[Discussion] Magic - is it too weak?

By on August 24, 2010 5:46:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nathikal

Join Date 11/2008
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I have seen a few topics about magic being too strong (95% of the time, early on) and about magic being too weak (95% of the time, end game). I agree with both, personally, and figured that it'd be useful for whatever updates come to have a main list of stuffs.

So far, this is what I have.

  • Magic is based solely on your intellect for terms of damage. Which means that if you have 20 int, you can do UP TO 20 damage normally. Because of this, you can also do 1 damage, regardless of what spell you cast. Thus, magic has no value in combat - it is way too unpredictable. Casting a fireball can do 1 damage as easily as 20.
  • Because of this, you are forced to make a choice upon gaining levels - do you want to have spells that are effective (+intelligence) or being able to cast more spells (+essence). Essence itself is without value, because what's the point in actively trying to learn how to fight with a toothpick?
  • Holding a crystal shard effectively doubles the intelligence of the caster for spells of that alignment. Thus, the same fireball spell as above can do 2 to 40 damage. Holding three shards lets you do 3 to 60...etc. Certain shards affect other spells, such as an ice shard increasing the power of an arcane strike spell.
  • Thus, holding multiple shards means that your magic becomes more unpredictable. Further, unless you hold a large number of shards, all magic is fairly weak unless you are attacking a single, low-level, low-equipment enemy.
  • Summoning spells are easily the most powerful spells in the game. Instead of having a rough damage range, summoned entities can usually do a fine range of damage. Most have special abilities, not to mention that the mana expenditure is paid back almost immediately. One example is the Fire Giant, which begins with 3 mana, and has 3 abilities - a DoT, a fireball, and a firebreath, while regaining 1 mana at the start of each allied turn. Summoning one Fire Giant gets you infinite use of abilities, so long as you maintain mana. It also gives you a decently armored warrior who can fight without magic.
  • Enemies RAPIDLY become stronger than your magic. In my current game, I have a group of 4 Drath soldiers, whose health are around 312 maxed. Unless I have, following the 20 intelligence thing, approximately five shards (5-100 damage) I'll be doing little more than papercutting the Drath. My dragon, Sorag, has a single-hit fire ability that strikes for, on average, 97 damage. I'd much rather trust the dragon to handle magical killing than do it myself.
  • Magic is outdone by soldiers. It pays to have 1 team of soldiers vs. 1 Sovereign, because the Sovereign is not only a liability, but the soldiers are almost always more capable of taking out enemies.
  • There is little variety in spells. While good on one hand (if I have 2 ice shards and no other shards, I can still benefit from spells in the ice category) there is not a lot of value in pursuing other spells until you get a shard.
  • Magic spell books are also quite identical. Smacking an enemy with a fireball is the same as smacking an enemy with a lightning bolt as smacking an enemy with a rock as smacking an enemy with a shard of ice.

I've thought over a few solutions.

  • Spells would probably be more valuable if they each had a set attack value, which was modified by the caster's intelligence. Thus, one can select essence without making their magic less than useful, and those who sacrifice essence can gain greater power.
  • Holding a shard would increase the value of the intelligence. So, let's use an example - fireball has a base attack value of 15. You, the Sovereign, have an intelligence of 20. Fireball's coefficient is 0.5 - meaning that half of your intelligence is used to improve the spell. So, your fireball spell would have an attack of 15+(.5(20)) or 25. Holding a shard would double the power from your intelligence, so it would go from 25 to 35. Two shards would do the same thing - increasing the value by another 10, to an attack of 45.
  • Shards have additional value aside from just boosting spells. A fire shard lets you apply 10% of the spell's damage over 4 turns (for a total of +40% damage). Holding an earth shard lets you reduce the defense of the target. Air shards gives your spells the power to slow. Water shards can reduce mana. Casting a spell on an ally gives the opposite effect. Fire would increase attack, earth increases defense, air increases movement speed, and water can restore 3% of health over time. These effects would increase by 25% per shard controlled, to a maximum of 100% total (IE, if I have 2103 fire shards, my spells would still do no more than 80% additional damage over 4 turns; a maximum of 6% life can be restored over time from a water spell)
  • Holding a shard also gives a small boost to arcane research.
  • The end result of holding shards, thus, is clear. Fire shards are superior in terms of battle, but only over time - simply blasting away at enemies refreshes the DoT, and makes each spell less powerful than it could be (up to a maximum of 180% spell damage from fire). Water/ice spells can prolong the lives of your soldiers while freezing enemy spellcasting; air magic slows foes and makes your soldiers even faster. Earth can be used to fortify a team, or shatter the defenses of a strong foe.
  • Summoning spells would also gain the benefit of holding shards, increasing essence by 5 per shard, as well as increasing attack, defense, and health by 50%. Since summons are so much more powerful than normal magic, they will gain less per shard controlled.

PLEASE, tear my ideas apart, tell me how they are wrong. I really do feel that magic is underpowered, especially given the massive size of end game armies, and their high stats. If you think magic is overpowered, please tell me so - if I've just been doing magic totally wrong, let me know so I can fix it. I am really hoping that we can work this out.

-N

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August 24, 2010 8:41:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Although I'm not sure I agree with you on all of the points, I think you raise some very valid issues.  I think the current system for shards affecting casting is fundamentally all right, but for some reason it never seems to work as stated (My spells keep doing 0 damage far more often than they should).  I agree completely that magic is more-or-less useless once the opening is ended, and therefore that sovereigns don't really have a place in battle past that point.  If spell damage stuck to the same system but were skewed in some fashion (for instance, based along a normal distribution) then magic would remain useful far later than currently--although it still might have difficulty once things really get rolling.

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August 24, 2010 10:47:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Firstly, magic is not underpowered    The reason we have two different views is entirely caused by the difference in how powerful we think magic SHOULD be.

My Opinion:  I think magic is probably just right at the moment.  My Sov can solo about 15 combat rating above itself unarmed.  Basically, with a LvL 1 spell (flame dart), I can beat 6 spiders.  That's with a lvl 1 Sov setup for spellcasting (15 Int ,15 Wis/Ess).  I don't think that a Sov should be able to solo an army of well armed and armoured troops.  Higher lvl spells DO help the sov kick more arse though.  I could solo about 30 rating above sov with lvl 3 spells and a lvl 2 Sov.  However Soloing success depends on how the enemy is made up.  Lots of units make soloing hard.  A couple of BIG units, makes it doable if you use tactics.  eg, touch spell, double int for damage, REALLY good for a single powerful foe, really bad for 10 little monsters.

Tip: Flaming sword is good for assisting your armies when yuo start getting bigger than parties.  2 damage per person in the stack = lots of damage

Your point on the summoned units being more powerful than spells isn't quite right imo.  That fire giant IS powerful, but it costs 16 mana to cast, and its range attack does miss, and it still cannot solo armies AND it cannot solo a single POWERFUl foe like my Sov could (My fire giant  died..... ).

Tip: Use your sov to lower hitpoints of enemy teams/squads/other high HP foes, so that you can attack with your own shock troops and not take any retliation hits   That way your Sov is NOT a liability, but help you keep fighting withought needing to rest to regain HP!!

I agree with you on the similarity of a few of the spells.....I did not a change in the description of a spell though, "hurl boulder", its indefensible, whereas I beleive other spells are defensible (modified by defense rating). 

Tip: DO NOT USE FLAME AGAINST "flaming defenders" (or whatever it was called), it was immune to fire!!!! 

Basically, I don't think any changes are needed to the mechanics of the way magic or shards work.  BUT I would like to see more spells that have effects that currently aren't available.  There is however a nice array of assist spells for tactical battles though, just gotta know when to use them!

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August 24, 2010 11:35:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

StillSingle has obviously not attempted to use any attack magic lategame.

You quickly find yourself pitted against squads of death peasants with far too much HP and defense for magic to be worthwhile, which is exceptionally disappointing for someone like me who revels in magical nukes. I'm not sure if the Python scripts are available to us at the moment, I'll go take a look. I'll try and modiy the way the game interprets spells a bit -- even XML should be suitable for specifying a min/max damage for spells, and an INT coefficient as Nathikal suggests! Wish me luck!

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August 25, 2010 8:24:25 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

one major problem with spells, for me,  is damage is based on 1 D20.   then on 2 * 1 D20.  if you have a shard. 

Rather, I would want it to have 5D4 (still max 20, but the average damage is now 12.5 and the damage will almost always be 9.5 and 15.5), only in incredibly lucky or unlucky hits would the damage stray to 5 or 20.

When you get a shard 10D4,   2 shards 15D4.

If that's too long  then have the program build and store a Gaussian Random Number  list when waiting for the Users Input, and just draw out a random number. 

Fireball =  Mean 12.5 Sigma 3      Fireball + shard = Mean 25 Sigma 5    Fireball +2shards =  Mean 37.5 Sigma 7.

Note the Dice method reduces the sigma as you add die, the sigma could be set independently with the Gaussian method.

The other Bonus to a Gaussian Method, spells can behave differently.

FireBall,   Mean 12.5   Sigma 6  ( Higher sigma because the ball is spread out  )
Ice shard,   15% chance to miss, or Mean 17 Sigma 2 (More hit or miss, if hit hurts more)

Lightning bolt , Mean 11 Sigma .5   (Lower Damage, but much more precision damamge, reliably does 11 damage)

Hurl Bolder,  Mean 12.5  Sigma 3 (standard damage, standard Sigma).

 

 

The other thing i would add is a level modifier and an essence modifier 

 

The one major thing that differentiates your late game channeler from your early game one, is his or her level. 

My rule of thumb would be that your channelers basic spells should always be able to 1 hit a stack o randomly spawned 'normal' monsters.


The game pops regular monsters all the time, and they get harder with time. (it also pops special monsters which are far stronger, but I'm just talking about regular beasts).    If a channeler has been leveling up in a standard way, has a standard amount of essence, and a standard Int  ect,  they should be able to squash a standard baddie with no effort.    So if a standard late game spawn were 1 stack of  60HP worth of spiders,  then your channeler aught be doing 60+ damage with one spell reliably.  I'd have to do a lot of playing and some mathing to find what the level -> bonus curve would look like but it would keep channelers from being wildly underpowered in late game.


The other thing that has no effect that aught is Essence.

 

If each Int gives you +1 max damage each Essence aught give +.5 min and max damage (before modifiers).  I see Essence as magical muscle, Which you can spend to achieve things that you can not do with magic alone,  if somebody has kept all or lots of their magical muscle then they aught be throwing harder,  Currently they throw bigger stuff more often,  but adding a small + damage modifier as well makes sense.   if .5 is too big,  make it 1/3.

 

My final Damage Equation would be 

Base Damage =  Gaussian (spell mean+int, Spell Sigma)  // where Spell mean and Sigma are determined by shard count

Actual Damage = (Shard Count * Essence/2 + Base Damage) * Level modifier

anyway that's my thoughts.

enjoy

Robbie Price

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August 25, 2010 8:38:55 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Totally agreed with OP and everyone here except for one guy who thinks everything is fine.

The magic system is just not fun because

1) Damage is too random

2) Lack of variety of spells 

It's amazing how bad StarDock is at designing combat mechanics.. when they have so many good examples to learn from. ANd no.. saying you can fix it by modding it is not a defense. 

But then again Galciv2 wasn't renown for interesting combat mechanics, or technology system, so why did I expect better when translated into magic? Oh right cos it was supposed to be kinda of like MOM which was world class at this  

 

 

 

 

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August 25, 2010 9:54:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think the biggest problem isn't that magic is too WEAK, but that magic doesn't SCALE properly.

To me, the late game is usually defined by big armies, filled with squads (companies? the 12-soldier one) of units, usually with extremely high defense and high attack power. Most 'stacks' of units have upwards of 200 health when well-trained, while most have around 100-150. And magic can't do more than a fraction of that at any time, and can't do it reliably.

At the end-game, if you are fighting a Sovereign, especially a caster Sovereign, I would expect you to take massive losses. That sort of battle brings to mind legions of soldiers assailing the walls of a city, with fire and lightning carving the army into bite-sized pieces. Sovereigns represent the ultimate magical potential in the world, because not only are they channellers, they are channellers without the blood distilled.

Lore-wise, a Channeller is supposed to be a match for a Titan. They (the Titans) were afraid of Channellers, because they (both) were equal to each other. If Channellers weren't much of a threat, then the final battle, and thus the Cataclysm, would never have come about. At this exact moment in time, I can't trust my Channeller to reliably fight off a single human bandit. And it strikes me as ironic that he's useful only for taking down spiders.

Which, I admit, my Sovereign does quite well. Especially given that spiders have 3-6 HP early game, and I usually have 15+ intelligence, so the odds are in my favor.

At the moment - magic is very strong in the early game, and very weak in the late game. Against a lone target, hurling a spell is a viable, acceptable method. If that target is grouped, however, magic suddenly loses much of its value. AoE spells are convenient for softening up a large batch of enemies, but again, there is no way to do this reliably. In essence, a caster-type Sovereign will have a much harder time than a non-caster-type, unless heavy abuse of the Summoning book is used.

Reply to StillSingle - Early on, I abused magic to keep my cities safe. However, the more I look at my army composition, the more I realize that magic has no value late game. Softening up armies is a grand idea, but given the sheer size and number, it becomes difficult without a plethora of shards to actually have any meaningful affect. My argument is based on the premise that, in a game called War of Magic, magic should be something that is very limited (check), very risky to give (check), possibly world-changing (check), and because of its rarity, be like a giant siege weapon (no check). Magic represents, as I said above, something that the Titans wanted to control, and the Channellers represented something that struck fear into a Titan's heart. Against weak enemies, magic is powerful. Against an army, I am reminded of the old saying - never bring a knife to a gun fight.

Reply to Luketan - I think the biggest thing that hurt the dev team was the fact that Elemental is going to be multiplayer, and they had to fight to keep things balanced - hence why so many spells are simply copies. When balance comes into play, you can't do too many things that fly off the handle, else you risk having to fight with people later on when tactics/spells/mechanics are used in such a way that they just dominate the field. Personally, I'd rather have spells work in such a way that they are unique from each other.

If I were to draw from the Guild Wars system, then Fire would be hard-hitting AoE spells; Air would focus on single-target spike damage, or quick spells that rapidly build up damage; Water spells would be controlling and manipulating, freezing enemies in place and whatnot, yet doing less damage; Earth spells would take longer to cast and more mana, but always have additional affects that really hurt (IE, earthquake causes a knock-down, or a stun in this case...dust clouds would reduce chance to hit...etc.) Even from the WoW system, where fire magic hits like a burning truck filled with flammable materials, and where ice magic is more low-key, but has so many additional affects (slows, freezing, stuns, as well as restoring mana to allies) that it is too viable to avoid.

The best solution I can think of - we need to create our own spells. Not because Stardock can't, but because at the end of the day, their hands are tied with the balance issue. As much as I want to say Elemental is for us, Stardock is still a company, and they need to appeal to all of their players. I never do multiplayer, but I imagine that people would really start to complain if they were in a MP game and one tactic was the catch-all-win-all thing to do.

Does this mean that I think we players should mod in ALL of the spells? Nope. But once we players figure out how to make magic unique without being over-the-top, Stardock will be able to skip the theory, testing, and possibly implementation stages. They've done a lot of work already, so making their lives easier can't hurt : D

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August 25, 2010 10:11:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think the biggest problem isn't that magic is too WEAK, but that magic doesn't SCALE properly.

Precisely. In particular, using damage-magic against powerful creatures and squads doesn't scale. Spells roll against defense, and squads simply pool all the individual stats into one roll, which ends up with problems.

The scaling problem exists because unlike attack and defense being multiplied by a factor of STR/DEX, magic damage is strictly linear scaling. If you get 1 more INT, your 1-50 spell will just do 1-51 (or 1-52 for INT*2 spells). In the case of a weapon, your 1-50 might do 1-60 with a point of STR. Same with defense, thus they quickly outgrow magic damage. Shard bonus is just makes it even wilder. The range on spell damage is usually so big that the 100% bonuses just amplify the extremes.

Ideally, spells should have a base damage, and be modified a factor of INT that influences both the minimum and maximum roll. Due to the limitations of spell casting (more AP, mana cost), I don't believe they should be allowed to roll a 1. Your spells should, in my opinion, always do at least a third of their maximum potential damage.

The other issue is rolling against defense. Pooling stats works fine with squad vs squad because if the pooled defending squad has 200 defense, your pooled attacking squad might have 300 attack. This is not the case with spells, where you have one caster that now has to beat a 200 defense roll with just his own INT. A further imbalance is due to the fact that effective melee combat does not require a rare map resource (shard), and Iron is very common. But without *multiple* shard bonuses, a caster just has no hope.

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August 25, 2010 10:17:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 Reply to Luketan - I think the biggest thing that hurt the dev team was the fact that Elemental is going to be multiplayer, and they had to fight to keep things balanced - hence why so many spells are simply copies. When balance comes into play, you can't do too many things that fly off the handle, else you risk having to fight with people later on when tactics/spells/mechanics are used in such a way that they just dominate the field.

 

Actually I think SD is quite well known for saying they focus on SP first and foremost, they pissed off quite a few of the MP crowd actually with various announcements about how they were going to streamline stuff (recently reversed i think)

I think their problem is not with MP but with AI. They want to keep this reputation for good AI, they have stated they will never add spells the AI can't understand how to use properly.

If the spells are too different, too flexible, the AI would never learn to use them properly. That I believe is the real reason why spells are so boring. 

Besides I think MP isn't something they should worry about, because no matter how good they think they are at balancing..I bet you the EWOM community is far better at spotting "broken" spells and exploiting it.  It's kind of like magic the gathering.. where they play-test cards years in advance and they invite the best players in the world into their team and STILL they let slip cards that are way too good for their cost... or combine well with other cards in unexpected ways... Then WoC has to intervene anyway.

Personally, I think their reputation for AI is overblown.. oh sure it's good.. but seriously any real "strategy gane player" who finds the AI challenging after 1-2 games doesn't deserve the name.. And no I don't cheat with save games.

I rather have fun against AI that cheats a bit.. then play against AI that are marginally better but with boring spells

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 25, 2010 7:51:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

reply to both replies to me above: I tend to play on Epic game mode, so tech advances slowly, and games tend to finish before stacks get above about 50HP.  It looks you guys are acutally right, magic doesn't scale.   But a Sov based on combat doesn't get much better without seriously endagering his/her life.   I cranked my sov up to 96 Attack, which is fine playing epic games, but for the stacks you are talking about, the Sov would get killed in the counter attack.

reply to magic weasel: Yeah I don't use damage spells much because they are weak compared to the assist spells!!  Which affirms your argument and Nathikals.

Last night I got a dragon friend...... Its breath weapons (both) are more powerful than any spells I've seen for the sov!!  minimum damage I did was 40 for the range ability, 90 for the non-range ability (still won't take out the stacks you're talking about though!!).

Reading the above comments, it seems that what we're thinking is that the Sov should be as strong as a dragon at some stage, which correctly stated above, doesn't happen.  The question is perhaps, when (in levels) and what resources (in shards) should be needed to be able to cast spells (at least?) as strong as a dragon's abilities?

With the change to rolling 4 dice method mentioned above, a Sov that dumps all points into Int, can do the same damage as a dragon only by controlling 1 shard (fire) and casting flame dart.  which will do (4-24)*2 dmg.  or melting hands (4-48)*2 dmg. As a level 3 sov.  That being said, I am therefore much in agreement for lifting the MINIMUM damage.....  MAXIMUM damage can be obtained quite easily if you control the shards.

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August 25, 2010 9:40:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

For one thing, there really should be a bigger difference in terms of damage between spell levels.  At the moment, advancing a spell level gives access to more spells, but doesn't necessarily give better ones outside of the realm of summoning.

 

This would probably give the best spell-casting balance in terms of scaling, since spell level is always slowly rising.  The problem with having spell-casting ability being experienced based is that at a certain point in the game questing becomes less important and the focus starts to shift to empire building.  Since there is no way for a sovereign or hero to gain experience if they are static, the only way to gain the extra int or essence for higher level spells is by grinding up your sovereign, and since enemies to fight are generated randomly, this makes this form of advancement random.

 

By having either a base damage or multiplier based on Spell level, the spells scale with tech.

 

The problem here is obsolescence of lower level spells.  So it isn't an ideal solution.  The ideal solution would be to allow for a consistent source of experience for the Sovereign (say an improvement that allows heroes to slowly gain experience, though at a slower rate than with combat) so that they slowly get more powerful over time, combined with normalizing the damage so damage gets consistently higher at higher sovereign levels.  Adding in better scaling for the spell level would still be a good idea here, since otherwise arcane research ceases to be beneficial.

 

In addition, as many have noted, the different spell books need to be more specialized.  At the moment, there isn't much reason for a custom sovereign to have more than two plus enchantment.  No spell should repeat twice between two different books (at least the mana cost should be different, preferably higher) and no spell should repeat a role already filled.  Let us take, for example, the first four attack spells in the four books: Flame Dart, Stab of Ice, Hurl Boulder and the lightning spell whose name I forget.  Flame Dart and the Lightning spell are identical, only the Lightning costs more.  Stab of Ice is also identical to the lightning, but has a shorter range.  However, it can freeze the opponent.  Hurl Boulder, iirc, is the worst of the lot, with a high mana cost and a limited range.  Maybe it does more damage, but I don't remember.

The issue here is, if you have all four books, you will only ever use one of these spells.  Maybe stab of ice because it freezes, but otherwise you'll pick the spell for which you have a shard rather than because one is beneficial to your play style.

Here's an alternate list of these four 1st level spells.  Here, I am assuming water is themed with support, earth with defense, fire with doing damage and air with speed and accuracy.  I am also using a fixed damage system here, as per suggested above, for simplicity.

Fire- Firebolt:

Mana Cost: 3  Range: Infinite

-Does caster's Int in Damage

 

Air- Ball of Wind:

Mana Cost: 3  Range: Infinite

-Does Half caster's Int in Damage, but ignores defense.

 

Earth- Clay Armor:

Mana Cost: 2  Range: Infinte

-Increases Target's defense by the caster's Int against the next attack.

 

Water- Cure Wounds:

Mana Cost: 3 Range: 2

-Heals target a number of HP equal to half the caster's int.

 

This isn't balanced, but as you can see, all these spells are useful, all of them target a different aspect of combat, and many of them counter each other (here, fire counters water, water counters air, air counters earth and earth counters fire).  There is no reason an AI cannot understand these spells and how to use them, as all of them feed directly into combat calculations.

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August 25, 2010 11:45:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yeah yuo're right about the lack of increasing power high level spells.  Got to lvl 7 spells with the Fire and Air books.   They all seem to do the same damage after lvl 3.  lvl 3 gives you fireball, chain lightning, and molten hands (or whatever its called).  There were a couple more damage spells after lvl3, but they did the same damage ( caster's int).

Idea for spell:  Caged lightning:  up 1/3 caster int in damage (using current system of min damage), for every air shard controlled multiply damage by 3. spell level 4-5?

Blast ball: do 2 * casters int in damage. every fire shard controlled increases by casters int.  spell level 4-5.

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August 26, 2010 3:06:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Balance wise, just make a simple base damage multiplier for each level as a baseline, and then balance from there.  For example, add half the Int value per level, or some-such.  It's much easier to properly balance things across levels if you have an idea of what proportion the scale should follow.

I was also really disappointed that global spells have such a short range.  There's a point where my sovereign should be able to sit it out happily in their tower, like a more typical arch-mage, crafting unspeakable horrors or subtly .  That shouldn't have to be the case, and it should be a long road to get there, but it should be an option I can pursue if I don't want a combat-oriented sovereign.

In other words, there are Gandalfs who ride into battle and blast people and there are Sarumans who blight their enemies from across the mountains.  That sounds like a simple trade-off to me.

 

 

 

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August 26, 2010 4:06:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting grimzag1,
For one thing, there really should be a bigger difference in terms of damage between spell levels.  At the moment, advancing a spell level gives access to more spells, but doesn't necessarily give better ones outside of the realm of summoning.

In addition, as many have noted, the different spell books need to be more specialized.  At the moment, there isn't much reason for a custom sovereign to have more than two plus enchantment.  No spell should repeat twice between two different books (at least the mana cost should be different, preferably higher) and no spell should repeat a role already filled.  Let us take, for example, the first four attack spells in the four books: Flame Dart, Stab of Ice, Hurl Boulder and the lightning spell whose name I forget.  Flame Dart and the Lightning spell are identical, only the Lightning costs more.  Stab of Ice is also identical to the lightning, but has a shorter range.  However, it can freeze the opponent.  Hurl Boulder, iirc, is the worst of the lot, with a high mana cost and a limited range.  Maybe it does more damage, but I don't remember.

The issue here is, if you have all four books, you will only ever use one of these spells.  Maybe stab of ice because it freezes, but otherwise you'll pick the spell for which you have a shard rather than because one is beneficial to your play style.
 .

Great ideas. Not quite sure how difficult it is to program AI, if the spells all have different effects, but definitely harder than if they were all dong damage in the same way.

If SD was even more daring they could do it like MOM and created more specialised books.. so some books would have the lion's share of Direct damage spells , while others would have less or even none. Water would have more bluffing spells, fire more Direct damage etc.

But think SD already mentioned they are against this idea.

 

 

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August 26, 2010 5:22:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I hope they aren't against it.  From a design perspective, having different books without making them different in any meaningful way is a bit ridiculous.  It'd be okay if it were purely cosmetic, like they were all almost identical but had different graphics, but then there is no reason to allow selecting multiple books.  If they want to have MoM style spell progression with different schools of magic and researching newer and better spells, they need to pay more attention to the MoM model of doing that.  As it stands, MoM has a much more thought out magic system, and that game is 20 years old.  As it stands, the present system is more comparable to Heroes of Might and Magic, but with less differentiation and an necessarily limiting spell-book system.

 

I really love the look and feel of this game.  I appreciate what it is trying to do.  I honestly think it's capable of being the best Fantasy-Strategy game since MoM, if not of all time.  But not with the flawed design I see right now.  There's simply no discipline to it, and the magic system, which really should be the centerpiece of a game called "War of Magic," feels like it was hustled together and tacked on at the last minute, and that nobody really thought deeply about how it was supposed to work out.

 

Like healing spells.  Why are there no healing spells in the core spell-books?  This is supposed to be a strategy/rpg hybrid.  Healing is essential to make my party survivable, so I can actually keep them alive long enough to level them.  As it stands, the best course of action is to weaken them with spells from afar and then fight purely defensively.  Then, if anyone gets hurt, I either have to use potions or food, which I can only get at home, or I have to trek all the way back home to heal them up.  It means my sovereign has to stay too near to home-base to go out questing, or if I do I risk a party wipe, which is really costly in this game.

 

Speaking of which, why no resurrection?  Heroes, especially early on, are expensive, and you only get them once.  If they die, that's it.  I had this same issue with Fall From Heaven 2, but there the engine probably doesn't allow it and it's much more focused on strategy.  You don't need to risk your heroes to level them either, so you can save them for the tough fight if you want to.  Here, they must fight to level, and thus they must be risked to level, and then one false move and all that hard work is wasted.  No healing to make up for tactical mistakes.  No revives for when you are surprise attacked by an overwhelming enemy or the hero becomes stranded.  It makes them really worthless after the early game except as sources of children (and therefore of additional summoned creatures).  And this all stems from not thinking out how the magic would be used beyond pure offensive power.

 

I mean, HP is a calculation that fits snugly into their combat mechanic.  The AI should be able to understand increasing and decreasing HP.  If not, why bother with tactical battles at all?  Just make all spells buffs, de-buffs or out-of-combat attacks and auto-resolve everything.  Less spectacular, but much easier to code since you don't need additional battle AI or a battle engine.  The actual combat becomes a predictable probability calculation with all variables contained purely in the campaign map.  That would be much-more in-tune with Galactic Civs 2, even though it would really hurt the RPG elements since you cannot protect important units.

 

Anyways, got a bit off-topic.  Point is, there is no justification for the magic-system as is.  It wasn't really thought out, and it needs a good designer to look through it and think about how the books relate to each other, to the tactical battles, and to the game as a whole.  AS it is, it's a feature, but it doesn't support or compliment game-play in the way that it needs to in order to be an enjoyable and strategic aspect of the game.

 

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August 26, 2010 6:27:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'd like to nitpick about something most everyone's agreeing on, and up front I want to admit it's tied to an opinion I have you might not share.

I think magic scales *excellently* in this game. What you need to do to make magic relevant in the mid and late game, however, is stop using it as a primary nuke and shift to unit support. You're of course right that the damage spread is wonky for direct damage. But you know what isn't unpredictable? Adding fire damage to each member of your 16 archer team and setting someone's giant on fire with a single shot. City protections and debuffs are powerful, powerful stuff, especially later on, since the good ones are a flat percentage hit, which can be a brutal hit to a level 5 city that you're sieging.  Movement is always at a premium in these kinds of games, even with roads, so for a few mana teleport is amazing, especially for keeping a stack for Area of Influence defense. And given how large the area of influence is around cities, the simple spell of raising or lowering land can yield substantial, long-term bonuses long after you've stopped using your mana for chain lightning or morrigan's facemelting, or whatever.

I guess I'd just like to impress on the posters here that just because technique A works well early on doesn't mean it must or even should work well later. Magic stays very, very powerful throughout the game, so long as you're willing to adapt your playstyle to use it.  If you're unwilling to adapt a strategy to a different puzzle, you shouldn't be too surprised if it's demonstrably less efficacious.

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August 26, 2010 7:13:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Goodmorning all

Quoting onefiercepuppy,
I guess I'd just like to impress on the posters here that just because technique A works well early on doesn't mean it must or even should work well later. Magic stays very, very powerful throughout the game, so long as you're willing to adapt your playstyle to use it.  If you're unwilling to adapt a strategy to a different puzzle, you shouldn't be too surprised if it's demonstrably less efficacious.

While I concur, one can use magic well in the late game, if one switches to a support role. one of the major 'Sells' of the game was world changing magics.  My Soverine should be able to bring down a rain of fire and brimstone upon the whole of the opposing army, hitting every opposing troop for between 30 and 90 % of their health.  or raise a wall and drop it upon a legion of troops crushing a third of my opposition in a single stroke.  

the Magic was marketed as 'your strong enough that along you rivaled the gods(titans)'.  I want spells that put me nose to nose with a dragon, and make the dragon hold up a red flag to parlay.

just saying.

Robbie

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August 26, 2010 7:53:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting onefiercepuppy,

I guess I'd just like to impress on the posters here that just because technique A works well early on doesn't mean it must or even should work well later. Magic stays very, very powerful throughout the game, so long as you're willing to adapt your playstyle to use it.  If you're unwilling to adapt a strategy to a different puzzle, you shouldn't be too surprised if it's demonstrably less efficacious.

 

This is true.  Actually, this is a very good point I had not really thought about.  

However, as above poster pointed out, this is an inelegant solution, because it rail-roads the play-style.  There should be a trade off here between offense and buffing, where emphasizing one earlier on gives the player more power early on, but that the buffer or de-buffer does better in the late game.  That isn't really present at the moment, because there isn't trade-off, so it's more of a beginner's trap, where the game leads you on that the buffs aren't as useful and then switches later.  Since there is no choice, since you get access to both kinds of spells anyways regardless of your other decisions (since all magic books are almost the same) and since once you are familiar with this intricacy it becomes a no-brainer, it's only really going to affect a beginner who doesn't know better.  An experienced player will always buff.

A better design would make damage spells or buffs a choice from the beginning, and then give different advantages to the battle mage and the buffer accordingly.

Actually, I'm half of the opinion that the game would be better off without tactical battles, and the damage spells would all occur out of-combat, so it would behave more like an hp de-buff.  That would fit better with the rate mana regenerates at the moment, where the player has to worry about when to cast in the lager picture.  Of course, then, it's riskier to heroes, since you cannot keep them safe in-combat

But that's a very good point, and actually makes the magic system seem a bit more subtle.  But it still lacks impact, and it makes specializing in magic over other game features less viable.

 

It's a difference of opinion to some extent, but I feel that the game is better served if players can decide which aspect to emphasize for victory.  IN my opinion, a player should be able to choose one part of the game, like questing or magic or warfare, emphasize it, and use it to make up for deficiencies elsewhere.  I feel this would make the game far more interesting and fun, but perhaps harder to balance.  If we want a more juggling type approach, having a more railroaded approach is better, but I feel that, while this makes the game easier to balance, it makes it less fun since there is less play-style variation.

But that's my opinion.  It's not necessarily right.

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August 26, 2010 8:26:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, magic is pitiful in this game.  It's marginally useful before beasties start to gain strength and generally doesn't scale worth a crap, especially vs conventional troops and especially vs logistics tech.

Something has to change.  Just saying spells can do "up to your sov's intel" in dmg is pitifully weak even if everything else worked (like shard amplification).  The sov's level should come in to play, so you're encouraged to level the idiot, and the spells should do guaranteed dmg + random dmg to justify their insane mana cost and the existence of utter crap mana regen.

So maybe a basic attack spell (fire dart, for ex) should do (LVL * INT) / 2 as base dmg then 1 to that same value again as random dmg.  So a lvl 2 sov with 10 int would do 11-20 dmg with a fire dart instead of the utter shite it does now.  Then mix in your shard bonuses for extra dmg.

THEN when a lvl 5 sov is up against some baby ogre or whatever that's rocking 50hp and decent def (say sov is up to 16 int by then) you'd be doing more like 41-80 dmg (apparently mitigated by def) and potentially vaporizing that idiot instead of doing 4 dmg and wanting to abandon spellcasting.  THEN your sov would feel like a hero, instead of a portal bot of a zero.

Maybe my ex is too drastic but something has to change.  If your sov, your MAIN DUDE, in a game about magic, is in the field casting spells, and you've leveled him and invested in casting stats, then he damn well should be lowering the boom on mobs, not tickling them and wasting mana.

Quoting MagicWeasel,
StillSingle has obviously not attempted to use any attack magic lategame.

You quickly find yourself pitted against squads of death peasants with far too much HP and defense for magic to be worthwhile, which is exceptionally disappointing for someone like me who revels in magical nukes. I'm not sure if the Python scripts are available to us at the moment, I'll go take a look. I'll try and modiy the way the game interprets spells a bit -- even XML should be suitable for specifying a min/max damage for spells, and an INT coefficient as Nathikal suggests! Wish me luck!

StillSingle has obviously not attempted to use any attack magic lategame.

Late?  Magic becomes useless way before late game.  The only use for magic is to teleport around your conventional troops and maybe to cast brilliance on a few cities early to speed up researching techs for death squads.

Parties/Squads/Companies of basic troops blow away everything else in this game atm.

I'm in mid/late game.

My basic squad unit (8 soldiers combined) is at 210 health, 290 attack, and 384 defense.  I have 2 towns that can build them in 6 turns and their cost is essentially trivial for my current empire (5 leveled cities and don't even need that many).

What spell you gonna cast vs that?  Maybe teleport - to get the heck away.

I have 2 with my sov plus 2 party units from the previous generation of death squads.  I could have 10 with him if I wanted to, but my current army is so far beyond overkill that it's just pointless.

In that game (my current and probably last for a long time) I took the stupid trait because magic is so pointless in this game that you might as well have those 3 extra points at sov creation and slowing down magic research doesn't hurt you at all (put all extra points in con so your sov has health to live thru autoing battles).  My sov is stupid and ugly (cracks me up) and still has a bunch of children and boatloads of spells he never uses.  I'm at a point where all I do is research to unlock the next level of spells because the popups for spell learning are just a hassle.  I ignore the +arcane NPCs and +arcane structures are the lowest on my priority list.  I just crank tech knowledge to run wild in the warfare tree to build a better death squad.  It sucks.  But why bother with magic when you can easily roll everything with parties - and it's cool to design death squads.

Shards/shard bonuses to dmg seem to be broken too.

Rock on.

 

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August 26, 2010 9:08:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Problems:

Direct damage magic is underpowered, but other kinds of magic are actually good.

Spell schools are too similar in most ways, and too unbalanced in others (only fire/earth/death have badass summons for instance, and no drawbacks to compensate)

It's too easy to get all the spell schools

Mana comes back too slowly

Solutions:

Reduce or completely remove the random roll range on all attack spells, and stop making defense stack (a problem that's ruining more than just attack magic). With these changes it might not even be necessary to buff the base damage amounts of spells. They'd still be crap against lone big creatures, but casterrs would still have tactical buffs to help against them, and attack magic would suddenly be useful against armies for the entire game.

Make every spell school good at a couple things and bad at a couple things, like they are in... every fantasy game like this.

Bring back the 10-15 point costs to spellbooks from the beta. Redo the default sovereigns to reflect this change.

Give every elemental school a "convert shard" spell, a high level spell which turns a target shard in your influence or wild territory into the proper shard type (so the fire version makes fire shards, etc.) You don't need this option early on because early spells wouldn't need shards to be good, but once you start hitting the lategame this would really help spells scale.

Keep default mana regeneration as bad as it is but add a few more ways around it. Potions, accessories. Make the wizards tower or whatever it's called an earlier, cheaper building that doesn't require a high level city. If you're going to attach high prereqs like that to a mana recharging building, make it fully restore mana in a turn.

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August 26, 2010 9:13:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think what Stardock was going for is that they didn't want to have spells have independent damage values, modified by intelligence, because then they'd have to write a battery of spells to scale up and that was boring, considering they have, what, 6 varieties of damage sources to address?

So instead they hinged damage on intelligence, and made spells modify your intelligence damage. So there are "up to half your intelligence" "double your intelligence" "equal to your intelligence." traits on spells.

I suppose they figured then they could just focus on writing a handful of damage spells per element, and let the intelligence growth of casters balance it out over time. It seems like this idea wasn't tested for real balance, it looks good on paper...but most things do.

I think they wanted a very narrow power scale in the game too, but armies completely blew that hope out of the water. Sort of like whoever was doing items, and perhaps armies, wasn't exactly on the same page as the magic guy about what scale they were working with. It could all be addressed by balancing and time, but the core system isn't that interesting, and its reverse thinking and severe damage range has a lot of people scratching their heads.

It's kind of like they tried to do the exact opposite of the common spell formula.

Most games have the set damage for each spell and the extremes are scaled to the level of the game you're at, and they control for and adjust damage variance. Intelligence (or THE mental stat) usually contributes secondarily to the overall calculation.

Here the stat is the core and really the spell just modifies what raw damage your intelligence can deliver, modifies its delivery AND goes for 100% uncontrolled variance.

Yay for trying something new but...I think the whole model needs to be more in line with what's tested and proven. Unless there is some serious balancing coming and an absolutely innovate way of thinking about spells...the latter of which hasn't been shown so for.

I really think Stardock looked at the dominant way of handling magic today in video games, knew they wanted to do something different, but didn't commit to the time necessary to design something really new that also gelled in a live game. There are times when I can kind of see what they were going for, where spell power is more driven by the character than the spell per se....but it's just not working now, and it does sap a ton of flavor out of magic.

 

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August 26, 2010 9:50:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Basing power heavily on intelligence isn't causing any problems by itself though. It's the messed up defense mechanics + the fact that you can roll as low as 0 that are ruining attack magic.

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August 26, 2010 10:10:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It's just not that interesting though. It makes you almost totally dependent on shards for real power, which I guess fits the lore, and all spells end up being the same, or lack any characteristics, because they're all coming from the same damage range, and end up in the same damage range, which is everything.

That's addressable by making spells more interesting, but I just don't get the sense of getting stronger in Elemental. I just get access to more skills, and then with one or two shards, I've gone from doing crap damage, to doing (maybe) crazy insane damage.

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August 26, 2010 10:15:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It'd be fine if it was based on intelligence and the roll was more normalized, as discussed above, and there was more to the damage than raw intelligence.  The problems are the actual damage has too much variance, and even if it didn't, with the way groups of soldiers work the caster's Int cannot be raised fast enough to compensate.

The problem with a set base damage is that, since any spell-caster you control can cast any spell, with a high base damage all your spell-casters become more damaging, so your army becomes exponentially more powerful as you gain more casters, even if those casters are individually lower level.  Having the base be dependent on the casters' stats makes this more of a trade off, where more casters mean more likely to cast per army, but each is less effective overall.

Of course, the low mana re-gen and the way enchantments work still means quantity wins out.  One more caster means five more summons or buffs and an extra 1 point of mana regen per turn.

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August 28, 2010 11:30:52 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm inspired by the discussion above , just thinking aloud

Leaving aside "hit rolls" , spell armour and defenses

You can have spell damage range based on

 

1. A base value that is fixed regardless of who casted it and depends only on the spell (i.e 10 points of damage)

2. Some characteristic of the caster only e.g. intellect or level of caster (i.e Half your intellect score or half the level of your caster)

3. A combination of caster characteristic + spell cast ( i.e Base 10 + 0.5 for every intellect score)

 

All these 3 systems can allow variation in damage (whether linear or normalized) - in some rare cases you could have a spell that always did the same damage.. Something like Doombolt in MOM that always does 10 damage but that's obviously a special case.

Examples

1. Does damage from 1-10

2. Does damage from 0.5 your intellect score to 2x of intellect score

3. Does damage 1-10 + 0.5 for every intellect score or 0.5 your intellect to 2x your intellect + 5

Variety could be added by playing with the min and max scores , so some spells would have lower caps but be very consistent in dealing damage versus others that could be extremely damaging but could also have a lower min damage.

Further more some spells could allow you to put in more mana into the spell to boost power of spell (was in MOM). 

e.g does 1-10 + 0.5 damage per extra mana put in or does  A*intellect score, where A = 1,2,3,4,5 depending on mana used.

 

A very good discussion above about how MOM bases damages on just the spell being cast itself makes researching new powerful spells very critical. Say you discover a new high powered spell, suddenly all your casters can cast it and do the same amount of damage regardless of whether they are newbies or superheroes or how high their intellgience is ..

Of course in reality.. just because you discovered superdamage spell A, doesn't mean all your casters can cast it. Casters might not have enough mana, or you could say they couldn't cast it because they are not high level enough.

Traditional RPGs like DND scale damage based mostly on level. Eg Fireball Xd6, where X is level of caster.   EWOM uses intellect score, which could be done in the same way. This is probably superior to the current system since you get more normalized results.

I'm not sure replacing level of caster with intellect to scale damage is better or worse though. The main difference i can see is that by using intellect rather than caster level, the starting build becomes critical, since with low intellect at the start it;s hard to change.

Then there is a mixed system with the power of a spell based on the spell itself modified by characteristic of caster.. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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August 28, 2010 1:38:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One reason why early game magic is more powerful than late game magic is that magic knows no multi unit stacks. That results in the scaling of army vs wizardry being way off.

Elemental  knows the Firebolt and Fireball spell. In MoM, the Fireball would affect every unit in a stack, hitting 8 or 16 single soldiers at once. On a single foe you might use the cheaper Firebolt but wizards had a way to deal with multi-person units.

In Elemental, this does not work because you always have to go through the stacked shields of the units and then you can go through the soft bits.

I'm not asking for a change to the unit organisation. (tracking single person health in a unit).   MoM didn't do that, either.

The problem is that area spells do not apply an equal (or random) damage against every single person's shields and hit points. The final outcome can stay the same. The whole unit loses x % of it's total members while all "unhurt" members stay unhurt.

There are simply too few "small" area spells in Elemental and the big ones are largely cosmetic.

 

The defense of units automatically scales up by a factor of up to 16 but how likely is it to control 16 fire nodes so the magic scales up accordingly?

 

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