Musings on strong and weak elements of the game

Discussion in 'EMPIRE (by Crazy Monkey Studios)' started by Silvercloak, Nov 16, 2013.

  1. Silvercloak

    Silvercloak New Member


    I've really been enjoying Empire. There are some really nice design elements, combats are engaging, and the whole package wraps up neatly. Thanks for the game!

    It seems like you're still putting lots of thought into this, so I thought I'd come and provide my feedback and impressions. I guess a lot of this post contains suggestions, but they are certainly meant as suggestions and not demands. I like what you're doing with the game overall, and wish you luck with its continuing development.

    Overall, I would have liked to have had something a little harder, with fewer battles per game. I've played 3 games on 1.0 (scoring 35, 90, and 900+ -- I actually suicided the last game because it was getting boring and I wanted to try 1.1), and one-and-a-bit on 1.1 (scoring 606 with the Senator, which also dragged a little, and currently playing a game with the War Chief).

    The combat game is really fun and very tight. I love the feeling of making nudges to a brittle and deterministic system, to edge towards victory. Reminds me a little of some of Vlaada Chvatil's board games. I also enjoy the careful tactical destruction of much larger forces.

    Specific comments:
    • I thought the symmetry between player and monster units was a really good part of what made things feel tight, so I was sad to see this broken for archers in 1.1. I think it should be quite possible to balance around this constraint; alternatively the space of possible unit designs is large enough that you could have a completely different set for the monsters, which would also feel good.
    • I like the units all feeling quite distinct, and that they have a niche. For this reason, I liked the change to the cavalry attack, making them overlap less with warriors. I didn't like the change to archer attack, which made them more like warriors (but I didn't see what problem it was solving, so it may have been a good thing).
    • It's good that combat is chunky enough that killing units in one hit happens reasonably frequently. However units getting injured without dying is also interesting. I'm not certain about the correct balance point between these two, but I think there may be slightly too much instant death. The increase to archer health therefore felt pretty good. I am left wondering -- would it be better if archers did 2 damage rather than 3 at range?
    • In the interest of having units wounded without dying, and also not having some units dominate others too much, I am enjoying the 4-health warriors available to the War Chief. I am quite unsure about how to optimise my army, which is good.
    Interface comments in combat:
    • Would be nice if the archer diagram shaded the 1-damage squares orange, like cavalry does.
    • For Warrior Reposition, in particular, it's not clear what path the warrior will take to get there (and so which units will be pushed). If this could be signalled to the player, that would be great.
    Outside of combat, it felt like there were a couple of other major game elements: preparing for combat (making choices about deck and army composition), and the overworld game. Combat is the really strong part of the game, and preparing for combat was generally pretty interesting.
    Preparing for combat:
    • Card choice perhaps slightly more interesting than unit choice. I'm not sure what to think of the switch to spell costing in terms of command points or crystals between 1.0 and 1.1 -- I like both systems.
    • Valor and Grit are interesting cards (Valor is more interesting in a world where you don't 1-hit everything anyway). However as the game goes on you fill up your deck enough that you don't see them much, which is a shame. I think it might be better if they sometimes appeared in the card offer. Alternatively this may be mostly a sign my games were going too long ...
    • Planning and building an army and a deck to work well together is very fun. However in general the combat game is at its best with middling-sized armies with a mixture of unit types. You could consider some soft pressure on the player to encourage these: perhaps the cost of acquiring a unit goes up with each unit of the same type you already have.
    In comparison to the tight combat system, it's not clear that the overworld game knows what it's trying to do. It would be nice to see starker strategic choices, and perhaps closer links to the combat game.
    I do like the idea of crumbling cities that you're forced to abandon. However to translate to good gameplay this requires interesting tension between reasons to hang onto cities, and reasons to abandon them. I thought 1.0 was okay at this: Keeps may have been too useful, but they were a good reason to keep your city going, and this pushed against the draining resources from the land. It seems that in 1.1 too much of the benefit of cities is transient: the third tier building, and mining crystals. This led me to just trying to churn through cities (I think I had 23 last game) rather than thinking about when to keep them or move on.
    You could address this by adding static benefits to holding old cities (a bit like the old keeps), or perhaps by adding costs to abandoning them. (Edit: I looked at your thread with plans for 1.2, and I see you are considering both of these steps! Great.)
    I'd actually be interested to investigate slightly different pressure to move on than just resource exhaustion. Perhaps having drained areas around a city could make it harder or more dangerous to defend. Would need various other changes, so more a brainstorm than a real suggestion at this stage.
    Other top-of-my-head comments on the overworld:
    • Perhaps the map should be made smaller? I never really felt like I was running out of room. Maybe that's intentional, and again the problem is that my game went so long (but if the games are shorter a smaller map should be fine anyway).
    • Maybe it would be good to offer the player more explicit trade-offs between pulling resources out of the ground faster (in case they need them for their army) and spoiling the land. I suppose that this is already there implicitly with a choice between running 2 or 3 cities.
    • Could consider making attack and defence operate more distinctly from each other in combat?
    • One reason that the map doesn't have as much impact on combat as it might is the disassociation of player army from location. I initially thought that this was a good design decision, as it removed micromanagement and focused on the combat, but now I'm less sure. As there are only two or three cities at a time, it would be interesting if they had different garrisons, or you had to think about where your army was so that you couldn't simultaneously launch large attacks on monster nests on opposite sides of your empire. This would increase the spatial element of the game (I do find maps in games appealing, and I think the map in this game looks great, so I'd like to see a little more interaction. The wandering monsters sound a good start, although it really looks like having some spatial dependencies within your empire could be better.)
    I think my ideal would be to see an optional hard mode, which would increase the frequency and difficulty of combats from the start, possibly also decreasing the resources available to you. You could instead ramp these up faster as the game goes on, but that would I guess make it less enjoyable for players who aren't thrashing the early game.

    Two difficulty levels should be plenty. They could have different leaderboards, or share one but with a score multiplier for hard. (I'm personally of the view that the different Emperors would be OK with a single leaderboard, but I definitely understand the decision to separate them.)

    An alternative would be to add more of a feeling of progression through the game, so that rather than just adding more and more monsters to the battles, something qualitatively different happens -- a new type of monster perhaps. Monster nexuses, which represent a larger quest to destroy. I'm not sure.


    Well, I've said plenty. I hope some of it is interesting or useful. I would be interested to see where people agree and disagree (I can elaborate on reasons for thinking some things, or perhaps you can change my mind).
    Dasick, keithburgun and Nachtfischer like this.
  2. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Great comments! Processing them all!

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