Promising!

By on January 3, 2012 5:14:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

onomastikon

Join Date 02/2006
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We have been getting a lot of great peeks into FE as things seem to be gearing up for beta, and it looks very promising! Most of Brad's promises seem to be well underway to realization. Exciting!

Only one thing seems scary to me from a larger design perspective: Champions. They just clean up. We've seen it in all of Brad's AI blogs. If Champions are really that powerful, then researching tech for armies, recruiting armies, mobilizing them and paying for them becomes much less appealing. Especially now that Champions are functionally immortal. This is now a no-brainer: get as many champions as you can, you have nothing to lose. I'm not talking about styles of gaming ("which should be  better? big armies or butt-kicking champions?" --> don't see a constructive discussion happening there, that's a matter for taste, I'd prefer a nice combination myself), I'm talking about game conception: no-brainers (no thinking needed) are bad, because they are the opposite of "strategy" (which should require thinking, or at least evaluating various polyvalent scenarios). Suggestion: (a) Make Champions' ability to survive battle only work if certain spells (e.g. a Life or Death spell requiring Mana upkeep) is cast on that Champion, something like "Blessed Luck" (Kingdom) or "Demonic Pact" (Empire) and that spell has a duration, so that a certain amount of "investment" is required. ( Make Champions' ability to survive battle only work within the faction's Zone of Control ("dominion"). (c) Make Champions' ability to survive battle have a toggle setting in game setup which can be turned off if needed -- then Champions can be resurrected by casting a higher-level Life or Death spell ("Ressurection" or "Awaken", if you are Kingdom or Empire). Of course, you'll need to ensure that you have a caster powerful enough to cast those spells somewhere. One could also imagine that these spells actually might even make the previously deceased stronger, at least in some ways: so that the Champion might have a missing ear or broken kneecap, but if he returns as some undead freak (Empire) he could be more resistant to mundane damage, while a Kingdom Champion who has returned from wherever it is they go (heaven?) might be more resistant to, say, magic.

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January 3, 2012 7:19:30 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I share your concern about the balance between heroes, sovereigns, and armies, but it's to early to tell anything about them right now. They seem really powerful in Brad's sneak peeks, but he has commented on this himself, saying that they might be a bit too powerful.

To be honest I don't really like any of your suggestions to fix it.
a ) Casting a spell on heroes to give them the 'survive death in battle' ability. I think this would not be fun for a number of reasons. First, unless this spell is available quite early in the game, it will force you to be really really careful with your heroes until you get the spell, after which you can start having fun with them. On the other hand, having it available early will just force you to cast it right from the start, making for a lot of busywork, and potentially hurting your ability to cast other spells (because of mana costs). All in all I don't see how it would be fun, and feels a lot like the hated 'do research to unlock game features' mechanic from WoM.

b ) Only having them survive battle in your own zone of control would just force you to keep them at home, removing much of their use. Every time they leave home, they're at risk. Which isn't bad per se, but why can they die attacking a wildlands or an enemy city, but can't when they're defending. Just seems like a superficial fix for a deeper problem.

c ) Pretty much the same as a), but with the added requirement of having a powerful spell caster alive, which will probably be your sovereign anyway.

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January 3, 2012 10:55:00 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree as well. I really don't see why champions alone should be able to defeat entire armies. But if you have a bunch of them together they should be powerful...

Maybe just make them more common and reduce their stats a bit? Hopefully we will be able to mod this.

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January 3, 2012 11:19:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Satrhan,
a ) it will force you to be really really careful with your heroes until you get the spell

b ) would just force you to keep them at home, removing much of their use.

Thanks for this response.

Ad a: I agree: it would cause you to be careful. This is exactly what I want. I don't want to be allowed to have a no-brainer.

Ad b: No, it would not force you to keep them at home. It would only remove their immortality when not at home. This is exactly how the "immortality" trait in the popular game Dominions works, by the way.

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January 3, 2012 11:23:14 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

 

The issue of (im)mortality of champions is common to several games, and each games tackles it differently. What matters imo is that the death of a champion in battle should come at a significant cost to the player. This may be a permanent scar, but there are plenty of other options:

1) some items are lost/stolen

2) the champ is unavailable for some time

3) experience is lost

4) there is a chance that it leaves your cause and becomes independent again in some place of the map

5) you must go through a quest to revive him, or cast a spell as suggested already. Etc...

What matters is that the consequences of a champ dying are bad enough for players to try all they can to avoid it. These should also be bad enough to make a player, in some cases, prefer not to revive the champ, for example. I mean, if the world is dangerous and you fool around, you must feel the risk and peril of exploration, and you only feel it if where are bad consequences for losing a battle.

Anther option would be to be able to "Revive" your champ only if he dies in battle but you win that battle. This would allow for saving his skin if the battle goes bad but not too bad. Clearly, if you are defeated and all your units die, there is no way a champ may survive without the intervention of magic . In MOM, there was the Recall spell to teleport your champ back to the capital during a battle. The cost was higher the more distant is the champ from the capital. This is just one out of many options on can come up with. For example, I don't see a problem to have a high level life spell that revives champions. There was one in MoM if I am not mistaken, and it worked fine. Sorry for the many references to MOM!

Or how about a skill that does it? Diehard or something like this. A champ can leave a battle at any time as long as his health is at a certain % level. If you win the battle your champ is still with the army at the health he had when he left, otherwise it goes back to the capital, or is placed a few tiles away from where the battle took place, hidden.

Still, the risk of having all-champs armies in the end game is there. are there high-end units (trainable or "summonable") that are preferable to champs even after 300-500 turns? That would be great.

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January 3, 2012 1:14:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is kind of a non-issue for now as this is one of the things that can easily be balanced during beta or even after release. As champions are such an integral thing to FE, they will definitely undergo polishing and balancing after the beta starts. So I wouldn't be too worried. I suggest trying the game first and then start thinking about improvement ideas.

 

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January 3, 2012 1:22:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Well, if champions are as powerful as everyone is thinking, why not place a limiter on them, such as a lifespan?  Dont know how many turns equals a season, but lets give champions a useful period of say, 200 turns.  Then they "retire" and marry, have children, etc.  This way, there is a strategic element to deploying them, as well, the the peak of there power, they are vulnerable to the end of there usefulness.

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January 3, 2012 1:39:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

But don't champions make the whole RP experience?  Yeah, armies are a big deal, but it is all about the various heroes that make the experience fun.   Hopefully the champions are few enough that they can't be everywhere at once.  However if you are facing one, you'd better bring your best troops.   

 

I don't know, I kinda like the powerful champion idea.   Granted, I'm sure they will need to be tweaked a bit to get the just right feeling, but I hope they stay more powerful rather than hitting them with the nerf cannon.

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January 3, 2012 2:04:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Re promises: I make none.

Re champions: Depends on the build.  Back in the early part of December they were so weak that they were pointless. I think they got over compensated.  That's part of the balance we have to strike.

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January 3, 2012 2:07:23 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with Murteas.

Champions should be few and far between, which seems to be the case as the game stands at the moment.

And yes, a high level champion may very well be able to take out a powerful army (and a lower level champion a smaller army) - or at least decimate it - before slinking back to the fortress, badly beaten and broken, needing time to recuperate, but somewhat martyred in return for a job well done.

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January 3, 2012 2:09:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

That's actually a solid idea, have champions age and start losing stats if they get old.  You can retire them, and they'll have successors you get down the road who will start off as very promising lvl 1's.

 

That said, one of the wounds a champion can get can make them sterile and unable to procreate.  "He took an arrow, but it wasn't to the knee."

 

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January 3, 2012 2:34:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

No. Please don't make Champions a micro-mamagement nightmare. Keep the functional use of them simple.

BUT

I agree they are looking too awesome in combat. I would prefer to see them more as special units that give bonuses to the group they are stacked with or to allow events to be activated such as triggering quests and giving city bonuses.

Basically I would prefer to see: Armies fight Armies: Champions fight Champions: Champions inspire Armies.

To clarify, a small army with a Champion will do well against a larger army because of the champion. If an army defeats a champion it survives. If a Cha,pion defeats a Champion it is killed.

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January 3, 2012 4:09:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

So, are champions a one style unit, or can we mold them into different roles: mage, warrior, range support?

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January 3, 2012 6:42:46 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Please don't nerf the champions.

I don't think balance is all that important as it relates to how fun and enjoyable it is to play a 4x game. The heroes in MoM were just as powerful as champions are (if not more so). You could wipe out entire armies and cities with just one if they were well developed. It didn't stop the game from being really fun and, in fact, I would argue that it contributed greatly to the fun. You can't identify with some nameless foot soldier peon but you certainly can identify with named heroes/champions that you level up to being powerful forces in the world. This is half the fun of these kinds of games. If anyone has read the 'Black Company' series by Glen Cook and remembers the '10 Who Were Taken', that's the kind of champions we're talking about here. 

I would even argue that MoM became a classic not because it was balanced but because it was unbalanced. The magic was so over the top that the unbalance was actually fun. Also, you could choose to play an uber race and have fun doing it on hard settings (*cough* halfling slingers) or for a real challenge, you could pick one of the more gimped races and limit your magic books. You could actually use the unbalences in the game as handicaps.

So, forget balance. Give me a fun game that's epic in scope with lots of powerful magic, interesting choices to make, and lots of things to do and find over balance any day of the week.

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January 3, 2012 6:57:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting C0LDsteel,
So, forget balance. Give me a fun game that's epic in scope with lots of powerful magic, interesting choices to make, and lots of things to do and find over balance any day of the week.

I agree with what you say in general, but balance is still important.

In fact balance is somewhat necessary in order to have interesting choices. If things are really out of balance then that quickly leads to most choices only having one sensible option with the other options only being useful if you want to deliberately gimp yourself (and yes I agree that deliberately gimping yourself is sometimes fun in order to increase the challenge, but the game should not be designed for this!).

Having said that in the area of champions I think slightly overpowered is probably more fun that underpowered. I do wonder a little bit about their immortality though, it is a good concept to make the game more relaxed (ie you can use your champions without reloading if they die) but if champions are a bit overpowered then it could snowball.

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January 3, 2012 7:01:57 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Honestly, I always liked the idea of warhammer where champion/heroes were a bit stronger but were really at their best when helming a squad of troops. To me, this strikes the right balance between army, champions, and researching new techs. However, I think there are many good balances available for the current methodology proposed in FE. For instance, it might be interesting if the amount of champions per group was limited or if champions inherently reduced the unit limit of a group.

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January 3, 2012 7:07:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Das123,
No. Please don't make Champions a micro-mamagement nightmare. Keep the functional use of them simple.

BUT

I agree they are looking too awesome in combat. I would prefer to see them more as special units that give bonuses to the group they are stacked with or to allow events to be activated such as triggering quests and giving city bonuses.

Basically I would prefer to see: Armies fight Armies: Champions fight Champions: Champions inspire Armies.

To clarify, a small army with a Champion will do well against a larger army because of the champion. If an army defeats a champion it survives. If a Cha,pion defeats a Champion it is killed.

this is a fresh and intresting idea... devs should take note on this and see what they can do with it.

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January 3, 2012 8:55:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like the idea of Champs being able to capture of kill other champs.  Capturing champs= ransom demand or imprison (you get the champ back if you defeat their sovereign)

Whether a champion is defeated, captured, or killed should be RNG, maybe with modifiers based on promotions (bloodlust might mean they are more likely to kill champs instead of capture or defeat)


I would like to see something like Charisma of champion + 1d10 be used to break ties in initiative, though that's probably way too small of a boost.

 

I just hope progressions of champs isn't obvious like it was in WOM where STR was usually the best stat by far.

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January 4, 2012 12:41:46 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Alstein,
Whether a champion is defeated, captured, or killed should be RNG, maybe with modifiers based on promotions (bloodlust might mean they are more likely to kill champs instead of capture or defeat)

Good idea here.

Perhaps "Normal units" cannot kill champions, under any circumstances.  They can only drive them away.

Champions can gain skills that would allow them to potentially capture (Kidnapper) or kill (Bloodlust, Coup de Gras) other champions outright.

Nice call.

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January 4, 2012 3:14:20 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for the constructive replies!

As I said in my OP, I am NOT interested in nit-picking about how strong feature P, Q or R should be in this game ("we need more magic" or "we need stronger artillery" or "defensive structures are not strong enough"). In this case here with Champions, it seemed that there was an unlucky combination of two features, namely: (1) The ability of single champion-type units to equip items and wield unique magic powers, and (2) functionally unlimited immortality.

I am only claiming this: (Postulate F:) A vital, integral part of any and every strategy game is and must be for its players to evaluate circumstances and take decisions based on the calculated risks resulting from their evaluations. This makes up for a significant amount of what most people call "fun" in a strategy game.

I am arguing that the combination of the two features I sketched above that champions currently enjoy greatly detracts from one of the vital elements of this game, namely making decisions based on calculated risks, because the player has nothing to lose. That is the meaning of no-brainer. If my postulate is true, it helps explain why utilizing no-brainers are not fun.

 

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January 4, 2012 6:46:11 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I agree. More simply, I'd say that to have fun there must be interesting trade-offs, as Derek pointed out. This may be, but it not limited to, risk. So I agree that sending out immortal champs is no risk, so no interesting tradeoff, hence no fun. A permanent scar may also me too small a risk to make an interesting tradeoff. A scar, some significant downtime, loss of experience, loss of some items, et cetera may balance it in the right way.

Btw, aging champs are an interesting idea to explore, but it might disturb players who like to have uber champs going around the map

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January 4, 2012 12:24:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Ideas

1) In line with game difficulty, have the innate "immortality" of champions be toggleable during game setup. Some games can have the currently proposed "immortal" champions, and some games happen where champions are totally mortal and death is death.

1a) Can the immortality be researched?

1b) Can the injuries be a little more severe but treatable? Perhaps forcing the player to decide should they take their champion turned damage goods and place them in the betty ford clinic for X number of turns, with the promise of healing a minimum of Y number of injuries and a max of Z injuries?

2) Whether or not the immortality is configurable, i like having decisions I need to make about my champions. In MoM (sorry, I use Master of Magic as a reference point because I still play it) one of the coolest choices was whether or not to even send Champions out of the home castle. Keep a (most) champion(s) at home, get a boost in magic (which during battles could be a really big deal). Send a champion out, get way more experience for the champion and have the champion cast spells from a separate mana pool (but have only a select amount of spells to cast). During combat, if it looks bad, teleport the champion back home via the Recall spell which everyone had access to as part of arcane magic. If a champion dies, resurrect them with a spell. The resurrection spell was kept in check because:

a) Unless you already had insane casting potential, only your wizard could cast the spell, and that would eat their casting of any other spell for X number of turns.

The majority of Champions (other than Torin, see below) hurt to lose, but they really _could_ be replaced. The champions were graded. As the game went on, level 1 champions became available that were better than level 2 or 3 champions from the early rounds of the game.

And since I'm referencing MoM, it's nice to see this thread addressing the infamous Torin problem, or rather, "Why be any other form of wizard other than life wizard?" I can't count the number of games I played even on Impossible level where, if I could pull of summoning Torin, I could, with a single model, walk around the map destroying anything in my path. Torin and some squads of dark elf sorcerers with doom bolts. It's fun for a while, but gets boring quickly. If _all_ champions were like that, I probably would have gotten bored with MoM.

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January 4, 2012 12:28:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

One more idea:

In master of orion 2, champions had specialties. Some were good for combat, others were good for planet management. Could one of the decisions be where to place the champion?

I haven't read much about the FE champions, but if it's not too late, I think non combat champions would be quite cool. Not that they _couldn't_ enter combat, but that their specialties were in the civil world, not the martial world.

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January 4, 2012 1:27:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It is my preference to have champions assist armies (but with a limit to how many can assist) with a moderate level of power of their own. The reason for this is the inclusion of the teleport spell, which very quickly turns the game into 'superstack' vs everything as you could have all your champions join the same army and simply warp around to new threats on the map.

If champions instead were units among themselves (like a stack of 9 swordsman for example) as apposed to armies, but provided a greater (non-cumulative) benefit to real stacks of units or if there was simply a limit to how many champions could be in an army this would both A: Limit the use of a superstack versus all opposition. And B: make researching heavily into armies as viable an option as researching into recruiting, or a mix of the two.

There is also the matter of experience.. It bothers me greatly that experience is not split among army members as it discourages sending anything other than a maxxed out army to attack with, as otherwise there is an experience loss. On the other hand you could make it so that you =can= have champions as armies unto themselves if you can arrange for a single unit to gather all the experience while retaining the decision to advance your kingdom another way. That is to say it is no longer optimum to have all heroes in the same stack wandering around killing everything together.

Some xp buildings for stay at home armies would be a nice touch as well. But that's another matter ^^

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January 4, 2012 2:24:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Unlike the recent slews of comments: I really am in favor of heroes as actual meaningful units in tactical combat that can hold their own. There's something epic about having your sovereign cleave through a battle formation.

BUT, I also think that it shouldn't be a case of a single uber-unit that can waltz through battle with impunity. Tactical fighting should be able to wear out a champion, so a normal unit vs champion A means that the unit most likely get's annihilated. But if archers are putting down suppressive fire, and the champion is flanked, then he's far more vulnerable and less likely to deal massive damage. In other words, Champions should be powerful, but need to be played well tactically for full effect - tactical considerations like position (height advantage), flanking, fatigue, suppression, etc should have a greater impact on Champions. This could create layers of complexity within tactical combat that would be enjoyable to master.

 

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January 4, 2012 2:32:13 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Champions should be super-heroic.  They should be rare, and they're appearance in a battle field should be meaningful. Each champion should invoke fear in the enemy.  Not the random weak farmers with unpronounceable names in WoM.  

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