[.86][Feedback][Novella-length] Critique of strategic and tactical mechanics

By on March 2, 2012 6:55:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

HadavarBarak

Join Date 02/2008
+20

Well, I've played the FE beta long enough to believe that I have some decent feedback to give. Almost everything that I'm going to say already has a thread (sometimes three), but I'm hoping I can bring a little bit of my own touch to the discussion. There are some things I want to touch on only briefly, either because they've been talked about so much already or because the devs have indicated that they're in the works:

  • AI. We all know it needs work. They're working on it.
  • Clubman zombie rush and spears as the ancient version of the nuclear warhead. The traditional benefits of a spear are 1) the ability to set them against a charge and 2) the ease of training peasant armies in their use. Armor piercing, especially on traditionally non-armor-piercing weapons such as spears, needs to be toned down. At most, it should be put onto metal swing/impaling weapons, not onto wooden thrust/impaling weapons.
  • Faction and spell differentiation.


More important, in my mind, are the basic rules of the game, the foundational elements that make the game Fallen Enchantress rather than, say, GalCiv. The basic rules can be split into two categories: strategic and tactical. Of these two categories, the tactical has the greater number of errors and overlooked details, most of which have been addressed in other threads, while the strategic has the larger individual flaws. I'm going to hit some of the major gameplay issues and propose solutions for each one. Hopefully I'll say something worth hearing.

Strategic level:

There are several elements of the strategic gameplay that are schizophrenically dualistic, among them

  • the earning of gildar,
  • item purchases and sales,
  • city growth, and
  • the relevance of food.

These elements tend to tie into one another, but for the purposes of analytical clarity, I'll do my best to separate them out. TL;DR: by trying to treat the RPG mechanics on a high-gildar scale and the civilization mechanics on a low-gildar scale, we end up with an unpalatable result.

Gildar: The key problem here is the vast disparity between taxation and item sales. A single lucky goodie hut can provide the income for hundreds of game turns, especially early in the game. Compare taxation income at, say, turn 25 against the 700 gildar sale of a very expensive, as-yet-unusable weapon. There is no incentive to raise taxes when we stand to gain such incredible wealth as a matter of course just from wandering around the map. If we do not have to manage our gildar, then why have it at all? Alternatively, if we don't abuse item sales, every single gildar is precious; +1 maintenance per turn on a building is an enormous penalty.


Proposal: Merged with the proposal for "Item purchases and sales", below.


Item purchases and sales: In addition to the problems I've listed above, there are issues of verisimilitude and consistency with the item shops. In a post-apocalyptic world where humanity's an endangered species and I can't scrape together 4 gildar per turn in taxation without inducing 16% of my population to quit their jobs in protest (despite the dangers of inaction), I somehow have access to a merchant with a bottomless purse, a venture capitalist with a vault so vast that he's willing to fund the experiment that is my entire kingdom for decades on the basis of a sale of a single poison-dripping dagger. Moreover, while my people may have just spent a decade researching the secrets of blacksmithing/horsemanship, he's already got a limitless supply of metal/horses to provide to my champions. It doesn't matter that I haven't managed to build a mine or a pasture yet; it doesn't matter that I can't outfit my rank and file; the merchant will meet the needs of my champions no matter what materials would go into this effort, and best of all, he does it in zero time, with zero production loss. To all of this, I say: who is this handsome stranger who is richer than all of the nations of the world combined, and why can't I just seize his limitless purse, his magical mine/pasture/crystal cavern, and his blessed forge where I may smith what I want, when I want, as fast as I want, at no cost?

Proposal: Kill the merchant. Entirely. Eliminate it from the game with the most extreme of prejudices. Gildar is gathered painstakingly from your cities or your mines and is used to pay your soldiers' wages and upkeep, not to buy limitless magic items as if this were a post-scarcity universe. There are no more endless pockets of wealth just out of your sovereign's reach. You outfit your champions the same way you outfit your rank and file: with production from the cities, costing materials and time but no gold. Monster drops are folded into production: a wolf pelt allows you, say, 20 production worth of leather in zero time, for a champion or for a unit. Demon horns might produce magic staves or some such. This way, we really get that post-cataclysmic sense, we actually have to raise taxes above "none", and we get rid of the equipment dissonance between units and champions. If I have the crystal, I can make the magic sword for my hero; I don't have to dump 250 years' worth of taxation into some merchant's hand while I'm simultaneously outfitting an entire division of rank-and-file soldiers with the same mass-produced magic sword at no cost beyond a division's worth of crystal.

City growth: The game doesn't seem to know whether it wants few cities or many cities. There's a prestige mechanic that increases growth across your entire civilization, but there's also an easy-to-research Inn that allows you to quickly derive a much greater benefit from multiple cities. Add in extremely cheap settlers, subtract any penalties for city founding, and we get the impression that sprawl is the way the game is supposed to be played. The eight-tile hard founding limit and the six-tile soft expansion limit are the only restraining factors.

Proposal: Incentivize whichever one is desired, and penalize the others. Having my prestige growth of 1 spread across two cities is not much of a penalty if by having two Inns I can get double the growth. Cities should be harder to found; it should require an influx of gildar and a chunk of time, and/or low population should hemorrhage gildar. Perhaps Normal-level city taxation should only break even upon reaching city level 2. Naturally, this would require bumping up starting gildar; either that, or eliminate the penalty for the capital only. This would also force us to manage taxation while providing an incentive to expand only when our economies can support doing so. You should potentially consider increasing growth slightly, perhaps in a way related to "Food", below.

Food: Cities have two immutable stats upon founding, Grain and Production. Grain, however, feels like a throwaway stat. In the real world, food is the main practical driver and limiter of population growth. Where food is abundant, populations expand; where it is scarce, they contract. In FE, for any given city, food acts as a binary check: do I have sufficient food to support the next population point? If so, grow; if not, don't. In the current city-sprawl, low-pop-growth-in-dozens-of-cities based system, food is almost entirely irrelevant for hundreds of seasons. And especially in the late game, where techs provide big food bonuses per grain and I'm only going to be growing a city by .5 to 1 population a turn (due to the number of cities I have), why should I consider the food level of a city location if it's not going to affect my city for another 300 seasons? Food needs to provide immediate feedback; otherwise, it feels like a static and mostly-irrelevant consideration.

Proposal: There are a lot of potential ways to go here.

  • You could use a geometric curve for food per grain: at the start, a city with 1 grain can support 10 citizens, 2 can support 30, 3 can support 60, 4 can support 100, 5 can support 150.
  • You could cap the number of military units based on grain, or alternatively allow grain (either surplus or absolute value) to provide players with free or reduced military upkeep. Capping units would solve the clubman zombie rush, but it sounds like you're already working on a fix for that, and a good thing, too; still, it works, especially in real-life terms. Military logistics were extremely important, and feeding an army was, well, difficult. Free or reduced military upkeep could exacerbate city sprawl if players aren't otherwise disincentivized from founding cities hither and yon. A compromise would be to allow a city's grain level to provide free upkeep for that number of units stationed in that city. This dovetails nicely with the supply train idea, as a friendly population feeding your troops means your troops don't have to forage, they can stay indoors, their equipment won't take as much punishment because they're not on the road, and so on. This would also fix the fact that cities don't seem to have any gravity within the game and are often left defenseless.
  • Another solution I've seen in many threads and which takes its inspiration from Civilization is to use surplus food as a very small boost to city growth. People like to make babies. They like it even more when there is unused capacity for agriculture. Heck, the reason people in subsistence agricultural civilizations had so many kids was to generate help in exploiting that capacity. 1% of surplus food per turn is probably a good number. Cities founded late game, having more surplus food from "+food per grain" techs, will grow faster at low population, as they should.

 

Strategy wrap-up: Cities or scenery?:

  • Cities currently feel very dry.
  • The double-minded way that the game deals with gildar, where taxation is scrounging and +maintenance buildings are punishingly expensive unless you happen to sell a rusty dagger (in which case price becomes no object), combined with the static growth of towns, breaks immersion in a world that's barely hanging by a thread, where food and protection alone ought to draw the terrified masses to your sovereign's side.
  • Natural resources should take on greater import, and your champions should benefit the most from them rather than the least.
  • The two-tier cost system-- high gildar costs and rewards for your champions, other resources and low gildar costs for everything else-- could possibly work if there wasn't already overlap between the tiers, but as it stands, the excessive multipliers on which your champions operate cause the system to break when that gildar trickles down to the rest of your empire. There's too much dissonance between the traditional (and unrealistic) roleplaying side, where a basic weapon costs hundreds of gold pieces, and the traditional strategy side, which operates naturally at a scale many orders of magnitude greater than the roleplaying side, but for which the game has drastically deflated the value of gold by comparison. There is only one fix, and that's to normalize the system. It's a good thing that we have all of these other largely unused non-gildar resources that could easily get across the idea of scarcity...


Tactical level:

The problems I'm going to talk about on the tactical level are

  • initiative and
  • lethality.


Initiative: The initiative system, depending so heavily as it does on your units' weapons, results in bizarre and undesirable loadouts, such as sending a spellcasting champion into battle with a dagger. This might work if you're into virgin sacrifice, but what if you just want to carry the traditional staff? In that case, you'll probably end up punished by going from +6 to -6 initiative. Furthermore, there's already an encumbrance system in the game, yet some armor types provide additional penalties to initiative beyond whatever encumbrance applies. A dagger should be able to swing quickly, but it doesn't make me move faster. (I'm pretty sure my parents taught me not to run with knives, actually.) In the real world, there's no difference between wearing fifty pounds of plate and fifty pounds of maille, and neither of them will affect the speed at which I chant a mystical sutra.

Proposal: Start thinking about initiative in a holistic way.

  • Retain base initiative.
  • Eliminate inherent armor penalties based on bulkiness, as we already account for them in encumbrance; eliminate encumbrance from weapons (or, alternatively, make a second weapon-based encumbrance rating and eliminate direct initiative mods on weapons, but that's more work than it's worth).
  • Beef up encumbrance penalties.
  • Eliminate spellcasting turns and apply initiative bonuses or penalties to individual spells instead.
  • Then, when battle is joined, arrange the initial set of turns according to base initiative and make each action define the succeeding action's initiative based on the bonuses and penalties of the relevant action types. Movement of any sort will apply any bonuses/penalties from encumbrance. Nonmagical attacks will apply any bonuses/penalties from the weapon. Spellcasting will take bonuses/penalties/multipliers from the spell used; hence, "Takes two turns to cast" becomes "Initiative x1/2", and the system carries the added benefit of granularity for fast or slow spells. Waiting should be a quick action; say, initiative x2-4. This could end up giving some weird stuff-- with a +initiative dagger, by this system, you could occasionally move-and-attack faster than you could move (depending on how low your initiative is and how low the "wait" initiative multiplier was set). The solution could be to 1) eliminate initiative bonuses entirely and use only penalties, or 2) cap initiative at the lower of the value of any bonuses/penalties applied (so a -1 move followed by a +6 attack is -1, not +5). Overall, the system allows for immobile tanks who can still attack quite quickly so long as they don't move, casters with spell delays unified into the initiative system rather than using an extraneous "turns until cast" mechanic, mobility that's tied directly to armor, and the avoidance of crazy itemization for min-maxing.


Lethality: The devs are working on equalizing weapons and armor, but there's one matter I haven't seen addressed yet, which is ping damage. To my understanding-- and correct me if I'm wrong-- it doesn't matter how well I've kitted out my squad of 3 heavy knights; they're still green troops, which means that they have 6 hit points between them, for a total of 18, and a unit of 9 clubmen will ping them for 9 damage per action. Two such units-- eighteen hunchbacked, grunting, proto-sapient cavemen-- will club my 3 technologically advanced Glorious Get of the Celestial Axe to death in one turn. Am I understanding this mechanic correctly? If so...

Proposal: Apply ping at the end of a unit's attack, not once per member of the unit. In other words, if the entire unit would have its attack reduced to 0 because every member's blow glanced off the opposition's armor, then raise the total damage to 1. Don't raise each single member's minimum damage to 1.

Other matters:

There are other details that need work: access to the Hiergamenon, tooltips that are useful (I need to be able to see what tactical spell effects on my units mean!), explanation of the Wildlands (I found the Imperium, I believe it's called; I thought I was supposed to be able to claim it, but if so, I'm not seeing a way to do it), but most important to me are the systems that make up the core of the game. Everything else can be tweaked, but you can't change the foundation once it's set. Houses built on sand, and all that. I hope my feedback has been helpful.

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March 2, 2012 8:25:05 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You, sir, win the forums! Bravo!

You have described my biggest problems with the game in a single very well written and argued post. Particularly on the strategic side which to me are much bigger problems than the various tactical issues. I hope your post remains high up on these boards for many days to come, if I had my way it would be stickied until the developers said they were working on solutions to these problems.

One area which I think should be elaborated on further is the boringness of city building, aka the complete lack of worthwhile early buildings other than the inn. I've gone into that in more detail in my post (http://forums.elementalgame.com/419127) and I think this problem should stand alongside your other strategic level issues in importance (they are all inter-related anyway).

 

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March 2, 2012 9:45:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


GREAT analysis and suggestions. Thank you for staying within the realm of reason with your solutions instead of trying to invent entire subsystems that would never get implemented. I hope your suggestions get taken in with as much interest as I had reading them.

That said, I think 1 ping on an attack might be too little. Maybe something similiar could be applied, where if a unit would deal 0 damage, it has a 50% chance of dealing 1 point of damage instead. There could be a guerilla warfare trait that causes units to always deal at least 1 (or 2) points of damage as well.

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March 2, 2012 10:38:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I absolutely love this post. 

It is a clearly written an argued piece which brings to light the most pressing fundamental flaws of the system so far.

There's one main issue that I see which ties many of the various segments of your post together.  That idea is scaling.

When I refer to scaling what I mean is a natural "inflation" system that is certainly not present in the current version of the game.  When a 1 gildar maintenance cost on a building has a marked effect on your economy even late into the game, something is wrong.  When a top-tier epic-level spell costs only 250 mana, something is wrong.  When your worried about a 9-man group of peons being able to do a minimum of 9 damage late in the game, something is definitely amiss. 

I have no problem with the numbers in the game starting small, 3's or 5's floating over my enemy's heads for damage.  1.6 maintenance for a low level unit.  15 mana for a basic spell.  -2 initiative for being somewhat encumbered.

But when the game is at it's apex, when the fate of the world is about to be determined, I WANT EPIC!  I want absolutely HUGE!!  I want 1,000's, or 10,000's, or 100,000's being thrown around.  So what if that 9-man squad does a minimum of 9 damage?!  My 40'th level hyper-decked out hero is melee-ing for 5600+ dmg has a defense rating of over 500 and can also cast spells costing hundreds of mana without batting an eyelash.

The game needs to take the player on a long, deep, dark journey.  Right now it's more of a stroll through the mall before the stores open.

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March 2, 2012 11:07:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

You won my respect when when you mentioned post scarcity and virgin sacrifice in the same post

Brilliant post

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March 2, 2012 11:34:42 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I like alot of what you said, but getting rid of the shop would ruin the game for me. The UI needs to have better sorting and more buildings should add things to the shop. Then city level should make those buildings unlock more items. The only thing wrong with it right now is the price inflation. I am sure that will be fixed eventually.

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March 3, 2012 1:01:24 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Good post. 

Killing the shop sounds a bit extreme.

Maybe a simpler solution would be to limit the amount of maximum gold you get for an item by the level of the city.

So for an example level 1 city shop good can give you max 50 gildar per item, level 2 150 and so on.

I think it would give you an interesting choice, you got  extremely valuable item that you can't use, will you cash it immediately for lesser amount or wait till your city grows? 

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March 3, 2012 1:01:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Excellent post

Couldn't agree more especially with the critique on the strategic level.

Quoting seanw3,
I like alot of what you said, but getting rid of the shop would ruin the game for me.

The shop in it's current implementation does not make sense and heavily interferes with the whole economy balancing.

I could think of something like an archeologic society. Found them by researching and building their guild and then you can commit your findings to them. They would either exchange magical gear or you could opt on donating and they would compensate by sharing results of their studies then. However in any case the "shop" should be completely seperated from your society driving economy.

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March 3, 2012 1:05:08 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I certainly like to presence of the shop, but your suggestion of removing it (in its current incarnation) is quite appealing to me for the purpose of helping balance the city-aspect gold income. In particular the suggestion that spoils of war be transferred into materials was good. Imagine also, if rather than selling the "Blazing axe of Doom" you got to break it into 12 Iron, 6 Crystal, and some other such. Wolf pelts acting as a "1 free set of leather armor" material, offsetting production.

 

I QUITE like the suggestion that the "wait" action not be a "skip" so much as a "ready an action for a more opportune time" choice.

 

Well written post. Thank you.

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March 3, 2012 1:15:22 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Great work!  I've been thinking along the same lines.

Just wanted to mention, though, that while almost all of your suggestions rock, we want to stay VERY far away from extra food or grain = growth, at any percent.  Population is by far the best resource in the game.  It gives research, which almost nothing else gives readily, and it also gives production, and can produce gildar if taxed, and levels up cities, and city radius.  Anything that increases population growth has to be managed very carefully.

So, if the amount of grain = bonus growth, and if many cities = more grain, then the many city strategy becomes just too powerful.  As if it wasn't already.  I'd spread my seed from here to kingdom come just for the extra population.  Either the many city strategy needs to be much weaker, or I would actually be in favor of the opposite strategy: extra food = bandits who regularly rob you and hurt city output, disease, and death.

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March 3, 2012 1:37:26 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Enjoyed the read.  Quite well written!

 

I agreed with most of what you presented regarding the strategic game.  I felt your proposals for managing city growth and sprawl a bit lacking, though.  My personal preference is for all growth-affecting modifiers to act as multipliers for basic prestige-based growth.  Take this scenario, for instance:

- I have just my capital founded on a 4-grain tile and 1 prestige.  4 grain provides no growth bonus or penalty so my one city grows at 1 population per turn.

- I settle a second city on a 5-gain tile but still have 1 prestige.  The 5-grain tile provides a 20% growth bonus.  My capital now grows at 0.5 per turn and my newly-founded city grows at 0.6.

- I add an inn to my capital.  The inn provides a 40% growth bonus.  With it in place, my capital is now growing at 0.7 per turn.

- I recruit a champion that ads another point of prestige.  Capital up to 1.4 per turn, 2nd city up to 1.2.

- I found a third city on a 3-grain tile.  It comes with a 20% growth penalty.  I still have just 2 prestige so my city growth rates are: capital - 0.93, 2nd city - 0.8, 3rd city - 0.53

 

Such a system would make the decision to expand more interesting.  Grabbing a high production, low food location would need to be offset by prestige or growth bonuses elsewhere to come out ahead.  However, you'd be naturally pushed into expanding toward the more fertile areas for the overall boost in growth.

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March 3, 2012 2:32:43 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The problem isn't the shop, it's the price or sold items. So it's the option of being able to sell things that needs to be toned down. Instead of half the price it should be 20% or even 10%.

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March 3, 2012 3:33:15 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Sorry to be the burster of bubbles here but many of your suggestions are not actually very helpful.

Addressing Lethality

First off apparently there is no such thing as 'ping' damage. Although initially I thought it worked this way as well =/. Damage cannot be reduced below 1 because it is a multiplier of sorts. Additionally, the biggest issue isn't with low damage always hitting for minimum as this can be solved with more hp, but that higher damage attacks become impossible to negate without ludicrous ammounts of defense.

Addressing Initiative

Your notion of making spells use a percentage of initiative would require a different method of calculating the system, and would likely possibly illiminate the ability for other casters to counter the spell. The problem with insta-win spells right more about impulsive and haste not working correctly and less about high initiative. The problem with weapons using initiative modifiers isn't just that it changes unit move speeds, but that it makes calculating the appropriate weapon to use with other items and initiative modifiers an algebraic adventure. Keeping weapons with initiative modifiers rather than give them unique functions or abilities is not the way to go here. Nor is using some strange multiplier of initiative for using a 'wait' command.

Addressing Cities

While the idea of increasing growth by a percentage of remaining food has merit, there is no reason for the double-whammy with exponential population limit caps. Additionally this creates the weird scenario where it will more often than not be better having one massive city with all the food resources from map funneled into it. While this might be interesting as a faction trait, there should otherwise be good reasons to expand.

Addressing the Shop 

Removing the shop is also a terrible idea. I don't want my soveriegn to have to leg it back to the town in order to upgrade. Even my troops don't have to do that. The idea of removing it because items sell for rediculous ammounts is silly because the culprit is right in the sentence. You can sell them for rediculous ammounts! They need to change this. I'm fine with adding metals or crystals to the purchase/sell price, but overall the shop needs to organize it's prices to better fit the rest of the economic model.

Seriously i don't mean to be an ass though. I agree with your assessment about the problems with the game - the whole community has been harking over them for a while now, but I do not agree with your solutions. 

The one good thing you mentioned in this post was to use leftover food as a modifier to growth from prestige, as was malekith's notion of making inns (and pubs) provide a percentage increase to prestige rather than static growth, as this will both A: Reduce the strength of city spam and B: Make choosing grain over production less than a 200 turn decision.

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March 3, 2012 4:39:40 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting CdrRogdan,

Addressing Lethality

First off apparently there is no such thing as 'ping' damage. Although initially I thought it worked this way as well =/. Damage cannot be reduced below 1 because it is a multiplier of sorts. Additionally, the biggest issue isn't with low damage always hitting for minimum as this can be solved with more hp, but that higher damage attacks become impossible to negate without ludicrous ammounts of defense.

So this could still easily be corrected, by rounding to the nearest integer number instead of rounding to the superior integer number.

 

 

Quoting CdrRogdan,

Addressing Initiative

Your notion of making spells use a percentage of initiative would require a different method of calculating the system, and would likely possibly illiminate the ability for other casters to counter the spell. The problem with insta-win spells right more about impulsive and haste not working correctly and less about high initiative. The problem with weapons using initiative modifiers isn't just that it changes unit move speeds, but that it makes calculating the appropriate weapon to use with other items and initiative modifiers an algebraic adventure. Keeping weapons with initiative modifiers rather than give them unique functions or abilities is not the way to go here. Nor is using some strange multiplier of initiative for using a 'wait' command. 

 That would  indeed change too much to the current system. The proposed system has merit, but I agree removing initiative penalty and bonus, and let encumbrance do the work it was supposed to do in the first place would be a much easier fix, and would not require to rebalance the whole system from scratch.

 


 

Quoting CdrRogdan,

Addressing the Shop 

 


Removing the shop is also a terrible idea. I don't want my soveriegn to have to leg it back to the town in order to upgrade. Even my troops don't have to do that. The idea of removing it because items sell for rediculous ammounts is silly because the culprit is right in the sentence. You can sell them for rediculous ammounts! They need to change this. I'm fine with adding metals or crystals to the purchase/sell price, but overall the shop needs to organize it's prices to better fit the rest of the economic model.

Seriously i don't mean to be an ass though. I agree with your assessment about the problems with the game - the whole community has been harking over them for a while now, but I do not agree with your solutions. 

The one good thing you mentioned in this post was to use leftover food as a modifier to growth from prestige, as was malekith's notion of making inns (and pubs) provide a percentage increase to prestige rather than static growth, as this will both A: Reduce the strength of city spam and B: Make choosing grain over production less than a 200 turn decision.

 

His idea could work through, with a kingdom wide armory (which is needed to remove some of the tedious item carting problems) where items not carried by heroes would be stored : you could produce a single chainmail, and either have an option to send them to any champion anywhere for a non zero cost, or have it accessible wherever the said champion would have gotten access to a shop (for a price of 0).

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March 3, 2012 5:00:16 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting DarkGaldred,

So this could still easily be corrected, by rounding to the nearest integer number instead of rounding to the superior integer number.
 

Unfortunately that would only work for low damage weapons. Once a unit hits 20 damage, there is basically no stopping the attack from being an instant kill. Full plate with sheild gives roughly 30 defense. Damage will be a little less than half. A low leveled unit will be decimated in 1-3 hits even with maximum defensive gear. On top of this, elemental damage is not reduced by armor, so any unit with frost&fire amulets has a chance to outright kill any unit of equal size.

I suppose the empire production thing could work, but given that you can build a full squad of chainmail clad units in 1 turn, it seems odd to have to spend that same ammount of time to produce some leather greaves. It would be easier to just add some material costs to equipment and reduce their price to less ludicrous ammounts than they are now. Again I don't think individual armor peices are the way to go for heroes, but meh. What do I know?

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March 3, 2012 5:15:12 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Heh, you are right it would be somewhat cumbersome to produce individual armor pieces The idea of having to micromanage this does not seem that good after all. The damage needing to be toned down (or rather the HP needing to be beefed up) is another problem (which I agree is much more crucial) that needs to be adressed.

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March 3, 2012 8:10:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for your kind words and suggestions, everyone! There's too much here for me to address individually, but I'll try to hit the most salient points.

The biggest deal-breaker seems to be the shop, followed by the population growth suggestions that I made (artifacts, I admit, of not being able to tell whether the designers want city sprawl or few cities). On top of that, CdrRogdan made some points I want to address.

The shop: The problem with the shop is two-fold. It's not that outfitting your champions is bad or even that being able to buy or sell at any point in time is bad (though I, personally, would prefer that buying and selling only be possible in one's own territory, I can understand why others would disagree). The first problem, as we all pretty much agree, is that you buy and sell at massively inflated gildar prices at the shop. The second problem is that unlike the rest of the game, it has no connection to any of your other resources. In the current game, gildar can somehow take the place of all other resources, but only for the special people, and that bugs me. In real life, I can't hammer gold into a [functional] sword; I have to use iron, and that has to come from my stocks.

While I said "kill the merchant," an admittedly extreme phrase, I didn't mean that it should be impossible to outfit your champions or buy stuff for them. I meant that the moneybags go away ("the merchant" versus, say, "the blacksmith") and all purchases point back to your resources, as if you were buying (or selling; Malsqueak made an excellent point I'd been thinking about, specifically that you could break down items found in your travel into their components and add those to your stores) that item for any of your rank-and-file troops. If we don't make it require city production, that breaks immersion slightly, but it's much, much less so than the current "resources from the ether" paradigm.

For that matter, I could even see still allowing you to buy items, so long as the buying prices stay where they are and the selling prices get way, way lowered. Such an event would occur on the basis that your merchants might have underground connections, and obviously not all of your metal/crystal/whatever is flowing to your kingdom's coffers. It would be akin to rush-buying, except you're black-market buying instead. So long as doing this would be an enormous financial burden to your kingdom (20 turns of net tax receipts for a horse... or I could just use one of my horses), which requires fixing sale prices, and you could only do it every once in a while, it's not a deal-breaker.

Lugging it all back to town and even using production to build the items are areas where I tend towards verisimilitude, but they're not critical. The critical thing is to get resources into the buy/sell screen, and that means getting the gildar [mostly] out. I don't care if they keep the merchant screen and just repurpose the buy and sell options; I just care that they eliminate the magical leprechaun with the unending coffers of gold and replace him with something more reasonable.

Food: I was well aware that this was the weakest part of my post, and I actually deliberately threw in a grab-bag here because of the problems I described in the "City Growth" section above it. I tried to address both the possibility that the developers wanted few cities and that they wanted many of them. Actually, my favorite suggestion is elimination or reduction of upkeep costs for stationed units based on the food level of that city. This would make it wise to create the most powerful, expensive unit you can and station it in your city-- you're not paying for it, and now the city has some real defense. What a difference from the deserted, undefended cities of .86. Aside from that note, there have been good suggestions all around, and I'll let those stand on their own merits.

CdrRogdan, no worries about bubble bursting; you haven't managed it yet And of course, I know you're not being an ass. I hope I've addressed (if not answered) your objections about food and the shop above, but I want to look at minimum damage (what I call "ping") and initiative.

Quoting CdrRogdan,
Addressing Lethality

First off apparently there is no such thing as 'ping' damage. Although initially I thought it worked this way as well =/. Damage cannot be reduced below 1 because it is a multiplier of sorts. Additionally, the biggest issue isn't with low damage always hitting for minimum as this can be solved with more hp, but that higher damage attacks become impossible to negate without ludicrous ammounts of defense.

I'm afraid I don't follow your first two sentences. What I call "ping" is really just the minimum 1 damage. I'm proposing lowering that to 0 (so with 9 clubmen, I might hit for 0x9 = 0 damage) and then allowing the whole unit to get a consolation prize of 1 damage if they end up hitting for 0. Regardless of how the effect is applied, the result would be the same.

While it's possible to solve the issue with higher HP, that requires me to have higher HP to bring to bear, which means either experience (which I implicitly disavowed in my post by referencing unblooded troops) or higher production costs, and I'm already spending a ton of production on armor. Shouldn't that armor actually protect me from 6x my number of cavemen, especially if I'm paying 12x the upkeep or more? I don't want to have to dump even more production and upkeep into giving myself magic items and HP-raising traits. HP at production time should be a choice when facing primitive troops, not a requirement. "Or" rather than "and". In other words, the designers need to ask themselves, "All else being equal-- HP, civ traits, and the like-- what is the minimum number of the most primitive troops that should be able to overwhelm a single inexperienced soldier of the highest-tech troop in the game?" My understanding is that the answer to this, currently, is "six". If this number doesn't fit the designers' vision, they need to go back to the drawing board.

Agreed about the attack/defense imbalance; no arguments there.

Quoting CdrRogdan,
Addressing Initiative

Your notion of making spells use a percentage of initiative would require a different method of calculating the system, and would likely possibly illiminate the ability for other casters to counter the spell. The problem with insta-win spells right more about impulsive and haste not working correctly and less about high initiative. The problem with weapons using initiative modifiers isn't just that it changes unit move speeds, but that it makes calculating the appropriate weapon to use with other items and initiative modifiers an algebraic adventure. Keeping weapons with initiative modifiers rather than give them unique functions or abilities is not the way to go here. Nor is using some strange multiplier of initiative for using a 'wait' command.

Sorry, I assumed that spells that are cast at the end of the initiative phase would still be cast at the end of the phase, allowing time to counterspell, but I didn't make that explicit. I still can't understand the rationale behind the extraneous "extra turns" function; they already have a method for delaying later action, and it's called "initiative".

We agree that the problem with weapon initiative is that it throws entire systems into disarray. In any case, I did approach the post with the idea that they still wanted weapons and items to modify initiative, and I didn't really see a cogent argument in your post against it. Which is fine; it may simply not be your cup of tea. I do think that options of varying initiative values add a desperately-needed bit of variation to the battles, but that's just me.

Lastly, an initiative multiplier on "wait" isn't really strange. The Heroes of Might and Magic game that first implemented continuous initiative (5, I think it was?) had it; the "wait" command made your turn come around more quickly than attacks, defense, or spellcasting, which makes sense; you aren't actually acting, so presumably, you're, well, waiting for a better moment.

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March 3, 2012 9:57:38 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I'm curious, based upon the apparently strong opinions on both sides of the matter, if the "issue with the shop" couldn't be rectified with a "Merchant Gold" (Sorry, I've only got 64 gold left) for selling things, and a more random smattering of equipment in the shop for purchase, as well as a limited number of the "newer" items to limit the capacity to walk in and demand 8 full suits of the absolute pinnacle of technology and get them passed over the counter immediately.

Ostensibly, you are purchasing things from a businessperson who has taken their time and money previous to find and work the raw materials (I really don't have a problem with that part of it). However, a businessperson whose model is based solely around the adventuring needs of 5 people and elected to have countless leather boots on hand at any time would surely go out of business in a hurry. There are other people sold to. Stock moves, stock changes. Heck, I'm cool with the idea that if someone, somewhere knows how to make it, the shop have a bit of a chance to sell it.

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March 3, 2012 10:14:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

My original idea to solve shop problem was to introduce two currencies, one for cities and one for adventures, without transitions from one to another (or perhaps at the end game and with different proportions and penalties(taxes)) .

This way you have two economies, one for cities/armies and the second for champions depending on your loot, which you use to buy equipment ...

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March 3, 2012 10:42:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Malsqueek: Interesting ideas, and if they could be done without too much trouble, they might provide a nice middle ground. I'd definitely be happy to see and try out such systems in the beta.

bpal: I think you've hit the nail on the head. In this thread we've mostly talked about an integrated economy, but having two disjoint economies would work as well. The mechanical problems only occur when there's bleedover between two very dissimilar economies, which is what's happening now. I'd still personally face cognitive dissonance at the separation-- why can person X get a sword for "metal", while person Y gets a sword for "gold"? why can't I buy a building with "gold"? why don't I need horses to give a horse to person Y?-- but the game system would function, which is a more important consideration.

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March 3, 2012 10:49:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The simplest solution I see is reducing the cost of items by 100%. Given that gold is hard to come by without selling things, a total price reduction would equalize the system. 

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March 3, 2012 11:18:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thank you so much for taking the time to write your feedback. It's extremely insightful.

I've forwarded this post to Kael to get his thoughts.  I agree with nearly all of this.

Now, I'm not a game designer so I can't really go into the nuances of all your suggestions.  What I can tell what the process is here so that when others have really good suggestions they know what blockers end up coming up:

#1 Will it have far, unforeseen balance affects?

#2 Will it requires a user interface change?

#3 Will it be intuitive to mainstream players?

#4 Will implementation require a disproportional amount of programming?

Let me give you examples of each of these:

#1 Balance affecting example: Capping military units based on grain.  I like this idea. But I suspect it would wreak havoc with all kinds of systems (what if you lose cities? how will it affect the economics of the game? Will it cripple the AI?)

#2 UI changes: A lot of features would require additional screens or expanded tool tips.  Basically, we are very careful about adding anything that would result in more data being thrown at the player.  In the mock reviews we've sent out for, the #1 issue we got back was "Too many numbers and stats being thrown at players." This came from professional reviewers (i.e. people who would normally review the game)

#3 Intuitiveness: A lot of the tactical requests fall into this area.  The tactical battles of FE are not core to the game. Some people would like them to be core but they're not. Not in the tactical sense anyway.  The requirement is that a player should be able to click on auto resolve and have it be 90% the same result as if they went into tactical.  If it's a close battle, then you'd need to go into tactical if you really had a lot on the line.  Hence, no flanking is going to be in FE.

#4  Disproportional amount of work.  This is why LOS won't be in FE. Not only will LOS not be in, neither are obstacles that would block a ranged weapon (i.e. like a wall).  And I screamed, cried, carried on about this (it was embarrassing to all involved and if the video ever shows up on Youtube of me on the floor pounding my fists I'll be ticked <g>).  Not because it couldn't be done but the time it would take to put that in would mean dropping a bunch of other features.

Producing a game is a lot like playing a 4X.  You have finite resources and time your goal is to maximize your "score" with what you have.  It's really challenging.

..

But I share a lot of your views.  We have a lengthy list of things in our queue already that are remarkably similar to this in the sense of balancing the various parts. Thank you again for taking the time to share this.

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March 3, 2012 11:26:39 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

When you get Fb to respond, you know you wrote a great post. Kudos.

 

I am not worried about the resources aspect. The game is already shaping up to be a great seller. Once the game is a hit, the expansion can add the higher level game needs. And mods can take care of content. The real problem for me is how long the process will take.

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March 3, 2012 12:56:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

@Hadavar I know what you meant about ping damage. What I'm saying is that there is no apparently no minimum. The reduction in damage is a divisor not a subtractor. I was under the impression that an attack made a roll of it's value versus the value of defense and subtracted each other, but apparently someone digging through the code found it was something like attack*attack/(attack+defense). While it is possible to negate low damage attacks by having defense provide a reduction in damage, currently nothing can be done about reducing high damage attacks from being lethal. Design some late game units, use this calculation and you will see what I mean.

As far as initiative is concerned, it doesn't delay your actions, it determines your initiative order. Making it hop up and down is likely to have strange side effects, and if the intent was to simply delay your turn by cutting your initiative in half, the effect is not any different than well.. delaying your turn.

My rebuttle in this area had a lot to do with #3 that froboy mentioned. Initutive design on weapons that require you to calculate damage versus initiative can pause you to stop during design to question wether 26 attack and 15 initiative is better than 23 attack and 17 initiative. While this isn't too horrible, things get complicated when you add in champions greaves, discipline and attack/level weaponry. While I'm all for a game that requires me to think, busting out my calculator slows the game down considerably and isn't very kind to new players. This is especially true when the combat mechanics are not transparent.

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March 3, 2012 1:01:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Thanks for your response, Frogboy! More than anything, I'm glad to hear that you folks already have a lot of these issues noted. I dashed off the original post all at once, coming up with a lot of the proposals as I wrote; I'd originally called the proposals "solutions" but then realized that a lot of them could result in unintended consequences, which wouldn't make them solutions at all. So I'm sure I dropped some real stinkers into the post, especially in the "Food" section, where I was casting about for ways to cover all possible bases.

Right now, I'm just excited that so many of the issues have been noted. I don't care how you solve them; if the setting's cohesive and the economy is consistent, I know I'll be playing for many years to come. This game has a great foundation.

Lastly, I hope Kael reads through the whole thread. There have been some great suggestions from everybody, and I hope they can give him inspiration for what to do and confirmation for what he's already got in the works.

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March 3, 2012 1:06:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I've already coded this but I'll need Derek's OK before it can be checked in:

So if a unit hits but it's absorbed by armor, there's a 50% chance that it'll just be a ping which is displayed as a "Clink" that does -1 damage.

Previously, the minimum damage a unit could do if it hit was the number of soldiers in the group (in this example, 3).    Now, the minimum would be 50% of 1.

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