Most serious design issues

With suggested fixes

By on August 25, 2010 10:32:53 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

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1. The level of randomness in this game is far too high to be fun.  The game needs to stop using uniform distributions and start using something with more probability weight in the center.  Spells that do 0-20 damage with equal probability are not much fun, and are not very strategic (because I cannot predict the outcome very well - I don't really know if the attack will kill an enemy unit or not).

Either use some other probability distribution where most of the probability density is concentrated between the upper and lower quartiles, or use other dierolls that achieve a similar effect - eg 2d6 rather than 1d12.  2d10 rather than 1d20.

This goes all through the combat engine.

2. The way that parties/squads work is not fun.  As has been said many times, the way that parties stack is far too strong.

Adding more units should affect the number of combat rolls generated: three strength 10 units should get 1-10 three times (to compare to the enemy defense) and not 1-30.

This would make some real quantity/quality tradeoffs.  For example, I could build 6 guys with 10 strength from basic weapons, or I could build 3 guys with 15 strength each by giving them an expensive magic item.  And that 15 strength will be noticeably better than the 10 strength vs enemy armor.  As it is, the system is massively biased in favor of building as many guys as you can.

Yes, this would require rebalancing every monster in the game.  But this needs to be done anyway.

This would also reduce the weak scaling power of magic and champions.  And would make defense more valuable relative to offense; as it stands a unit that has 1.5 times as much offense as defense is one thing at a single guy, but is far worse when there are 10 of them.

A champion with 20 defense from a whole bunch of things would actually be tough, and could fight off 8 mooks with strength 8 weapons without dying horribly from a strength 64 attack.

3. The rate of growth of the economy is off.  Growth in the early game is too slow, particularly if you don't happen to have a goldmine nearby.  Honestly, your early game income could be 1 gpt or 6 gold per turn depending on your start position.

And starting with an iron mine doesn't help much, since its several techs before you can even use any iron.

And then growth in the late game is such that you can't spend all your gold fast enough.

This is partly due to the gold production buildings.  You have +1, +2, +3, then +10 and a whole bunch of +50% and +100% buildings.

Increase the income from early buildings while reducing the later ones.

4. There need to be limits on the number of magic items a hero can equip.  You shouldn't be able to just keep adding these.  You should have to pick and choose the best items, not just equip all of them.

One amulet, 2 rings, 1 pack.  No more using basic equipment as a gold sink to make level 1-2 champions with stats in the hundreds.

This way, more advanced items are interesting; a +10 attack item is far better than two +5 items, because it only takes up a single equipment slot.

5. Damage is still too high relative to hit points.  One of the biggest problems with combat is that very often the first strike can wipe out the other unit entirely.  This means that the tactical combat AI is far too easy to exploit.  All I have to do is move my guys such that you *just* can't reach my soldiers.  Then you charge forward with all your movement, and stop.  And then I attack you and destroy your entire unit while suffering no damage myself.

This is exacerbated by how stacks combine.

Easiest fix is to increase the health of units.

Having simultaneous attack and defense damage (without a first strike skill) might also be a good way to fix this.

6. Experience earned doesn't depend on how tough your foes are.  You get the same XP from killing a small spider as you do from a mighty demon, and the 10x XP difference depending on whether you landed a hit or not leads to very odd experience farming strategies - I deliberaltely refrain from killing a unit in order to make sure that everyone gets a touch.

Experience should depend on the combat strength of enemies, and it should be a fixed pool that is spread around the units.

So if I beat your stuff with a big army, then each unit only gets a small boost.

As it is, a level 1 unit doubles its health from winning a single fight where it damages the enemy.  Lameo.

Reducing xp gain by dividing it across units would help.  As would increasing base health to 10 from 5.  So getting level 2 is 10->15 instead of 5->10.

A good rule of thumb is that it should take 3-4 unit-turns to destroy an equivalent unit.  [And units get 2 atatcks per turn, so this means 6-8 attacks.]

7. UI weaknesses. Many things still take far too many clicks, and going through different menus.  For example: buying items and then equipping them should all be done through a single screen.  

Targeting enchantment spells for example is a huge pain.

Many other good threads exist on this.

8. I haven't explored the magic system enough to have a definitive comment, but it still seems like there is very little difference between the spell schools (this is a big step back from MoM or AoW or even Disciples), and that summons are far better than tactical spells.

The best way to fix this is to make mana regeneration a proportional thing, adding say 0.1*Essence per turn.  Have some items that can boost this, and then have summons and enchantments reduce this somewhat.  So a weak enchantment might reduce recharge by 0.05 mana per turn while a strong summon might reduce recharge by 0.3 mana per turn.

And then to redesign a lot of the spell system.

The issue isn't about *more* spells.  If anything, cut the number of spells, so that those spells available to each element are meaningfully different.

* * *

All of these problems were apparent in the beta, and all were pointed out and had fixes suggested.  I'm disappointed that none have been fixed yet, or at least that there hasn't been a demo

If its going to take a month to change these, so be it.  But it would be really great to get an acknowledgement at least that there are problems here and that there is an intention to work on these.

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August 25, 2010 10:41:49 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very strongly agree on 1-5. Also agree on 6, but can live without it. Can't really add much to your post as I think you covered it nicely.

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August 25, 2010 10:58:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I very much agree, to every thing OP says. As much as I love the game,  I have to admit, that the battles are totally broken: mob eats all.

One thing I would add to this list is the possibility to upgrade units and bind them into bigger group and remove them from the group if needed. So I could split my 12 men unit into 2 6-men squads if needed and combine them back whenever I want to.

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August 25, 2010 11:01:42 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

il

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August 25, 2010 11:03:06 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One thing I would add to this list is the possibility to upgrade units and bind them into bigger group and remove them from the group if needed. So I could split my 12 men unit into 2 6-men squads if needed and combine them back whenever I want to.

Not that this is a bad idea, but I'd prefer to keep the thread sticking to the most serious design issues as per title, which this isn't. The more this thread becomes a feature wish list the less likely they'll keep paying attention to it.

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August 25, 2010 11:12:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Do you really think they are going to change such things now? I myself had made a big thread about point 1 during beta 1, when still could have easily changed it, with a lot of examples and arguments on why it was important to have a more sensible random roll distributions, called "on attack/defense probability distributions." Others have made similar threads I think.

If Stardock was ever willing to experiment with such fundamental changes, they surely would have done it then, during the beta, not now once the game has been released?

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August 25, 2010 11:20:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very good thread. Hopefuly we will get some feedback on those issues from Stardock guys. Also, good solutions for future mod makers - od course if it's possible to implement them.

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August 25, 2010 11:21:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Do you really think they are going to change such things now?

Yes, I think they might.  As much as I am disappointed with the game as it stands, Stardock has demonstrated a willingness to do post-release support more than any other gaming studio I have ever seen.  And they've indicated a strong willingness to do so for Elemental.

 

But yes, these things have been mentioned many times before.  And all through the beta people were shouted down with "you can't judge this now, its beta".

Well, its not beta anymore.

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August 25, 2010 11:21:27 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The way defense currently works, it's very difficult to decide what the defense of a stack should be.

-If we multiply defense by the size of the stack, it transforms the unit into a tank. 10 people in leather armor have never been seen in real life to be as tough as a nuclear bomb shelter, so that doesn't make sense.

-However, if we count defense only once, then only the first guy in the stack gets an armor. Imagine a dragon doing 30 damage against a group of 4 people with armor 5 and 10 HP:

The first guy in the stack reduces damage by 5 with his armor, takes 10 damage, dies. 

The second doesn't reduce damage with his armor, takes 10 damage, dies.

The 3rd guy takes 5 damage, not reduced by armor.

 

For the second and third guy, armor didn't even matter, because the armor is counted once. The solution? A more complex way to determine damage done to a stack. If damage was high enough to kill the 1st guy, then count the armor of the second. If he was killed too, count the armor a 3rd time. Etc.

 

In other words: compare damage to the armor+HP of a single unit, and see how many units the attack would kill.

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August 25, 2010 11:33:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I strongly agree with points 1 to 5. It's so easy to kill when you have a high enough attack that it's not fun to play the tactical battles : magic is almost useless when attack drives everything.

Other flaw you didn't mention : when you have a resistance you always roll the max. That's really unfair, because there's too much situations where attack is totally negated. If each strike you land (even if it doesn't do any damage) would fatigue the unit (reducing attack and defense) then the overnumbered tactic would be usefull.

Tacticals battles have a long way to go before they can really be interesting.

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August 25, 2010 11:35:09 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Werewindlefr,

For the second and third guy, armor didn't even matter, because the armor is counted once. The solution? A more complex way to determine damage done to a stack. If damage was high enough to kill the 1st guy, then count the armor of the second. If he was killed too, count the armor a 3rd time. Etc.

Did you know that is exactly how Master of magic does it?

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August 25, 2010 11:49:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I support the OP's points, and vieuxchat's idea regarding defense.  Combat definitely needs reworked.

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August 25, 2010 11:55:18 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Agree with everything also.

Then again as mentioned before this thread is just stating the obvious that every one has being saying...since the beta.  

But fanboys will say.. SD knows better.. they have 30 years of experience etc etc etc.. 

So no, I'm sure they won't change it. 

GalCiv 1 and 2 did not have weighted probabilities, so I highly doubt EWOM will be changed either. For whatever reason SD thinks a simplistic linear system is better and they dont think it's a problem at all. 

 

Quoting Netriak,

Quoting Werewindlefr, reply 8
For the second and third guy, armor didn't even matter, because the armor is counted once. The solution? A more complex way to determine damage done to a stack. If damage was high enough to kill the 1st guy, then count the armor of the second. If he was killed too, count the armor a 3rd time. Etc.


Did you know that is exactly how Master of magic does it?

 

 

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August 25, 2010 11:55:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There are two ways I can think of to do a squad's defense roll vs an attack. Both get pretty complex, though...

Method 1

1) Roll damage dealt.
2) Split damage among entire squad (damage/x, where x is number of units in the stack).
3) Roll each unit's defense based on damage directed to that unit.

For example, Dragon breathes fire for 200 damage to a stack of 8 units. 200/8 means 25 damage is directed towards each unit, so each unit in the stack does a separate roll against 25 damage.

Caveats:

- Need to make sure the damage split makes sense, meaning if each guy has 20 hp, and the stack takes 10 points of damage, it doesn't make sense to make each unit roll against 1/2 point of damage. There needs to be some minimum value of incoming damage as compared to the hp of each unit and number of units in the stack. Below this value full damage is dealt to a single unit instead of split.
- It doesn't make sense for melee weapons or bows to hit everyone in the stack, but it does make sense for a true AoE attack, like breathing fire, or anything magic.

 

Method 2

1) Roll damage dealt.
2) Roll defense by first guy in squad. 
3) If guy dies, subtract (unit hp + defense roll) from total damage roll.
4) Roll defense by second guy in squad against new damage dealt value.
5) Continue until no damage left to take.

For example, a stack of 4 guys with 20 hp and 5 defense takes 10 damage. Damage less than 20, so first guy doesn't die and takes all incoming damage.

For another example, a stack of 4 guys with 20 hp and 5 defense takes 50 damage. First guy rolls 5 against 50 and dies. 25 hp was directed at him (20 damage to kill him after defending against 5), so subtract 25 from 50. Direct remaining 25 damage to second guy, who rolls a 1. He dies with 21 damage taken (20 hp + defending against 1), so subtract 21 from 25. Direct 4 damage to third guy, who rolls a 4 and takes no damage. End attack.

Caveat:

- Like Method 1, this doesn't make sense for an AoE spell, which makes more sense to do an even split and make everyone roll.

 

So I'd suggest fusing something like these two. Against physical attacks, use Method 2. Against Magic attacks, use Method 1.

I don't expect the split in roll mechanism between physical and magic attacks to actually happen, however. But I can't think of any one system to roll defense that makes equal sense to an obvious AoE attack like Fireball and an obvious one-guy attack like a sword swing.

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August 25, 2010 11:58:24 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

But fanboys will say.. SD knows better.. they have 30 years of experience etc etc etc..

You can leave this kind of crap out of this thread. Don't flame bait.

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August 25, 2010 12:04:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The way defense currently works, it's very difficult to decide what the defense of a stack should be.

I think its easy to see how it should work.

Each unit has a defense value - and this is identical for every member of a stack, by definition.

Roll damage.  Compare it to that 

So if I have a stack of 4 spearmen who are each attack 7, defense 3, hit points 10 then:

a. Each time the stack attacks, it gets 4 rolls of 7 attack.

b. The stack has defense 3

c. The stack has 10 hit points.

For the second and third guy, armor didn't even matter, because the armor is counted once.

Yes, but so what?  This is as it should be.  Armor gets counted once for each attack.

So, if a stack of these 4 spearmen attacks an identical stack, then each attack does attack 7 compared to defense 3, 4 times.

If a strength 20 ogre attacks the stack, then it gets a strength 20 attack against a strength 3 defense.  The first 10 points of damage go to killing the first guy, then the rest go towards the second guy.

Once the first guy in the stack has been killed, then the stack will only do 3 attacks of attack 7, until the unit heals back over 30/40 hit points.

[quote]

1) Roll damage dealt.
2) Roll defense by first guy in squad. 
3) If guy dies, subtract (unit hp + defense roll) from total damage roll.
4) Roll defense by second guy in squad against new damage dealt value.
5) Continue until no damage left to take.[/quote[

I don't see why you need to roll defense again for the second guy.

If I have a strength 20 ogre, he has a powerful attack, and that will punch through a defense 3 shield.  And the attack will do equal damage against 4 guys with defense 3 and 10 hit poitns as it will against 2 guys with defense 3 and 20 hit points.

 

I wouldn't bother making AOE effect spells function against stacks.  Leave AOE effects to be ones that impact multiple tiles.

Yes, this is slightly counterintuitive in that it makes a squad of 4 guys less vulnerable to an AOE effect than 4 individual guys in adjacent tiles, but so be it.

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August 25, 2010 12:05:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I strongly agree with OP on each point. The combat mechanics need pretty much a complete overhaul. As do spells in general, though they're less of an issue as long as they can be modded flexibly enough.

+1, too, covered most of the bigger issues really well

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August 25, 2010 12:08:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Note also that this means you have to do a lot of stat rebalancing.  You don't want attack 100 dragons anymore, you might want them to be attack ~40.  As you start getting into higher attack values, they get really powerful, because basic mooks will never values that are very high.  In order to get above attack ~15 should require magic items, a champion or a monster.

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August 25, 2010 12:13:59 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The problem is, as it is, the only interesting unit is a group of 16 rednecks with wooden spears and leather armors. Cheap, quick to obtain, and can steamroll dragons.

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August 25, 2010 12:28:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

As long as the basic mechanics are good, balancing isn't that big problem. There are lots of people interested in doing, and doing, mods. Atm mods simply cannot fix most of these issues.

Werewindlefr, on Empire side warhammers are really cheap atm. 40 attack/hammer, speed doesn't matter as single hit could kill. Or do 1 damage, but that goes for all units. Few of those carries over early game, later resources tend to be plentiful.

Imo some kind of system for doing AoE-damage to squads would be pretty necessary. Those armour-ignoring AoE-attacks that at least some demons use are a good example. They one-hit any normal troops (without any rolls needed, too), but squads come out fine. Couldn't damage have a aoe-property, so that a fireball, for example, could target only single square, but if it hits a squad, it does more damage than to a single creature (due to hitting multiple units)? Real aoe-damage spells would always have this property.

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August 25, 2010 12:32:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good thread.

However, one correction: Parties work as you are requesting.

A party of say knights (4) who have a combined attack of 28 do not roll between 1 and 28. They roll between 1 and 7 for each knight.

Assuming each knight does say 3 damage to a unit, that would be 12 damage from that party of knights.

If the defending unit has a defense of say 16, that party of knights may not do any damage at all.

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August 25, 2010 12:37:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
Good thread.

However, one correction: Parties work as you are requesting.

A party of say knights (4) who have a combined attack of 28 do not roll between 1 and 28. They roll between 1 and 7 for each knight.

Assuming each knight does say 3 damage to a unit, that would be 12 damage from that party of knights.

If the defending unit has a defense of say 16, that party of knights may not do any damage at all.

Indeed? That's great to hear, apologies for getting confused I take it then it works the same way when a stack attacks a stack? How does it work when a very powerful attack hits a stack? Like a 100 damage attack against 4 guys with a combined defense of say, 28.

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August 25, 2010 12:48:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

a good post especially 1-5

i hope brad does not drown in the sea of hate and instead is working on fixing this tuff

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August 25, 2010 12:54:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

If the defending unit has a defense of say 16, that party of knights may not do any damage at all.

So is that defense of 16 rolled only once, or 4 times just as if he were attacked by 4 individuals?

Also, if such a party is attacked by a squad of 8 spear-man, and each knight has 10 defense, how do they roll for defense?

- 1 roll of 1 - 40, the displayed defense value (this one is inconsistent with the way you describe attacks work

- 4 rolls of 1 - 10, every knight defends (This one makes stacks too powerful, and is the one complained about in point 2)

- 8 rolls of 1 - 10, each knight defends against every attack with its full defense (The displayed defense amount of 40 lies in this case, it is simply 10)

- 32 rolls of 1 - 10, all knights defend together against each attack separately (This one makes defense too powerful)

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August 25, 2010 1:04:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
Good thread.

However, one correction: Parties work as you are requesting.

A party of say knights (4) who have a combined attack of 28 do not roll between 1 and 28. They roll between 1 and 7 for each knight.

Assuming each knight does say 3 damage to a unit, that would be 12 damage from that party of knights.

If the defending unit has a defense of say 16, that party of knights may not do any damage at all.

But their damage still stacks, yes? Maybe it should not stack?

I agree with everything said by the OP -- especially the comments around magic and the UI. It honestly feels like that the magic system needs to be completely reorganized and rebalanced at the moment. It feels extremely thin.

There are a lot of weird game ballance issues that I totally don't understand. For example, look at the cost of the armor items you receive with the first Combat tech level -- some items that provide 1 point of armor cost 10g 10m, others with the same benefit cost 1g and 1m. Maybe there's a reason for that (cloaks are just the awesome?!), but I can't figure it out.

Right now, the game balance lacks the elegance of the very best systems. It seems to me like there's lots of complexity that adds nothing, and it's not very fun to play.

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August 25, 2010 1:05:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
Good thread.

However, one correction: Parties work as you are requesting.

A party of say knights (4) who have a combined attack of 28 do not roll between 1 and 28. They roll between 1 and 7 for each knight.

Assuming each knight does say 3 damage to a unit, that would be 12 damage from that party of knights.

If the defending unit has a defense of say 16, that party of knights may not do any damage at all.

Awesome!

This is really great. Really. Great. 

Does it work similarly for defense? It'd be nice not to have units of peasants with a 40+ defense too.

Also, this still doesn't overcome the problem of damage stacking versus defense and armies of peasants against dragons. Maybe we should compare the damage to defense each time?

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