalCiv2 and there are so many combinations I haven't tried yet. I have a feeling this previous suggestion is something a lot of people either expect or would like to have so I won't talk about any specifics until the game gets more fleshed out.

One thing that is probably thought about a bit less is sovereign customization. In MOM and AoW:SM you could at least determine magical affinity and some other traits for your guy (though a lot of it was mixed with faction stuff). I'd like to go one step further than that.

Extensive sovereign customization

Example of a random soverign:

Lazy (-1 map movement speed)[-1]

Thorn Shield (The soverign is always enchanted by a shield of thorns that does damage proportional to the soverigns level) [+2]

Mana Battery (100% max mana, but 50% slower recharge)[0]

Healer (All healing spells are improved when cast by the soverign)[+1]

Terraformer (All terrain changing spells are more effective and happen faster) [+2}

Unstable Energy (Damage to the soverign can cause a discharge of a random amount of mana, damaging nearby units with magic damage proportional to damage lost)[-1]

Chivalry (The soverign is half as effective in combat versus female units) [-1]

Decrepit (Less chance of sireing offspring and reduced hitpoints) [-1]

Lost an Eye (Reduced perception/aim/vision) [-1]

So with this single combination of traits I already have a very different game. I most likely won't be using my soverign as offensively, and during any fights I need to be very mindful of my mana, unstable energy, and that I'm not having to face female characters. I could easily even make a strategy around trying to teleport in and let people hit me, hoping for a massive mana discharge of doom (probably would take off the decrepit trait for that).

[Note-I actually prefer a system based with hundreds of points instead of +1 -1 as it allows for more in betweens instead of having stupid fractions and such.]

Advantages to sovereign traits:

  • Extremely easy coding wise
  • Relatively easy to balance with a point based system
  • Game longevity increased greatly
  • Modders dream. Theoretically it should be a few lines of code for most basic new traits that use preexisting unit/item effects. Though there's no reason why someone shouldn't be able to code a trait that makes you barf out volcanos.

Disavantages to sovereign traits:

  • Unforseen synergies between skills will happen and we'll always need to be on the lookout for overpowered trait combos.

There are some ways of dealing with skill synergy problems:

  • Limiting the total number of trait picks.
  • Having certain traits/skills be exclusive with certain other traits/skills (this tends to be more a quick fix type of solution as it gets exponentially harder to stop synergies as the number of possible traits grows).
  • Make traits/skills part of categories where you can only have X number of traits from each catergory. This makes it easier to manage and stop runaway super sovereigns and even modders will have a vague idea of what type of traits should be in each category (personality, physical, skills, magic, etc.). We shouldn't see anyone with 6 different traits focused on combat casting that would allow them to instantly explode dragons at lvl 1 with a category system like that.
  • Using a physical form system as explained below...

 

Let's take this a step further and use different physical forms:

The Dominions series is absoultely amazing in terms of content and customization, which is the main reason I still play it. In this series, everyone can choose their "sovereign"'s form before play. These forms range from dragons, demons, huge monsters, statues, fountains of blood, or crazy old men. They can essentially be anything. Each form can cost a varying amount of points so they don't all have to be equal in power. If I want to play a huge dragon instead of some random old wizard I'll have a play experience more suited to what I personally enjoy playing, while not forcing other players to use my same play style.

Advantages to different forms:

  • There is simply no way to get more customizable than this. Your sovereign could be an enchanted dinner plate if you wanted.
  • Because of how flexible a point based system is, modders could add on literally any object, creature, or hero from any time period and they can still be balanced from a gameplay perspective.
  • It increases the longevity of the game exponentially. On the same map, with everything the same, playing as an immobile statue versus a red dragon means I am playing a vastly different game.
  • It can be used in addition to or instead of the previous soverign customization traits I just mentioned. 
    • Using them together provides the ultimate experience is customization, becomes harder to balance.
    • Thematicatally it is probably easier to use the trait system.
    • The physical form system by itself would be a good way to prevent unforseen synergies between traits that woud be overpowered. It's hard to stop these synergies without making too many traits exclusive. Some traits also get too expensive just because there are a few situations where they can be abused. By having different forms we would know all the traits the player would have and we could more easily balance out the fire immune demon that randomly spits out fiery death.

Disadvantages to different forms:

  • The only real problem I'm seeing here is thematically. There's a story to the game so far and there are dynasties planned. How the hell does a statue have a son?
  • Some might argue that it would require a lot more art and modeling to get all these extra forms. If you mostly use already existing assets and monsters it requires you very little time at all.

Solution:

  • Thematically, this can be dealt with in the same way as Dominions did.
  • Statues, fountains, and other immobiles are said to possess chosen followers who allow them to make items, reproduce, etc.
  • Any actual conceptions can also be explained as immaculate magical ones.
  • These forms can be polymorphic where the sovereign can choose to become human at will or is only human out of combat.

Let's put this all together

Ideally I imagine a combined system where every starting choice I make takes points from a global pool

  1. I start a game and choose the general map settings. I choose to allow all these customization options and set it so I have X number of points to work with.
  2. I can then choose to give him optional traits/skills/or other physical forms. This will be extremely important to how I play my sovereign. Will he sit in base all time casting spells or making artifacts? Should he be a one man army? Maybe all he does is pump out kids three times as fast as others. Maybe he just sucks terribly and I save my points for my faction.
  3. I choose my faction name/color and any traits or starting bonuses. If I saved points from the previous step maybe I could make my soldiers naturally strong. Maybe they start out in an amazing resource rich position or start with some free technologies. Maybe they are just overall terrible mindless drones since I put most of my points in my sovereign. It's my choice.

I'd be happy with allowing just physical form choice or just allowing trait/skill choice, but I really don't see a reason besides laziness to why they can't both be done. Instead of there being let's say 10 general strategies for faction design there would be at least 10*10 since there is another additional layer (really three if you could physical forms).

 

What overall effect would these systems have on the game?

The main thing it would mean would be that you would never be able to anticipate what kind of other sovereign you would face and thus your own strategies and counters to opponents would be more unique to each game. Players that find themselves always using similar strategies can use these traits or forms to help nudge them in another direction. If you can't stand the game because you think the early game is too boring you can always try to make a combination that is especially strong/interesting early on, or vice versa. AI can deal with these relatively easily by simply giving them premade combinations or labeling certain forms/trait combos with flags that tell them what the main strategies they should be following are. Modders would be a permenant bliss. So who might not like this?

The only people that might not like this initially are the hardcore multiplayer crowd. Inevitably, people will correctly or incorrectly believe that certain combinations of factions and sovereigns can be overpowered. Why is this not a big deal?

  • I buy Stardock games because they take player input and they patch very often. You can count on your super exploits being very short lived.
  • If we wanted a perfect statistical match we could go play numerous other games. The lack of random events mean that while these games might be more balanced, they are also far more boring.
  • The increase in longevity and fun far outways the occasional overpowered faction/sovereign. I'll stop playing much sooner if games are very similar every time than if I lost to some lame sovereign/faction combo (and seriously if it's multiplayer you don't have to play with jerks and diplomacy is the ultimate balancer in large multiplayer games).
  • Game settings could have separate options such as:
    • No custom factions
    • No custom sovereigns
    • Use only preset faction/sovereign combos
    • A draft mode where people pick these factions in a random order (or from a random pool where some might not even be avaialable) to prevent popular presets from always being taken.
    • Limit faction customization points to X
    • Limit sovereign customization points to Y
    • Limit total customization points to Z
    • Though a pain to code other games like Total Annihilation have had options to ban or restrict certain individual units. Having a menu that would allow you to disable certain traits/skills/physical forms solves this for everyone. If you don't want to wait for the next patch or you simply hate playing with a certain trait all you have to do is turn them off. This also allows for players to easily make custom game modes (i.e. Limited magic/monsters, soveriegn brawls, everyone playing with sovereigns that are limited to being ducks or something, etc.).
  • Lastly, most people play singleplayer and this system has zero downsides for them. They are much less likely to know when something is slightly unbalanced, unlike the multiplayer crowd.

Closing Thoughts

If this idea is not implemented (not to sound like I'm blackmailing or something) I would definitely make it my priority to mod such a system in first. That is how strongly I feel about it. Compared with the work of actually coding it in the benefits are simply huge.Having even basic traits still goes a long way and as long as you make the customization menus have drop down or scrollable menus instead static buttons it should be real easy for modders to do what they want. Regardless of whether this is out on release I'll probably try snagging people like NTJedi and adding tons of new options for players.

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September 27, 2009 8:16:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Excellent post. I actually assumed that extensive Sovereign customization would be included. I'm saving my posts like this for when the beta is a good deal farther along and we have a better idea of how things will be in game. +1 for effort and thought though. I agree totally with just about everything you suggest.

 

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September 27, 2009 10:08:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Dude this is great!

I got work soon need to sleep. I'll read it all tomorrow but still very good stuff! 

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September 28, 2009 5:31:50 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

God post yeah.

But.....-> Chivalry (The soverign is half as effective in combat versus female units) [-1]   Huh? Do we have a male/female unit system in the game at all?

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September 28, 2009 5:49:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

We better have a male/female units system or else...

Sovereign background and traits: The sovereign can select a background for a cost. This background gives some "skills and/or traits and/or bonus in something" as benefit and at the same time unlocks a set of specific skills/traits only available to those with that background. Then you have the usual list of common traits. All these traits can only be bought with points that share pool with civilization traits (it's not like if my blind sovereign trait is going to give a penalty to the whole civ, right?).

About the physical form, there is a God that had a soon with a virgin without... you know. So your statue sovereign could just use some essence and... Anyways, if your sovereign is a statue, I'd be more worried about how the hell does he move trough the map creating new cities. Really. Or if he is a fountain.

And altough I know this is Elemental: War of MAGIC, I'd like to have a sovereign the less magical as possible as in MoM, where I could end with a more martial wizard f I wished. So I wouldn't be raising volcanoes but my armies would kick dragon ass for breakfast.

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September 28, 2009 1:47:55 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Dude im loving the trait system for your sovereign!

Hopefully heros and generals can get or develop the same way with traits.

Thats why I love Total War series and Star Wars Rebellion with important characters/leaders developing over the game. It just adds so much to the game. 

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September 28, 2009 6:02:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Raven X,
I'm saving my posts like this for when the beta is a good deal farther along and we have a better idea of how things will be in game.

With ideas like this, the early they are implemented the better. It would require at least one new customization screen to be designed so you want to give the artists and interface guys some time to get ideas on it. With increasing customization means a harder time predicting how gameplay will flow. If this gets tacked on too far down the line there ends up being a lot more problems than if you consider the possibilities now. I'm waiting on posting specific ideas for traits and such since we don't know enough about gameplay.

Quoting Tormy-,
God post yeah.

But.....-> Chivalry (The soverign is half as effective in combat versus female units) [-1]   Huh? Do we have a male/female unit system in the game at all?

Hey no nitpicking random examples I spit out after a second of thinking or I'll try and banish you back to Bay12 . Seriously though, that's what was on the top of my head while trying to think of another psychological type of trait. No need to discuss any of the specifics of these traits, though many fantasy games do have women and the distinguishment actually matters for charm and seduction spells.

 

Quoting Wintersong,
Anyways, if your sovereign is a statue, I'd be more worried about how the hell does he move trough the map creating new cities


And altough I know this is Elemental: War of MAGIC, I'd like to have a sovereign the less magical as possible as in MoM, where I could end with a more martial wizard f I wished. So I wouldn't be raising volcanoes but my armies would kick dragon ass for breakfast.

Immobile sovereigns would either have to turn into some other weak mobile form, or more likely they would get a unit or spell that would create cities for them.

With this trait system you could easily make a martial wizard and you'd be rewarded probably by having an overall better civilization. If you don't want everyone raising volcanoes late gate the settings I suggested would let you restrict people from playing sovereigns that are too magical for your liking.

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September 28, 2009 8:09:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Tormy-,

Huh? Do we have a male/female unit system in the game at all?

We already know the Sovereign can have Sons and Daughters and that we get control of them. I don't know about you, but if one of my daughters happens to be a magical ass kicker I'm not going to marry her off right away.

Quoting Tourresh,

With ideas like this, the early they are implemented the better. It would require at least one new customization screen to be designed so you want to give the artists and interface guys some time to get ideas on it. With increasing customization means a harder time predicting how gameplay will flow. If this gets tacked on too far down the line there ends up being a lot more problems than if you consider the possibilities now.

This is very true. Good thinking ahead.

Quoting Tourresh,

 I'm waiting on posting specific ideas for traits and such since we don't know enough about gameplay.

That's pretty much exactly what I meant with my post.

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