Do You Play LH to Win?

By on May 16, 2013 12:35:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Burress

Join Date 06/2006
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I define playing to win as you are trying to defeat the AI opponents from the beginning of the game. Your motive from the beginning is to win as efficiently as possible, and heroes, the sovereign, and all other game systems (quests, wildlands) are only tools to this end. You play LH like chess with distracting frills. Winning in under a 100 turns is ideal, instead of a disappointment. You don't ever play just to level your heroes and sovereigns just for the rpg thrill of it.

Does anyone actually do this? I know I played Gal Civ 2 like this to a great degree, but I prefer to play with the toys in LH as opposed to trying to cut the AI's throat as soon as possible.

I just wonder because the game design for playing to win and playing with wizarding toys seem like they might be different.

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May 17, 2013 9:12:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Burress,
I assumed that most people didn't play to win, but I was basing it off my own experience and generalizing it. I could be really wrong, so I wanted to find out. It seems to me an important distinction, since it determines what we value in the game. If someone is playing to win, the tightest, most balanced, challenging experience would be the most rewarding. If someone is not, what they find rewarding isn't as clear. I don't know if it matters to the developers, since they already have a vision of what they want the game to be.

In my case at least it would be a mistake to say that because I am not 'playing to win' that I don't want a challenge. In fact a large part of why I do not feel like I am playing to win most of the time is that there is not ENOUGH challenge. From around about the mid game onwards I usually feel like I could beat the AI anytime I want. Yet I like empire building, a significant part of what I like in a strategy game is the mid and late game. If I just win as soon as I can then I will never get to build a late game empire with strong heroes, towns, spells, etc.

I would LOVE FE/LH to provide a strong AI challenge into the mid/late game. If it did then I would probably be playing to win most of the time. It's what I live for in Civ 4/5, those occasions when something unusual happens and one of your enemies takes out another one or two factions and turns into a behemoth that you might not actually be able to beat. I pretty much always do win in the end but that late game struggle is the holy grail for me. I would much rather be taking out Wildlands because I was hoping for a reward that would help me defeat a powerful enemy AI that I was struggling to overcome, rather than conquering Wildlands merely to find out what happens.

I will concede that I should perhaps up the FE/LH difficulty level to ridiculous or insane. Last time I tried it I just didn't enjoy it, the game wasn't a matter of having to build a strong empire to defeat a strong AI, it was a matter of abusing every trick I knew to defeat an AI that was cheating so much it was practically playing a different game. That was a while ago though, maybe I should try it again.

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May 18, 2013 5:57:47 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Mistwraithe, that is why I said that it was more unclear what is motivating people who aren't "playing to win". They do want to win the game, and they do like challenge and a lack of exploits, but there is something fundamentally different going on than in someone who plays the game like a chess game. There are a lot of elements that are adornments but don't specifically maximize winning prospects, and these players are enticed by them. It may be thoughts like, "I want to build up my sovereign's level to use cool spells that demolish enemies", at the expense of the time it takes to do so when it is possible to pounce on the AI in an earlier vulnerable state. It could be the desire to clear a wildland to see what happens, when I find it hard to really imagine a scenario when the time and potential losses in clearing a wildland would outweigh preparing/initiating a more direct attack on the AI. It could be researching a tech because it unlocks a cool building, when you could spend it getting the next tier weapon. Or it could be as you say, avoiding attacking the AI because it puts you in danger of winning the game too soon.

I think people in this category do a lot of playing around that would be nonsense to a player who sees the game as a goal to beat the opponents and the systems as tools to that end. That is what I meant, not that they are the exact opposites of people who are playing to win.

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May 18, 2013 9:30:44 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Mistwraithe,

I haven't actually won an FE/LH game for about 6 months now... by the time I abandon a game I am always winning but I just get bored, new patches come along, or some other reason, and stop playing. I play on Hard most of the time BTW (I don't like playing with the level of cheating that the AI gets at higher levels).

I think this statement pretty much sums it up for most of us. I never finish a game simply because the game becomes to repetitious and EXTREMELY BORING! FE/LH is a game that had great potential but fell short in keeping a gamer's interest beyond the first 100 turns or so. A great game is a game the keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish (or at least until you have endured a tip for tap tug of war to survive).

I have give this a lot of thought and ask myself "why does it seem so difficult to create a game like FE/LH to maintain your interest throughout the game?"........The closest to answering this question that I can come to is, IMO I have concluded that game developers seem to no longer think out-of-the-box anymore when it comes to developing new games. It seems that everyone is focused on copy-cat game designs as opposed to developing new games with new ideas. OK, I get it, FE/LH is a game that is based on similarities of the famous CIV Series with a twist of magic. We start a city and build an empire to try to dominate the game map. So,.....what is so new about this?....the answer is nothing. If nothing else, it just wets your appetite to stop the game and play CIV. 

 

I had high hopes for FE/LH. I came to these forums on a regular bases for a couple of years to keep up with the latest news and anxiously awaited it's release. I bought it as soon as it became available. Needless to say, I am somewhat disappointed with it. Don't get me wrong I think Stardock has done a fine job with the game in many aspects, but it lacks depth. Here again I think it lacks depth due to the lack of "thinking-out-of-the-box" syndrome. 

With this theory in mind I ask this question, If you were on the Dev's team and you were ask to add something completely new (thinking out of the box) to FE/LH, what would it be?

 

 

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May 18, 2013 11:49:07 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Lord Micheal,

With this theory in mind I ask this question, If you were on the Dev's team and you were ask to add something completely new (thinking out of the box) to FE/LH, what would it be?
 

 

1. multiplayer

2. stuff to do on the water

>> 3. WEATHER / ENVIRONMENT ALTERING SPELLS

3b. SEASONS

4. dynasties

5. faction specific summons

6. a curved world

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May 18, 2013 3:20:15 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think playing any 4x game to win is doing it wrong. Personally  i like to roleplay a bit, really get into the story I'm creating within the game. I tend to quickly lose interest if the story gets boring and i'm steamrolling all my opponents. I play lots of games, and the ones where "playing to win" is the only real option get played once and quickly forgotten  Games that can be played for the experience, however, like CivIV, Mount and Blade: Warband, Skyrim, Sins of a Solar Empire, CKII ect. all have hundreds of hours of playtime on them.

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May 18, 2013 3:25:30 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting cardinaldirection,


Quoting Lord Micheal, reply 28
With this theory in mind I ask this question, If you were on the Dev's team and you were ask to add something completely new (thinking out of the box) to FE/LH, what would it be?
 

 

1. multiplayer

2. stuff to do on the water

3. WEATHER / ENVIRONMENT ALTERING SPELLS

4. SEASONS


5. dynasties

6. faction specific summons

7. a curved world

In order of priority, most important to least important (for me):

v [1] Medieval style Dynastic politics - including many heroes having 'titles' to areas / holdings, creating the need for internal politics as well as politics between factions.  This would also include using heraldry shields (info), limited intelligence info/spies, and loyalty.  The marriage bit isn't as necessary to me as a mechanism to create a political 'tie' to a family line / holdings / etc.  Marriage could be used: but doesn't necessarily mean one faction gives up a 'hero' to another and maybe gets a few offspring later.  Many, many 'heroes were 'house guests' as a way of insuring 'loyalty,' and some, of course, in an overtly hostile situation, were held for ransom (ala Richard Lionheart).  When a new settlement is established, who has claim?  The sov?  a newly 'created' family line elevated to nobility to look after the new holdings?  etc.

v [2] True naval capabilities (and functional rivers). Building ports (to get naval access to deep rivers, lakes, seas). Make 'rivers' of several sorts:  >shallow creeks< (no ships allowed): anyone can cross/ford anytime - for flavor and to give settlements access to the river based improvements; >shallow  river< (no ships allowed): everyone may cross anywhere except chain/plate mail  troops/heroes without mounts.  These heavy foot types may cross only at 'fords' (or bridges).  (Unmounted chain/plate mail wearing troops/heroes may only cross at fords/bridges.)   Deep river: No land troops / heroes may cross/ford at all.  Cross only at /on bridge.  Ships may navigate this water.  [[ Do bridges block sea ships? - more expensive bridge allows ships to pass under? ]] exploit fix: if heroes remove armor to cross at a ford, they must wait one turn before donning their armor - brief period of vulnerability at fording. Also, settlement borders would not expand across shallow or deep rivers unless a bridge is built.  In the mean time, your opponent might settle across the river.  Rivers were often the boundaries between noble holdings/etc.  This would add flavor and new strategic considerations.   Flying troops, of course, could fly over any of these rivers.

v [3] Seasons, hadn't considered that, yes! yes! (I likey).  Some entities prefer/enhanced during ther season, and disadvantaged in opposite season.  Example: Ice based critters / ice magic stronger/faster in winter, hindered/weakened in summer.  etc.  Desert/icy north also have similar effects. 

v [4] 'curved world, meaning a globe?  Like in Civ 4?  Would be nice.

v [5] Multilayer.  Prefer hot seat, but web would be ok. Would love a si-move set up, where every player submits moves, then the program moves everyone at same time.  This would require some sort of conditional orders set up (how does this stack 'react' to meeting x,y,z).

v [6] faction specific summons, not important to me.  [I would love to see more distinctive factions, like in Fall from Heaven 2!]

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May 18, 2013 4:34:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I paly to win but i don't consider it really sporting to attack before mid game, anyway i am having to much fun questing, killing stuff, building my cities and all theat fun stuff, Then i have a big fight with the AI at the end.

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May 18, 2013 5:04:33 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting brass1983,

I think playing any 4x game to win is doing it wrong. Personally  i like to roleplay a bit, really get into the story I'm creating within the game. I tend to quickly lose interest if the story gets boring and i'm steamrolling all my opponents. I play lots of games, and the ones where "playing to win" is the only real option get played once and quickly forgotten  Games that can be played for the experience, however, like CivIV, Mount and Blade: Warband, Skyrim, Sins of a Solar Empire, CKII ect. all have hundreds of hours of playtime on them.

 

You've got this exactly backwards.  4X games are meant to be won -  the 4 Xs require a win condition and this game has 4 win conditions (as per standard).  None of the X's stand for 'experiential story telling', so to suggest that people are 'doing it wrong' by actually playing the game for what it is built to be, is likely the worst response in this thread for the OP's post.  4X games are not sandbox games, they are generally strategy games.  Strategy games are meant to be won, and are meant to be a challenge to do so.

 

As per prior comments upthread -- it's ok that there's 'non-optimal' excesses in the game/tech tree for those that are looking for a slower/more 'experiential' (lower difficulty) game.  It also allows for variety in the games so that you aren't doing the exact same thing each time (which gets boring).  Choice is good.  But that's not a reason to not have a properly balanced game.  It's hard to roleplay the Trogs when their primary weapon choice sucks vs. other weapons and is harder to get as well.  That's where balance changes kick in.  A better AI means you can get some actual 'roleplaying' out of the AI for your experience, which provides more 'depth' to the experience.  The fact that the game isn't challenging to people who want to 'win' shows that the game won't last long for gamers, and Stardock will feel the pain for it in future sales (not just for this game).

When people don't even bother finishing a game because it's not providing them entertainment or a challenge, the game won't last.

 

 

Seriously though, Skyrim and Civ in the same sentence about 'winning'?  They aren't even in the same GENRE let alone game style.

 

 

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May 18, 2013 6:35:53 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

SBFMadDjinn, I think you may overvalue balance in this genre in terms of forecasting how much players will like it. I don't think most of the top games in this genre have held up well to the desire to win. For instance, Master of Magic, Age of Wonders 2 and Shadow Magic, and Dominons 3 were nowhere near balanced, in the sense there were overpowered strategies everywhere, and hardly challenges for players who are out to win. The systems, especially magic as a system, seem incredibly difficult to balance. The sheer complexity of such games makes Stardock's fair AI approach (it is fair in an important sense even when given bonuses, except the fog of war cheat at the top level) a nightmare to make challenging. In fact, I think it would be easier to design a successful man-mission to Mars than make a completely fair AI in this game competitive with players determined to win (I analyzed why in the AI thread I made).

I would argue that it would not be wise to attempt to design this game to please the players out to win. They are relatively few, and I imagine almost always disappointed in single-player computer strategy games, unless they are symmetric and far, far less complex like chess and go (which makes them balanced in game design and tractable AI problems). This type of game seems to be strongest in appeal to novelty and roleplay, and I think it would be wise to design to its strengths, rather than bite off an impossible challenge.

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May 18, 2013 6:36:43 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

The thing is though that games like this have always had trouble with challenging AI. The systems are so complex that it's a miracle the AI does as well as it does. Not only does it have to know how to manage cities and move troops like in Civ, but it also has to know how and when to sensibly use a huge variety of spells as well as how to fight tactical battles. A competent human is always going to have the upper hand, all things being equal. The solution of course is for the AI to cheat to keep things somewhat challenging. 

What some people in this thread are trying to point out though, is that, at least for them, it's a lot easier to look past the flaws in the AI if the experience of playing is so much fun that it doesn't matter. For example, the game many still consider the highest pinnacle of this genre, Master of Magic, had lots of bugs and an AI that muddled through with lots of bonuses that the human player didn't get. But in that game the lack of challenging AI didn't matter because the entire experience was so much fun, with so many combinations of unique races, truly powerful spells and abilities to play with and develop strategies around. Many of these spells and abilities were completely overpowered and unbalanced...and lots of fun to use.

Elemental has come a long way, but this is the aspect that some think is still not quite as good as it could be, and some people are advocating for more focus on the RPG elements because of their belief that it would make the overall game more fun, even if it results in some systems being unbalanced. Many people are quite willing to sacrifice balance if it enhances the fun, although obviously what people find fun is a subjective question, which is exactly what the OP is trying to explore by starting this thread. 

 

 

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May 18, 2013 6:52:29 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

First off, MadDjinn, I want to thank you for your input r.e. E:LH, and your efforts to nudge the designers towards a stronger AI by pointing out the defiiciencies that may not be as immediately obvious.  I'm sure Brad and the guys are taking note, and taking your suggestions under advisement as they continue to tweak the game.  This is very helpful, and I am glad to see you 'on the case' as it were.

However, I must take exception to this post:

Quoting SBFMadDjinn,


Quoting brass1983, reply 30
I think playing any 4x game to win is doing it wrong. Personally  i like to roleplay a bit, really get into the story I'm creating within the game. I tend to quickly lose interest if the story gets boring and i'm steamrolling all my opponents. I play lots of games, and the ones where "playing to win" is the only real option get played once and quickly forgotten  Games that can be played for the experience, however, like CivIV, Mount and Blade: Warband, Skyrim, Sins of a Solar Empire, CKII ect. all have hundreds of hours of playtime on them.

 

You've got this exactly backwards.  4X games are meant to be won -  the 4 Xs require a win condition and this game has 4 win conditions (as per standard).  None of the X's stand for 'experiential story telling', so to suggest that people are 'doing it wrong' by actually playing the game for what it is built to be, is likely the worst response in this thread for the OP's post.  4X games are not sandbox games, they are generally strategy games.  Strategy games are meant to be won, and are meant to be a challenge to do so.

 

As per prior comments upthread -- it's ok that there's 'non-optimal' excesses in the game/tech tree for those that are looking for a slower/more 'experiential' (lower difficulty) game.  It also allows for variety in the games so that you aren't doing the exact same thing each time (which gets boring).  Choice is good.  But that's not a reason to not have a properly balanced game.  It's hard to roleplay the Trogs when their primary weapon choice sucks vs. other weapons and is harder to get as well.  That's where balance changes kick in.  A better AI means you can get some actual 'roleplaying' out of the AI for your experience, which provides more 'depth' to the experience.  The fact that the game isn't challenging to people who want to 'win' shows that the game won't last long for gamers, and Stardock will feel the pain for it in future sales (not just for this game).

When people don't even bother finishing a game because it's not providing them entertainment or a challenge, the game won't last.

 

 

Seriously though, Skyrim and Civ in the same sentence about 'winning'?  They aren't even in the same GENRE let alone game style.

 

 

As an example, whenever I fire up Alpha Centauri/Alien Crossfire, for example, my personal goals in the game are not primarily to see if I can win the game in the 'traditional' sense.  Sure, the victory conditions are there, but I'm more focused on the 'little things', like maximizing use of tiles, terraforming, clearing out fungus (and then maybe replanting later when the appropriate tech allows 'harmony' with the alien lifeforms), and such.  I love exploring the building options, and exploring the world.  The whole 'global warming' mechanic is also fun, in that you had to 'harden' your low lying cities/raise elevations to keep them from drowning, or fix your ports if sea levels drop...  A lot of this was also in Civ, but there were enough 'extras' in the Alpha Centauri setting to keep me wanting to come back and try out the other options (Aki Zeta/Cybernetic Consciousness being a fave 'baseline civ' of mine of course, being the 'research lover' I am').  As well as longing for a sequel that may never come (thanks to licensing issues).

And a lot of 4x games have a 'OK you won, do you want to keep playing?' Option.  While I don't take advantage of continuing a game a lot (the early/midgame interests me more), I have played past the 'win', just to see how big of a city I could make/how to solve that terrain issue I've been having, how can I better maximize resources, etc..  Sure this is another 'way' to win the game, but this is more along the problem solving lines than the 'you have these four ways to win' structure.

Alpha Centauri/Alien Crossfire still have a rabid following, and when GOG put it on sale after a long hiatus, we had another round of players join the Alpha Centauri Civfanatics forum, because there is still interest in that game, over a decade after it's release.

 

Anyways, to get back to the general point you made, about some of us playing 4x games 'wrong', remember that people play these games for enjoyment, and different people enjoy games in different ways.  Sure, balancing is a HUGE issue, but do keep in mind that not everyone has the same priorities when playing these games.  The multiple victory conditions help with multiple playing styles, but at the end of the day some people want to 'beat' the game while others just want to 'enjoy/get their feet wet/explore and experience' whatever setting the game is presenting.

A lot of the custom mods you see for games these days introduce some cool feature, that really has very little to do with game balance.  An example is spider mounts.  Do we need spider mounts for game balance?  No.  Is it absolutely cool to have them?  You bet!  Now, if an empire relies on spider mounts for it's cavalry, sure they should be balanced in some way against the other mounts in the game, and I would expect nothing less.  But again this is the 'wonder factor' of the game that is attracting interest, and a good number are here for THAT, not just another exercise in 'beating the AI'.

As for replayability and attracting new players, 'running with the pack', i.e. making a game too much like the existing games, runs the risk of having said game 'blend' with the other games in the genre.  When Civilization was first released, it was groundbreaking, and is still the benchmark other 4x games are measured against.  But it's the 'outliers' that sometimes have the longest shelf life, because they didn't simply 'clone' the basic structure of the other game, put on some pretty window dressings, and released said somewhat unimaginative/cloned design out to the public. 

On a related note, I'm not quite sure if Galactic Civilizations was 'groundbreaking', but I love the ship design interface, and this game is sufficiently flexible to allow multiple 'settings' be fairly easily played using the GalCiv framework (Star Wars, Star Trek, B5, etc).  I do think that the core of the game is very sound, and it doesn't feel like Civ to me at all, even though it has a lot of similar 4x features.  So clone isn't a word I'd EVER use to describe the GalCiv franchise.

 

For the 'combat/win oriented' players, you are absolutely right in saying that if a game isn't properly balanced/challenging, they will lose interest and move on to other challenges/games.  But for those of us that seek a different 'breed' of challenges in the game experience, this sometimes can't be quantified in victory conditions per se, and because of this, some games still have rabid followings years after release despite AI deficiencies and such, partly due to the 'ride' being as much fun as the 'win'.

So, in this sense, there is no 'wrong' way to play a game.  If player A (the beat the game types) gets what he wants out of the experience, and player B gets the 'build/wonder/fun time' out of same game, this is a win for the developers on both fronts, and it increases the potential audience.  And, once someone buys a game, who cares if they are 'playing it wrong', as long as they are getting enjoyment out of their purchases.  This is why some of us love Modders so much!

 

This is also why I am a huge fan of 'optional features' adding to replayability options, but that's a topic that has been discussed to death in the relevant threads.

 

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May 18, 2013 8:54:00 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I agree with your points regarding balance, AI and enjoyment, tjashen.  Note: this may also explain why the Age of Wonders games are so beloved, even though the AI hasn't been exactly strong yet.

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May 18, 2013 10:31:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Burress,
I think people in this category do a lot of playing around that would be nonsense to a player who sees the game as a goal to beat the opponents and the systems as tools to that end. That is what I meant, not that they are the exact opposites of people who are playing to win.

I think I see what you mean but I'm not sure you have got my point. I think I am at heart someone who WANTS to play to win, the problem is that this goal doesn't remain a challenge for long enough so I end up playing to explore/build an uber hero/see what happens when a wildland or quest is completed, etc. I'm only 'playing around' because I want to be playing the game but my primary goal, 'winning', no longer requires me to devote any real gameplay attention to it.

It is a difficult balancing act but the perfect single player strategy game for me is one where the AI provides rising challenges. In the FE/LH context maybe that means the first third of the game is trying to survive against the wilderness and carve out a fledgling kingdom, the second third is a tough conflict against your nearest neighbour(s), then the final third is a death struggle between your empire and the top AI player who has crushed 3 other AI's on the other side of the map and has an uber empire of his own. THAT would be an awesome experience.

Last time I played LE/FE I found that last third completely missing and the second third a bit lacking too.

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May 19, 2013 6:55:18 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting SBFMadDjinn,


Quoting brass1983, reply 30
I think playing any 4x game to win is doing it wrong. Personally  i like to roleplay a bit, really get into the story I'm creating within the game. I tend to quickly lose interest if the story gets boring and i'm steamrolling all my opponents. I play lots of games, and the ones where "playing to win" is the only real option get played once and quickly forgotten  Games that can be played for the experience, however, like CivIV, Mount and Blade: Warband, Skyrim, Sins of a Solar Empire, CKII ect. all have hundreds of hours of playtime on them.

 

You've got this exactly backwards.  4X games are meant to be won -  the 4 Xs require a win condition and this game has 4 win conditions (as per standard).  None of the X's stand for 'experiential story telling', so to suggest that people are 'doing it wrong' by actually playing the game for what it is built to be, is likely the worst response in this thread for the OP's post.  4X games are not sandbox games, they are generally strategy games.  Strategy games are meant to be won, and are meant to be a challenge to do so.

 

Yes, but there is a difference between 4X and a "pure" strategy game. 4X games are not "straight to win". And in fact each time a 4X game design falls too much in the "straight to win" part it gets so boring. Is like "why I want so many different ways to play if all I care about is winning?". Like has been said above, a player that plays only to win will never want to try that cool spell, to explore a faction that plays different or to enjoy the pleasure of seeing the nice nation she built. "Straight to win" players are always asking for many features to get axed "because they are meaningless to win". They are always complaining about balance wanting to turn the game in a version of chess with steroids as has also been said above, ruining the game for players who want to enjoy the experience. Those players don't care if a particular mechanic does not make sense as long as "it presents an strategic challenge". 

CK2 (and in general Paradox games) is a very good example of playing not only to win. We all play to overcome challenges, but some people like to enjoy the path and other people only care about arriving to the end.

l remember a scenario of HoMM 3 based on Ancient Greece Mythology. The scenario was so cool that I continued to play it long after it was clear I had won. Instead of doing to the final fight I continued exploring every single location, enjoying the rich interactions the scenario designer had incorporated in that AWESOME scenario. 

 

So we play to win.  But winning is not everything. Oh, and chess is booooooring.

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May 19, 2013 7:02:34 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I play for the story more than some bland checkers experience of exploiting the system.This is why roleplaying A.I is also needed to match theme of their race.

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May 19, 2013 7:08:28 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Burress,

 For instance, Master of Magic, Age of Wonders 2 and Shadow Magic, and Dominons 3 were nowhere near balanced, in the sense there were overpowered strategies everywhere, and hardly challenges for players who are out to win. The systems, especially magic as a system, seem incredibly difficult to balance. The sheer complexity of such games makes Stardock's fair AI approach (it is fair

And I'd like to add: Thanks God they are not balanced. Everything in excess is bad, and an overbalanced game is boring. Very few things are more funny than casting those high level unbalanced over powerful spells, or killing armies with a single hero. Of course those are supposed to be late game elements, when you have already won, and have to be the reward for a player who "won" it, but there is nothing bad about them being unbalanced. Now, an early game feature that was unbalanced, that would be a bad thing. 

Quoting Burress,
I would argue that it would not be wise to attempt to design this game to please the players out to win. They are relatively few, and I imagine almost always disappointed in single-player computer strategy games, unless they are symmetric and far, far less complex like chess and go (which makes them balanced in game design and tractable AI problems). This type of game seems to be strongest in appeal to novelty and roleplay, and I think it would be wise to design to its strengths, rather than bite off an impossible challenge.

I agree that there is no point about making a rich lore game and then turning it into Chess Plus. The challenge has to be there, but if we wanted a completely balanced game we would not care about background story, unit descriptions, and that kind of things. 

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May 20, 2013 4:51:38 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I was away all weekend, but will answer this now:

first - when I say 'balanced', what I mean is that there should be 'viable alternate choices' wrt the points.  I don't want anything 'watered down to the point of not being there' as some have inferred.  Choices are what allow for deeper gameplay and replayability.  If my choices are cut down to 1-2 'choices' due to poor dev efforts, then the game will get boring fast.  Instead, here's some clear examples of what I mean about balance:

Weapons - the balance between the weapon types got thrown off with the switch to LH due to the loss of the different types of defense traits vs. those weapon traits.  Some weapons (spears) are far more 'viable' than all other weapon types.  A basic 'balance' form in the current system would be to boost the base attack values of the lower initiative weapons to compensate for their slowness.  That would 'balance' them out with the faster spears. So slow and hit hard vs. fast but not as strong.  Moving the Axes and daggers earlier in the tech tree (or just allowing them right away) means that they can be used in the game, rather than ignored.  This would give more choice (and more choice = more fun) for players.

When it comes to Victory Conditions, balance would entail that they should all be reachable 'around' the same amount of effort/time put in.  So the XP needed/army building required to take on the Master Quest should take about as long as it does to tech/build to the Spell of Mastery/towers.  The Alliance tech should be sufficiently far enough out, meanwhile what it takes to make allies (and keep them) should not be a trivial matter.  Conquest always causes some balance issues, but this is where a better AI (around offense/defense/unit creation/etc) comes into play to slow a player down.

 

When it comes to faction traits, weak ones can be boosted to be competitive with the 'might as well always take' ones (this is the biggest 'flavour' based balance point in the entire game).  The weaknesses should be of sufficient 'pain' that you only take it if you really want that one more point trait.  Sufficiently 'OP' traits can have their cost increased, rather than just nerfing their output.

 

As per 'winning' --

 

I in no way defined 'winning', and the balance thereof, as the plan to get the win as fast as possible (Puzzle style where the game just needs to be figured out for how to win fast).  Some people like to play games as a 'puzzle' and go for the fastest win times (see the HoF at CFC) but that's not what I defined winning as (mostly because that requires super tuning of the world/etc and that part isn't fun).  I did define it as the attempt to play a strategy game (TBS 4X in this case) as the ultimate goal of starting the game = will try to win before the AI does (or another player if there was MP).  That is a core element of the genre.

Flavour and choices help define 'how' you are going to win the game.  That's why developers go to extents to create background stories, traits and other such features.  No where did I argue that games need to be distilled down to 'chess' level abstractions.  Puzzle games have their own genre.

 I didn't define how others play the game as 'wrong', that was brass1983 when he said "I think playing any 4x game to win is doing it wrong. ".  I disagreed with that statement based upon what I mention above as 'balance' and 'winning' here in this post.  You *can* play lower difficulty levels in 4X TBS games and expect the ability to 'get your feet wet' and enjoy a 'light' effort game, but that's not the point of the genre.  It is not a sandbox game, nor is it stated as such by the developers.  Statements about what the game type/genre is defines what the expectations are for the output of the game.

 

So yes, it is actually best for the developers to make this particular game for the 4X TBS genre style players who expect a challenge and that want some form of balance with respect to their choices in game.  If Stardock wants to make a sandbox game in the FE universe then by all means they can, but it isn't how they defined this game.

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May 21, 2013 9:17:21 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I play to play,  I play on lower levels.  I do play towards a victory, but not by any path anyone would find efficient.  However, I do notice whether the AI seems basically clever or not, and it does help the fun if they are smarter.  I think that developing smarter and smarter algorithms that make the AI more challenging for the "play to win" types also makes the game even more enjoyable for the "play to play" types.  I found the point to be well illustrated when Civ 4 took in some of the AI mods and put them into BTS.  It seemed to make a big difference for everybody. 

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May 21, 2013 1:08:20 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I would apply the same theories to "playing to win players" vs. "playing for the experience players" to my "cares about UI" vs. "doesn't care about UI" theories.  You basically have 75% of the players just playing for fun.  They don't really care about balance, etc., but the other 25% do care about balance.  This is why if you address the balance issues then you please 100% of the people... get it?  Same for the UI.  If you please the 25% of the people who do care about it, then you please 100% of the people (25% who do care + 75% who don't care = 100% happy people).

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May 21, 2013 1:16:56 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I am a very peace loving character so I also prefer to develop as much as I can, except if I am boxed in. This game has too many to give in the later stages for somebody to want ot squish the opposition fast. 

I think RTS games are better suited for people like that.

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May 21, 2013 1:29:40 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting Trojasmic,


I would apply the same theories to "playing to win players" vs. "playing for the experience players" to my "cares about UI" vs. "doesn't care about UI" theories.  You basically have 75% of the players just playing for fun.  They don't really care about balance, etc., but the other 25% do care about balance.  This is why if you address the balance issues then you please 100% of the people... get it?  Same for the UI.  If you please the 25% of the people who do care about it, then you please 100% of the people (25% who do care + 75% who don't care = 100% happy people).

 

everyone wants a better UI, I'd agree with that.  Being able to effectively use the game and interact with it is always a good thing.  Games that are very hard to use tend not to get many people playing it due to frustration issues.

 

edit:

 

I'd also point out that UI and AI are not mutually exclusive development components.  Aritsts/technical artists build the UI (with a basic programmer) while AI needs a specific type of programmer skill that doesn't overlap with UI.

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May 21, 2013 11:50:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I, and my friends who played this game all agree that while the beginning of the game is fun and engaging, but the end game (post snowball) is extremely boring. After a certain point, no matter the difficulty, the AI is bound to be powerless against you. Unfortunately, even when you reach that point, ending the game would still take a LONG time, of boring unchallenging gameplay.

And indeed, one of the best, and most done way of amending this is to add in Multiplayer. Players can make comebacks against other players, AI cannot.

A way I've thought of that would eradicate the problem without multiplayer would be to add in an end game event, where some trigger, be it turns, or a series of variables, unleashes a catastrophe upon the world, destroying all that cannot withstand it. If player survives, player wins. (say spawns dragons, demon armies everywhere).

 

Another way to fix this is to add in a punishment system for killing enemy units. For instance, for every enemy unit you killed, you have a chance of spawning undead armies that would attack your cities. These units should be tough enough to take on your armies with the addition of magical troops like necromancers, Lich, etc. It should keep the player far more interested in playing, instead of the present clubbing of a dying baby seal.

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