Hero Exp Split- Bad Design or Really Bad Design?

By on May 1, 2013 4:02:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Burress

Join Date 06/2006
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I cannot understand the reason for this design decision. It seems to add needless complexity and discomfort for the player without being fun or making any sense.

First, the making sense part. Champions are people who become developmentally handicapped in the presence of other champions. They are smart as a whip sitting back and letting 6 squads dismantle the opposition, taking notes and learning the ways of uber-pwnage. But with two champions, what happens, is there only one pen and paper for the entire squad? Do they have to take turns writing and split up each other's notes afterwards?

I know this rule was instituted when it was discovered that champions were so powerful that you could beat the game with them without ever building units. This strategy offended those in power long ago, and since then champions were neutered with exp split, general exp decline, and spiced up with that just three to six crummy levels til I get the cool ability feeling. At the same time, units got an extreme buff, and now you can beat the game easily without ever using a champion (or having a champion be useful), but there is no outcry. What gives there?

Now there is the effect on the player. Players have to build an army for each champion, or resign themselves to just having fancy backstories to their unrest reduction in some city. The player must manage these multiple armies, which will never have enough map to level them all, all the while wondering, is this how Peter Venkman felt when Egon told him to never cross the streams? I mean you CAN use them together to win that hard battle (maybe against a giant marshmallow man), with all that juicy exp... which gets split up to the point its just one more stride on the long mile to level 10 or 12, or whatever level a champion actually will feel heroic at. Fellow champions are each other's kryptonite, which makes it a difficult strategic decision whether to use them together, but it's like a choice between crummy or crummier to the player.

This forces a player who knows the split exists to play with far more micromanagement and complexity in the hope, in my experience in vain anyway, that your heroes will eventually be, you know, heroic. I mean make it to the level ups that are fun (the ones that aren't +1-3 to a stat that doesn't make much difference). Players who don't know it exists will just wonder "why are the trees so long"?

I know this is a negative post, but hey, I strongly feel this is a bad decision through and through. The game will be better and more friendly and logical to every newbie, at the least. But I think it may even make people who are strategy diehards have fun teaming up heroes without having to worry about fighting 2-5 times as many battles to get where almost no champion but the sovereign gets in a normal game now. It makes sense and it is a fun, simple strategy to band champions together, and it is bad design to discourage logical, simple, fun gameplay. It is not unthinkable there was another way to encourage more complex gameplay without killing the fun rpg parts of the game or forcing players to juggle making and using many armies.

Btw, I think the game is great and should get deep and wide acclaim, but I think decisions like this endanger it to a possible dilution with "meh" because it doesn't pander to the most visceral and powerful source of fun in games with rpg aspects, the ego identification with heroes and the player's character. I have posted about this before, but basically every game that has ruled this genre has been at best a decent strategy game suped up with a fat layer of ego satisfaction. I think this is a great strategy game that has been drowning out its own ego attraction in the name of balance. 

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May 1, 2013 4:18:49 PM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

If it bothers you that much, just don't play the game.

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May 1, 2013 4:23:25 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

At one point in the game design, it was a good choice.  But, IMHO, after a number of changes with how and how many champions you recieve, it's no longer necessary and should be removed.

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May 1, 2013 4:24:14 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I could do that, but I like it and the development team too much. I added that to the original post. I thought I would just lay out a case for why it was a bad idea with rhetorical flourish, which is basically all the power I have.

*also I know it can be modded away, and I would probably do that in my own game, but I think it should be part of the design.

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May 1, 2013 4:24:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

ok you don't like that mechanic. the alternative would be to have an uber stack of champions that level up quickly and make the whole empire building aspect of the game moot. honestly, in my opinion that's far worse. ever thought of that aspect?

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May 1, 2013 4:37:51 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Azunai_,

ok you don't like that mechanic. the alternative would be to have an uber stack of champions that level up quickly and make the whole empire building aspect of the game moot. honestly, in my opinion that's far worse. ever thought of that aspect?

Yes, I don't believe that it is either or. You can have your cake and eat it too. It is even possible to have the current strategy be optimal, but have the band of heroes strategy be viable as well. The game just really swung like a pendulum from one extreme to another, and it is inching back. 

I can see the empire building vs. rpg strategy dilemma, but I think a satisfactory balance can be found when you start allowing the original strategy to be viable. Units were in a far different state back then, how does it work out now?

In my opinion, less fun in the rpg aspect kills a fantasy strategy game, in fact, the heavyweights are all pretty heavily unbalanced in favor of rpg coolness over strategy neatness. I don't think a fantasy strategy game should hold back in this regard, otherwise you might as well make it in a different genre. Gal Civ 3 can have no champions at all and be cool as can be, but fantasy strategy games are a different breed of strategy games IMO. Ego fun over game balance must be the compromise if there is one in this genre.

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May 1, 2013 4:42:36 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I haven't tried a recent build, but even after they added the exp split, you could use Henchemen and scions to make uber stacks of experience grabbers  so in effect the exp split simply made the generic heroes better than the actual champions.  And heroes really are not better than troops, so I really don't think it's an issue.

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May 1, 2013 6:45:58 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I would be very leary to remove the XP split...especially with 0.87 increasing the strength of champions again.

Stack of Doom was MoM's second major weakness. (the first was the AI of course). The last thing SD needs to do is reintroduce such an obvious flaw.

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May 1, 2013 7:44:04 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It seems we are split on this one. While it was introduced to fix a problem, I think it may now be redundant.

As the OP or others point out, Heroes are not so OP now that they are the only way to play, indeed, troops are generally needed for both attacking power and to soak up damage. 

It would be nice to have something to do with my heroes. As it is, there seems to be slightly too many of them, as I can really only use 1 for most of the game, with the others sitting around in towns or doing some cautious exploring.

I think it can go.

 

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May 1, 2013 8:16:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Perhaps make it the Adventurer profession ability to remove the XP split for up to three heroes in a stack?

 The henchmen thing is doable but I hate having to "research" them and then "build" them in a city at the Apex Tech Henchman Vocational School (Classes forming now!  You keep your sword when you graduate!).

I like the heroes' back stories.  I would love them if each hero came with a hero-specific quest reflecting some aspect of their back story.  Could even open this up to a forum contest so you could have 3-4 for each hero to help keep it fresh.  They could just spawn with a quest map so it would even be optional.

Might not be such an issue with the new patch, but I still agree with the OP.  And if i want to ignore city building and focus on the Fellowship of the Ring, no big deal, it's single player.  I played a game in 0.80 as a Beastlord and never bothered to settle or conquer a single city!   Whatever wets your whistle!

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May 1, 2013 8:42:45 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Simplest fix to this is just remove the xp split just for the Sovereign and leave it for champions so that you can have your Sovereign and a single champion without penalty but beyond that you start getting the penalty.  Works pretty well when I use it without becoming the overpowered stack of doom.

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May 1, 2013 8:52:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting GFireflyE,


I would be very leary to remove the XP split...especially with 0.87 increasing the strength of champions again.

Stack of Doom was MoM's second major weakness. (the first was the AI of course). The last thing SD needs to do is reintroduce such an obvious flaw.

I agree that these were big weaknesses of MoM, and these same weaknesses were even more pronounced in Age of Wonders 2 and Shadow Magic. But that's the thing with fantasy strategy, these games are still considered by many the best in the genre. The weaknesses didn't keep you from having fun, indeed, some may not even consider them weaknesses, but a swinging of the focus from a purely strategic focus to the rpg elements of the genre. A hero could single-handedly wipe up an entire scenario in the AoW series, but it worked out splendidly because the game was half-rpg at heart. Was it too much and could it be done better? Absolutely, but they erred on the proper side to keep their name at the top of the best of lists for this genre.

I think this game could have the best AI in the business and the most balance for an interesting strategic challenge (I think it has that already), but if it falls flat with the rpg side (ie. leveling heroes and the sovereign and their role in the game), then it is not playing the best cards it can play to be loved deeply by the widest audience. Rpgs are a strange type of game, players are prone to fits of madness where they grind nearly endless hours to increase THEIR numbers on a stats screen, and then give up the game entirely when they get too high! It is a madness that is centered around ego-fulfillment, and it is something that MoM, Dominions 3 (pretender gods), and AoW used well to make people not really care about the rough edges. There were bells and whistles around hero's and your player, cutscenes and special effects to enhance an rpg immersion that worked on an ego-fulfillment level, a deep level that lasts turn after turn.

It's fine to balance this card and play it responsibly in a full strategy game experience, avoiding mistakes of the past, but to underestimate the card, or to not understand it and what role it had in making games like MoM so beloved, I think that will just sell a stellar game short. People who play rpgs may be crazy, but they are legion and there is probably one in almost everyone to some degree. Playing to the same thrill that makes games like Skyrim and Diablo 3 selll millions of copies, but doing it in a deeper, more robust strategic context, is something that can be a phenomenon. I would like to see this game be a phenomenon. It seemed like it hit a bottom that I have seldom seen, it would be amazing if it was appreciated for what it has become. It can just be a little easier for everyone to see all the amazing care that has gone everywhere if Stardock would just play the ace in the hole in the right way.

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May 1, 2013 9:41:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

This is hardly a new mechanic. There is a strong history of RPG games where the XP from killing monsters are split between the heroes/characters right back to D&D. This persists up to the latest versions of D&D. Why? Because it works. The more heroes/characters you have the easier it is to defeat a particular group of monsters, hence less experience is earned. Makes sense to me (as much as a fantasy game can anyway!).

In fact in a pure system the XP should also be split with the non hero troops so the FE/LH system is already biased towards giving heroes a leg up. (Not that I'm saying XP should be split with normal troops, that would suck big time, just making the point).

From a gameplay point of view the current mechanic means that so long as the player makes sure there is at least one hero in each battle then no XP is lost. If the player puts 3 heroes into a stack which defeats monsters worth 300XP then sure they only get 100XP each but in total 300XP was earned so all is good. This means it is entirely up to the player whether they want to group their heroes together or separate them out, they will earn the same XP either way. The player has a choice, both choices are valid, this is good for a strategy game.

If however you remove the hero XP splitting then there is a huge incentive for the player to put all of their heroes into a single stack. In the example above with 3 heroes in a stack defeating monsters worth 300XP the total XP earned would be 900XP whereas if the player only had 1 hero in the stack they would only earn 300XP. So it would be stupid for the player to do anything BUT stack all their heroes together. Choice is reduced, there is only one right way to use your heroes, this is BAD for a strategy game.

BTW: I haven't played recently but if LH still has experience scaling so that low level heroes managing to kill high level monsters only get a pittance of XP... then that needs to be fixed. Punishing the player because he managed to come up with a good strategy to defeat a tough monster with his outmatched heroes/army? Pretty much the definition of unfun! (tm)

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May 1, 2013 10:06:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think those are good concerns Mistwraithe. The exp formula is complicated, because 3 champions will also affect power rating which is factored in to exp already, and I don't really want to break down in to thinking up precise implementations that would work. That is a heady challenge that I do respect.

I think that any optimally fun rpg-system in a strategy game should have the following characteristics.

1. You shouldn't be discouraged from using champions together. In your example, my concern is leaving the 3 champions together risks 0 uber champions, and uber champion is kind of an all-or-nothing thing. 3 level 7 champions or 1 level 12 champion shouldn't be something that you fret about. The level 12 champion is a force, the level 7 champions are underpowered units in an endgame.

2. Each level up should be something to look forward to. I think in-between levels are a fun-killer. Diablo 3 had an excellent system, every level introduced a new skill or powered up an old skill to work in a new way, and that went on for 60 levels! Forget the merits of Diablo 3 in other respects, that is a leveling system!

3. The sovereign needs a special role. I don't have specific ideas, but I will point to AoW and MoM. They had the sovereign as essentially non-combat units that were the only ones who could cast spells. I don't think they need to do that, but when sovereigns are heroes with a headstart, they need something, even if it is just bells and whistles or fireworks, that makes them feel special and indispensable to the game.

It is worth noting that rpg systems don't all handle the xp split in the same way. Some really curve experience to make it so 2 champions would be 1 one level behind 1 champion, 3 champions would be 2 levels behind a single champion, ect. There are other ways to split that doesn't make it seem like I endanger finishing the game never reaching the cool skills in the trees if I put a couple of champions together.

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May 1, 2013 10:42:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I've felt for a while that the current system is too punitive and decreases the fun factor of leveling up your champions.

Part of the reason is the economics of the game drives you to group champions together. Good quality troops are expensive and you can't really afford to give each champion a big army of quality troops. Nor is there really enough XP on the board to level them all up individually any way. So you are faced with an uninspiring choice: either focus on making one or two champions high level and leave the rest parked in a city doing nothing useful and staying low level for the whole game. Or group more champions together and end up with a bunch of mid level champions that feel under-powered in the end game.

There's got to be a better balance possible. I'd be all for at least toning down the stacking penalty and would love to see what the game plays like with it removed entirely. As the OP says, making powerful champions is really one of the bread and butter features of this genre of game. Currently the champions feel pretty uninspiring. What's the point of all these neat high level abilities when there's not enough XP to get more than a couple champions to a high enough level to use them?

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May 1, 2013 11:41:03 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

It wouldn't be an issue if champions were harder to come by. And/or if leveling them outside of monster hunting was easier. 

Removing the xp split is not the solution, it'll totally ruin the challenge of the game (which is hitting the sweet spot  as of .85). Your champions will get too powerful and you'll steamroll the AI and the fun is gone. Once my sovereign went from collecting endless badass perks that made him invincible (FE) to carefully choosing each trait until he matured at level 15 or so, the game got better and I liked my sovereign more.

We need LESS champions. Anyone playing a custom sov already has their favorite champion. Let the player decide if they want to play a 0 champ, 1-2 champ, or 4-6 champ game.

I say each fame milestone is not a choice between two champs, but a choice between champ a, champ B, or send them both away and get a random other reward. This other reward  could be more fame (hastening the next choice) or a special offering from your citizens, ie an item or  spell or a generated quest with fat reward.Then you'll end up with fewer, more desired champs, as the player will hold out for one he/she really wants to commit to (spend the time to level).

Now, there are some juicy champs, but also some choices where you're just taking the champion that is the LEAST useless. 

Finally, more quest-generating items/opportunities or more chances to passively earn xp would help avoid having to choose 2-3 champions that will be parked at the adventurer's guild and never used in battle again [adventurer's guild is not good at leveling champions]. 

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May 1, 2013 11:50:16 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting davrovana,


We need LESS champions. Anyone playing a custom sov already has their favorite champion. Let the player decide if they want to play a 0 champ, 1-2 champ, or 4-6 champ game.

 

Advocating for less champions in a game called Legendary Heroes seems counter-intuitive to me.  If anything they should err on the side of making the champions overpowered. I think the number of champs is fine and the fame mechanic is now there to ration them so quantities stay balanced.  The issue is that there is no viable, appropriately paced way to level them all up. Give us a way to do it that's fun and balanced. I want all my champs to actually become legendary in the late game, instead of having a bunch of under-powered wimps that can easily and effectively be replaced by regular troops. 

 

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May 2, 2013 3:09:36 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

To the OP - it's called a risk/reward decision.  Champions are powerful entities and need to be treated as such.

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May 2, 2013 3:27:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
What about going the other way and splitting experience with troops as well? So for example in winning a battle you might get 100XP total: so a champion plus 1 troop would get 50 each, the same as 2 champions, but 8 groups would only get 12XP each. Obviously you would probably have to increase the experience due from each fight from what it is currently, but it would make moving around with lower numbers more attractive compared to the current system of creating mega-stacks all the time.
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May 2, 2013 4:46:57 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Combat champions still don't seem worth while to me.  I'd only want to have the champions together in the early game when I'm short on units.

That said, I don't like to see dramatic balance changes.  

Rather than remove the split entirely, why not make it less of a split?  Still reducing the XP gains, by not by such a large amount.  


X = base eXperince points
C = number of Champions (including the soverign) 
G = experience points Gained 

Current equation: X/C=G

New equation: X/C*1.5=G

So, if you would've gained 100 XP, but you had multiple champions, you'd get (old v new):

1 = 100 v 100
2 = 50 v 75
3 = 33 v 50
4 = 25 v 38
5 = 20 v 30
6 = 17 v 25 

So, you're still being punished for having multiple champions in your army, but to a notably (but not dramatically) lesser degree.

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May 2, 2013 5:47:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

i disagree with the idea that champions need to be high level to be useful. mid level champions aren't whimps. even a fairly low level defender (level 4-5) can tank armies, a mid level warrior can cleave/sweep a whole line of enemies, or bladerush through the line and slaughter the archers in the background if you went that route. a low level commander can boost the damage of his troops drastically and command a high damage unit to perform a double turn, a low level mage can haste/slow/heal/shrink/wither/curse and turn the tides of a battle at a reasonable price (mana) etc.  

that being said, i like Darxim's suggestion. i think that's a sensible solution. i think the underwhelming combat champions will become quite a bit stronger with the next update anyway (via better itemization). i guess it wouldn't hurt the game if you could team up your champions to some extent (like combining a healer and a tank champ to tank that dragon while your archers slowly whittle down its health, or a warrior and a commander for some nasty cleace- command- sweep combo etc.) sounds like fun.

 

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May 2, 2013 5:54:58 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I need to update my formula, though.  It doesn't work with only 1 champion being in the army (it would give a 50% bonus).  The basic idea is still valid, though.

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May 2, 2013 7:37:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The main problem with xp split is that you rarely have two champions in a stack. That means that there is no reason to try and pick abilities that compliment other champions, which in my opinion is a real shame.

It also means that i try to have just one hero do all the exploring while the rest a just standing around cities.

All in all i agree with the op, that the xp split is a bed design decision. It simply takes some of the fun out of the game.

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May 2, 2013 8:03:04 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

Quoting Mistwraithe,
This is hardly a new mechanic. There is a strong history of RPG games where the XP from killing monsters are split between the heroes/characters right back to D&D. This persists up to the latest versions of D&D. Why? Because it works. The more heroes/characters you have the easier it is to defeat a particular group of monsters, hence less experience is earned. Makes sense to me (as much as a fantasy game can anyway!).

This

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May 2, 2013 8:19:05 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

In D&D you don't have troops.

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May 2, 2013 9:06:29 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Darxim,

In D&D you don't have troops.
and if you have henchmen in D&D you have to split the experience with them too.

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