[Gameplay] Spells: Teleport balancing and new concepts

By on September 19, 2010 6:56:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Gazz_

Join Date 03/2004
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As most would agree, the ability to port your Stack Of Doom (tm) clear across the world at the cost of 5 mana was game breaking.
Once you had any children with in-combat mana regen, the cost became absolutely trivial and with it the entire concept of movement or garrisoning.
And with 4X games being about growing ones empire, balancing a dominant strategy like teleport on a fixed cost is a recipe for failure.

MOIISKA pointed out one possible solution... which got me started...

Note that all numbers, that are mentioned anywhere here,  are only there for visualisation. I talk about the system here, not any particular number. This is a thread in the Ideas forum without knowing how the game and mana balance will work out in 1.1 it would be completely futile to assign any cost at this point.
(Yes, some seriously wanted to argue about a particular number in here. I kid you not.)

Spell:  Teleport   
   
     should have a base cost of 4.      For that price it only ports the channeler around.

     Every additional unit in your stack adds +2 mana to the cost of the spell.

     Porting a stack of  3 would cost 8 mana, a stack of 12 would cost 26.

Spell:  Teleport Friends

     would have a fixed cost of 10,   plus 0.5 for every additional unit.

     So 16 mana for a full stack.

     With a stack size of 5, either spell costs 12 mana.  Any more units and Teleport group is cheaper.

Travel speed

     Right now Teleport is instant. That is the bit that is entirely too strong.
     You can port to the other side of the continent, have a quick skirmish, and be home for dinner.

     Magical transportation should still have a time component and it should not be entirely predictable.
     I say:   If you cast Teleport, this stack is put in limbo - completely unaccessible by any means - and will appear at the destination 2-4 turns later.
     Much like a MOO2 fleet would be "in hyperspace" for 4 turns and you could not alter it's destination before it arrived.

     Travel time could scale with distance teleported although it should still have a small random element at least.
     Scaling mana cost the same way is probably too messy because you wouldn't find out if you can cast the spell at all until you had selected the destination.

     If you only have one Teleporting Stack Of Doom (tm), then this may actually become your weakness.
     Yes, you teleported towards where the intruders are coming from.  You can probably even kick their butt before they do any harm to your cities.
     But what if this was not the real attack?   If they simply turn around and deny you the open field battle your Stack Of Doom is built for?
     What about the 2 smaller stacks that were sneaking around or used sea transports to stab you in the back?
     The Stack Of Doom would take up to 8 turns to turn around and that can be a very long time.
     A powerful spell / ability / strategy is balanced if sole reliance on that strategy results in a weakness.

Other potential features      in no particular order

  • I completely ignored range restrictions here.  They'll have to be put in when balancing the spells because there are too many options.
  • Demons of the astral plane.  When you teleport, you effectively travel on the astral plane for however many turns it takes.
    The bigger your army, the higher the chance to be found each turn. And the bigger your army, the bigger the predators it attracts. Tigers don't hunt for flys.
    These... things... would be serious business and able to eat an army. Literally.
  • an Evacuate spell.
    A cheaper and "hastily cast" Teleport that sends your units to a random spot in your zone of control.
    Useable both tactically and strategically.    Same travel time rules, possibly even a little longer to make the player think hard about chickening out.
  • Different Teleport spells.
    One might be more expensive but slightly faster traveling. And / or you would require x Air shards for that.
    A low level spell should not transport whole armies clear across the world. Possible limit to 3-5 units.
  • a chance for Teleport to be inaccurate.
    You might not come out at the exact square you were aiming at.
    The farther you travel, the greater the possible scatter distance from your destination. (a simple problem of aiming = )
    Another feature that would especially hurt the singular Stack Of Doom tactic.
  • jet lag / hyperspace sickness
    Units do not arrive in top shape for fighting but suffer negative effects from the teleportation.
    That can be as simple as physical damage but that is easy enough to fix with a Mass Heal spell.
    More interesting possibilities are debuffs that disorient or generally lower the fighting efficiency of the units for 1-2 turns.
    Number of Air shards controlled would be a perfect way to lower or eliminate these effects.
    This would not affect "peaceful" use of the spell but severely limit the ability to air drop a Stack Of Doom onto the enemy's head.
    It would make Teleport a transportation spell instead of an attack spell.
  • Teleport transports faster, up to near instanteous (start of the next turn), when starting point and/or destination are a (air?) shard.
    High level cities can build "gate" improvements that have the same effect.
    Personally I strongly disagree with any way to make Teleport instant again but the idea came up...
  • Some kind of general spell to detect Teleporting armies in transit.  Astral Awareness?
    That would be the base for all the suggested interception mechanics.
  • Possible downside to Teleport, applicable to all teleports or only to those allowes to teleport into enemy territory:
    The teleport spell - while powerful indeed - leaves a visible trace on the strategic map. This translates into a series of small scale Earth Lore spells (1 turn duration), allowing every player in the game to see the area.
    Coupled with teleport travel taking several turns, the enemy would have a chance to prepare and you would pay with intelligence about your own empire if you overused it.
  • A teleported stack does not arrive as a consistent army. Instead, one unit per turn arrives at the destination.
    That means that initially, a quite vulnerable caster arrives, followed by a pretty random troop composition.
    Teleporting a full stack would take 12 turns to arrive. While still useful on a strategic scale because it could be beneficial to arrive there in "only 12 turns", it would prevent the cheesy tactic of teleporting and attacking at full strength righ away.
    The obvious consequence: Players use 3 champions to teleport  1/3 of the Stack of Doom each. That, however, triples the supposedly substantial cost of teleporting and still makes your arriving forces somewhat vulnerable with the champions arriving first. IMO, a massive mana expenditure should be allowed to have an unbalancing effect - unless it is regularly used as a dominant strategy again. Then the system would have to change, maybe making teleport a global spell which you could only cast one of. That way, no 3x simultaneous teleport.

Elemental Teleport Variants       after all, Elemental is the name of the game...

  • Airwalk     Units can teleport to any place. Units traveling like that are visible to the enemy at long ranges and vulnerable to strategic spells
    like Hurricane, fiery rains, blizzard, metor showers... pretty much an exposed position without any cover.
    Current wind direction and speed (displayed on the map and can be altered with magic) would affect  Airwalk,  so you might need
    more than just the Airwalk spell to grant your travelers favourable winds...
     
  • Waterwalk    Units can either teleport from coastal square to a connected coastal square or it could simply be a 1-3 turn buff to let all units
    in the stack walk on water at triple speed or something like that.
    Effectively the same vulnerabilities as Airwalk.
     
  • Earthwalk    You can travel between "earthly" resources like quarries, clay pits, or mines.
    The travelers would be vulnerable to earthquakes.
     
  • Firewalk    Travel from hearth to hearth (city to city).   Simple but boring.
     
    Alternative:
    You literally travel through... fires. We're talking big ones on a strategic scale.
    This assumes the ability to create fires on that scale. A strategic fire spell to create a 1-square fire that lasts 1-3 turns.
    This fire might spread (or only move) through forests or cities. (see "wind" with Airwalk)
    This in itself is one of the drawbacks of the Fire Port. It can go anywhere but the enemy channeler would have a pretty good idea
    on where you are going. Hint: look for spontaneous and huge columns of fire in your empire.
    Creating the "entry point" on your own territory might actually create more fire than you bargained for. Maybe the enemy is a Wind channeler and
    creates a storm that blows your fire into one of your forests or cities, letting it spread through your empire...
    The travelers travel in the shape of flames so the travelers themselves would have a very low chance to create fires along their path.
    They would only be vulnerable to water spells.
    Maybe the destination fire can be extinguished with water spells, letting your traveling army "drop out of hyperspace" and take damage / debuff.
    There must always be exploitable weaknesses when allowing "assaults" via teleport at all.
    They could also sometimes end up directly in the destination fire so asbestos underwear is recommended with Fire Airlines.

    You'll note a lot of fiery side effects here. Fire is not particularly well suited for such peaceful applications. Sure, usually it will work just fine but
    worst case you cut a path of destruction through your own empire only to have your army end up in the magical fire you created yourself.
    Fire is fun to play with but kinda volatile. =P

 

The quickly increasing cost of the low level Teleport is actually a good thing.
It gives us a reason to pick the Air book (which costs reasonable pick points now!) and research Teleport Friends.

Teleport Friends would eventually take over once your empire and your army grows.
Teleport can remain the early and general spell and an expensive fall-back for players without the Air book.

Sometimes you absolutely have to teleport, regardless of having the group port or not.  Regardless of the cost.
That should not immediately be a game over situation (No, you cannot teleport that army!) but merely put a painful dent in your mana supply so it turns into a temporary setback.
That creates another option to think about. Another case of pricey but worth it.

Of course, I don't know if the numbers work out like this.  This is only a draft for a system that could work.
Maybe Teleport is still too good and needs to cost +2.5 or +3 mana for every passenger unit. Until we know the mana situation in 1.1, it's all guesswork.

 

Related:   [Suggestion] Travel takes too long, add Gate spells.

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September 19, 2010 7:24:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I would remove teleport completely or make it optional. But if it stays I'd say limit it as much as possible!!! Only the caster can use it for SINGLE units, only heroes not armies or stacks EVER EVER!

Listen, just get rid of it, why even bother making a huge map with mountans and seas, build boats or having horses or any other trivial movement enhancing (1point big deal!!) item. You want an epic feeling, but then you can just have your best heroes instantly come back from the war and defend their home town and then popping back in the midst of the battle, the very same turn? Are we out of our mind?

You can try to balance it as much as you want but Teleport spoils the whole concept of an epic game, no amount of penalties or added cost could ever counter-balance the way this feature spoils the game! Imagine a Epic novel where units can just teleport! No Lord of the Rings: Frodo could just immediately teleport back and forth from mount Doom, no Odyssey: Odysseus would just get back to Ithaka from Troy in a second: NO MORE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD!!

Teleport must go!

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September 19, 2010 7:29:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

RH: nice adjustment.  I wasn't thinking the mechanics, just suggesting a possible solution.  I am onboard with you. 

 

BK: think Robert Jordan: WoT transportation modes.  That is what I was alluding to.  I really like how he handled it.

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September 19, 2010 7:40:34 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

BK: think Robert Jordan: WoT transportation modes. That is what I was alluding to. I really like how he handled it.

Sorry I am not familiar with that book/game - But the whole concept of EPIC always turns around a long travel. The exact opposite of what Teleport brings.

Go look at the Age Of Wonders Shadow Magic forum: they burned the house down in order for the developers to make teleport optional.

Pages like this prove how much the AOW community was against this "vile sci-fi feature":

http://members.multimania.co.uk/btooic/index.html

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September 19, 2010 8:06:41 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Black-Knight,

BK: think Robert Jordan: WoT transportation modes. That is what I was alluding to. I really like how he handled it.
Sorry I am not familiar with that book/game - But the whole concept of EPIC always turns around a long travel. The exact opposite of what Teleport brings.

Go look at the Age Of Wonders Shadow Magic forum: they burned the house down in order for the developers to make teleport optional.

Pages like this prove how much the AOW community was against this "vile sci-fi feature":

http://members.multimania.co.uk/btooic/index.html
This is a fantasy feature by the way.  I'll give you a brief explanation.

 

Early on in the book series teleportation was done through way-gates where it created a shortcut between two points, like a wormhole.  Unfortunately, this system was corrupted by evil/chaos etc, and it became very dangerous and unreliable. Later, it was rediscovered that there were two ways to move huge distances in a short amount of time.  One way was by opening a hole in time and travelling a short distance on energy platforms in a space/limbo equivalent, so instead of travelling 1000 miles, you only travelled 1 or 10 on a platform that floated between the two pints. The second way was creating an instant gate petween two spots that anyone can use to cross back and forth.

 

I can ofcourse explain it in more details, but that should suffice.

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September 19, 2010 8:33:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Remove teleport completly and instead let the player build portals in their towns later in the game or something..

Or keep teleport and let it only work on build portals in towns.
I.e. channeler casts teleport, a window pops up with all cities that have an portal, channeller choses destination, done.

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September 19, 2010 10:29:51 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Nah, no artificial "select destination" window.

Such a town portal feature would have to be integrated with the pathing so it automatically includes the gates if it results in a shorter travel time.
But even then the travel should not be instanteous because the magical roads in MoM, connecting all your cities, made any sort of defence pretty weird.
One defensive stack was enough even it if was on the other side of the world.
Once you send unit's "into the gate" they should emerge at the destination 2-3 turns later.

Actually, that would be a feature to consider for Teleport, too...

Teleport costs mana and linits the other stuff you can do. The cost will have to be balanced but since we have no clue on how the mana regen system will look, there's no point in worrying about it now.

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September 19, 2010 11:08:23 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

quit fucking with teleport.

the pace of this game is too slow.

creatures, children, and women are all reasons why teleport is needed now that oranized is gone.

the speed of creatures cannot be increased (beyond a temporary +1 spell that costs way too much)  so it takes them FOREVER to get around.

female champions cannot wear travelers cloaks or boots so they will be slower than male champions until magic items are researched and will always be 2 movepoints behind the men with full blitz gear.

children starting with 1 move point will always be 1 mp behind other champions with full blitz gear.  

so yeah.  dont fuck with teleport unless moves get fixed AND we get road building.

if you want to sit around hitting end turn over and over and over and over and over again without doing anything except moving your slow ass stacks across 10 squares, then you go right ahead and do that. 

it is bad enough that the nerfed teleport in such a way that neither its detracters or defenders wanted.  (still good for emergency defense, but no longer a convient way to speed up pace of game)

if you don't like teleport: DON'T USE IT! 

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September 19, 2010 11:28:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is an ideas forum.
Ideas are not the same thing as a hardcoded game feature that is also safeguarded by measures to prevent disabling/changing it via mods.

If ideas are so obviously bad for your blood pressure, why read this?
Can't you just go strangle a kitten or something?

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September 19, 2010 11:34:59 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

i like cats.

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September 19, 2010 11:38:33 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

btw - that was not directed at your original idea, it was directed at the next guy,  black-knight and those like him.  when the devs decided to listen to their complaints, this game became boring to a lot of people. 

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September 19, 2010 12:37:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

No worries.  Black-and-knight thinking has never benefited any ideas thread.  No point in getting worked up over it.
The ideas here are way beyond just having Teleport or not having it.

 

I just don't think that an ability is unbalancingly strong.
(okay, maybe Organised. There is practically no way to balance that without drastically changing the way it works)

But just about everything else - including Teleport - can be balanced with cost, availability, and execution.

With Teleport taking 2-4 turns until the troops would arrive at the destination, that would be  4 - 8  turns until you could turn around if you find out that the attack you were reacting to was only a feint.
During all that time your troops would be in limbo and not available for anything.

Suddenly, the Teleporting Stack Of Doom (tm) strategy can become a weakness.

 

Magical means of travel - yes, please.   But it should not be the instant gratification implementation it is now.

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September 19, 2010 1:05:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

RH: good one, I like that.  If you want the instant teleport, it becomes more expensive for large stacks!

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September 19, 2010 1:50:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like the idea of increasing cost for larger groups and a time delay. Might I also suggest that if you control a shard (or some special tile) nearby the there is either a cost reduction or less turn delay. Or a buildable stucture that each faction can only have one of or costs a mana upkeep to do the same.

If shards aid teleport then the AI should make use of teleport to defend shards, which will be very important in 1.1 it seems.

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September 19, 2010 2:41:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yah, I've been thinking of somehow mixing the Air shards in there.

Using them to turn the spell into more or less instanteous travel again doesn't sound like a good idea, though.

Hmm. Air shards. Other effects.   <brain goes rumblerumblescreech>

 

What if...
Teleport could hurt the transported units? 
Disorient / stun them for a few turns?
Hyperspace sickness and jet lag?

Air shards could mitigate those effects.

I'm sure that can be refined since that's just off the top off my head.

Having units arrive at different times is out. That creates micromanagement and a massive headache for the AI.

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September 19, 2010 2:47:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The main reason for shards making teleport instant would be to have the AI use it to defend a vital resource, which shards will be in 1.1. Buildings that help would make the layout of your realm more important, but would need to be something that would not be spammed.

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September 19, 2010 3:06:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Then we'll have to agree to disagree. =P

With the cost factor of Teleport potentially becoming irrelevant (mid-late game), instant Teleport quickly becomes the Dominant Strategy.
(there are plenty of lenghty treatises on that one)

With the instant bit only working when porting to shards, that doesn't change the system but only limits the dominance to those maps,
where you get a convenient network of shards (or built city improvements) to port to.

Teleport as a long distance traveling aid is good but without built-in weaknesses it's just too damn good.

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September 19, 2010 3:17:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

   For now, the practical fix for those who think it is over powered ( I do ), just increase mana cost/level.

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September 19, 2010 3:20:48 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

How about this:

- Shard at one side of the teleportation slightly reduces time.

- Shard at both ends results in instat or near instant (they arrive at the start of next turn).

And making use of this could be a new magic tech (or two).

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September 19, 2010 3:36:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Very nice ideas, I like the increasing cost in mana if you want to teleport more units.

Now I don't know if I like the idea of losing your army for 2-4 turns, I think mainly because it seems too long a wait. I have to agree though, this would certainly introduce an interesting element of strategy when deciding if you want to teleport over but the max you should wait should be 2 turns, if any wait. Obviously it's a bit early to even worry about the turns it would take to wait but hey I'm just saying what I think .

I also like the idea that when teleporting there could be a chance to miss the mark by some random amount. This reminds me of using those low level scroll of recall in WoW where you randomly teleported to anywhere in the world, it was quite funny. Of course I'd probably get pissed if I teleported and ended up next to a hungry Dragon lol.

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September 19, 2010 4:43:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, to be honest it's a bit of a trick to start with higher numbers.
It's more provoking and a reaction can be far more interesting than no reaction at all. =P

Besides, a developer who starts with high restrictions and then later lowers the numbers to balance the spell is being nice to the players.
Starting low and raising them later means the dev is an evil bastard who nerfs important spells simply because he's evil.

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September 19, 2010 4:50:47 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One other consideration would be to have distance matter for travel time/mana cost.

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September 19, 2010 7:02:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Of course, different forms of "teleportation" for different elemental books are possible too. Say...

Airwalk - travel to any square within, say, 5 squares of current location   (Dimension Door anyone?)

Waterwalk - travel from one coastside location to any other coastside location within, say, 10 squares.

Earthwalk - travel between 2 of the same resource, yours or neutral, within 20 squares

Firewalk - Travel from hearth to hearth (city to city), regardless of distance

Of course those distance could start higher, or be made higher. 

Also each can 'power' upgrade in a particular direction - getting more distance/people depending on shard control, on earthwalk you eventually can travel to any resource, under any control.   (perhaps too hard to AI Code for strategy, but you get the idea)

And then each can also 'mana' upgrade, paying for these benefits instead

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September 19, 2010 7:59:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Some crazy stuff there and I'll mercilessly steal everything useful.
I'm updateing the first post but am giving new ideas a bit of time to settle to hammer out the possibilities.

 

I'm always advocating more tangible differences between the elements (name of the game and all...) but never considered going that far for a single spell effect.
But why not?   Never limit ideas to what you think is doable or reasonable...

I had some ideas for Air spells in general, dealing with the wind and ships. (as little point as there is in having ships...)

Like in Pirates 1, there would be a windrose on the map and actually display strength and direction of the wind. Some ships, depending on their sail configuration,
might be unable to sail against the wind at all or might be better or worse at sailing before the wind.   (So WOM could have a ship designer.  Oh sweet irony)
Air or Water spells would... alter the deal.

A windwalking spell would also be affected by well... the wind itself. You might be able to see windwalking enemy units and depending on how much ahh...
collateral damage you are willing to cause, might create a hurricane to blow them out of the sky - quite literally.

So when using air troops you better make sure you have air superiority, too. =P

MoM had a rather basic version of that with Wind Mastery. It was just a very generic buff / debuff to all fliers and ships.

 

Earthwalk might only work in places like quarries, clay pits, or the likes. Mines.

 

For Firewalk you might have to create the fire first. A forest fire, a strategic fire spell that keeps on burning for a few turns...
And if you start it in your own territoy to have an entry point, a forest or other fire might not stop burning when you want it to.
That's how I'd like to see fire magic.   Easy to summon, hard to control and put back into the bottle.   In every way.

Brad's Avatar reference goes exactly that way.  Playing with fire should be... playing with fire.

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September 19, 2010 10:21:34 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

All interesting ideas.

I'd tend to place balance ahead of style - but yes, having earthwalk just for "earthy" resources was the plan.

 

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September 19, 2010 10:44:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Robert Hentschke,
Some crazy stuff there and I'll mercilessly steal everything useful.

 

Well, not that crazy if we REALLY want magic split along elemental lines - enough with the half-attempts! 

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