Version 1.2 Thoughts on Armies and Resources

Discussion in 'EMPIRE (by Crazy Monkey Studios)' started by keithburgun, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    This is slightly better than the standing v1.2 proposal, but it still means that any time I get downgraded from an actually useful unit, I'll likely have to build a new city so that I can get the upgrade again. (The standing proposal requires me to do that, plus go through at least one additional upgrade cycle to get the warrior.)

    I don't really see the gameplay benefits to either of these proposals. Can you explain what you're going for in terms of the game system with tying army-building to upgrades? (I get that you have a conceptual problem with buying units and that you want to make that less important. But I'm wondering how tying army size/composition to upgrades is intended to improve the game system.)
     
    Dasick likes this.
  2. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Maybe losing Warriors gives you a strife (the volunteer army is dying!! Ahhhhhh!), but the other units just return to being warriors.
     
  3. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Yeah, that's partially the point.

    As it is, it's kind of this weird thing where the game seems to suggest that "more units are better!" and you should build up an army, but that's just not true at all. So that's why I want to get rid of the idea of "producing more units". I want to remove any weird, accidental conflicts like that where the player almost has to "play designer" to have a good game experience. Like having a 6-unit army, the game is just WORSE than if you have a 4 unit army. Straight up. So... I don't want people to have a worse game, I want them to have a better game.
     
  4. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Yes, that's the part you've already explained and that I get (don't really agree, but I understand what you're saying). My question is what will improve in terms of gameplay with either of these new proposals, in terms of the overall system, and in terms of the player experience? You've addressed what you think is a negative about 1.1 (ie., what this will fix), but what is the positive you see in these 1.2 proposals to changes to army upgrade?

    By the way, when 1.2 warriors become a joke and Strife per unit lost goes away, that may well have a profound effect on "optimal" army size/composition.
     
  5. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Surely you don't think that "only adding something can make a better experience". Removing a bad thing also results in a better experience. I've identified a bad thing and I'd like to remove it to create a better experience.

    Not counting in-combat, the major choices in this game that are interesting should be:

    - When to abandon a city
    - What to build in the cities

    To a lesser degree,
    - Where to explore
    - When/Where to found new cities

    I don't think that "increase my army size or no?" has ever, ever been an interesting choice.

    What do you think the effect will be?
     
  6. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Selecting armies is not a bad experience for the player. It's an element of the game that you consider inelegant and unnecessary. There's a difference.

    But surely you don't think that all you are doing is removing something bad? You are also creating a new way of building up and controlling the composition of armies. I am trying to get you to articulate why the new proposal is attractive to you, but you keep repeating explanations for why you don't like the current system. To color the question with my own perspective: why is it a good thing to move every real decision into an upgrade that the player has to wait around for?

    Here are some of the benefits of the current system of armies that are lost, in my opinion, when you lock up all the decisions in the upgrade cycle:

    - Drama: Really the only dramatic thing in the overmap gameplay in 1.0/1.1 are the situations when you have to decide between building up your dwindled army to face imminent attack or trying to (say) pump your economy by building a mine. Those can be knucklebiters! But with exploration as really the only 1st tier interaction, players have to wait for upgrades and face a limited set of possibilities (i.e., each upgrade stage provides a different set of choices).
    - Fungibility: With everything costing different resources (gems, materials, settlers) but being available only at limited times, the sense of making real tradeoffs is curtailed. I might have 100 materials on hand to spend, but if I don't have a city at the right stage of upgrade then I can't get the cavalry I need. It's of course OK for there to be some choices like this, but when everything is, the players' choices will be very fragmented, and thus have less value.
    - Freedom: Losing will be very frustrating when you have plenty of resources but you can't get an upgrade. Also rather tiresome to have to move cities just to get the upgrades you need for your army.
    - Experimentation: Trying out different combinations of units is not only fun and a way of setting self-directed challenges (I know, you hate the idea that players might set any parameters themselves), but also a great way to learn the ins and outs of the combat system.

    I understand wanting to make the cities more interesting. In 1.1, the choices are generally no-brainers. But I think 1.2 will also generally have many no-brainer upgrades: If I have warriors, I'll pretty much need to upgrade to usable units. If I don't, I will obviously choose Farms and Shamans Huts instead of army upgrades. So these are pretty much forced choices, not interesting ones.

    If you don't lose Strife per unit lost in battle, then losing units isn't really that bad. And with fodder units like the new 1-HP warriors, the best thing you can do with them might be to just throw a line of them at the enemy, don't waste card effects on them, let them be cut down, and build up again later. So, an optimal army could well be two archers and four warriors. Anyway, the details don't really matter. The point is that "optimal" size is not an isolated variable, it's a function of the other elements in the system.
     
  7. ComfortablyNumb

    ComfortablyNumb New Member

    At the risk of sounding dense...
    Another disclaimer to throw here is I am new.

    But I disagree with the notion of an army of 4-5 is best...not to brag but I've been pretty consistent in my scoring and I max my army to 6. At all times. I sometimes enjoy mixing it up but tend to use only one type, that in my mind works best. Point being, battles are a major structure of your game, and I have a major difference of opinion about it then most I read here.

    Now this could be, as u start fighting armies 20-30 strong, every unit counts and resurrecting them multiple times in a battle is common..lol or maybe I need to try armies of 4, tho I truly doubt it would improve my performance.

    If, through your other changes, games get shortened and opposing armies capped at 11..then an army cap of 4 is OK... but I agree with senator here that just because an aspect of a game might not be efficient or even needed doesn't mean it doesn't hold value for that player to be under the impression (false or other wise) that they have a choice, with net real affect.

    I mean isn't that what .makes games fun? Choices? Armies..mixing it up?
     
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  8. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Great post, Senator. I see what you mean, and I think you have me somewhat convinced. One thing that you guys should be aware of though is the whole "this is how it was on release so I'm used to it and that's the reason I don't want to let things go". Like, if the game launched never even having army-building, you guys would of course not miss it (although it would probably have something else you can do in between upgrades, which I agree is a big issue).

    Also, more choice isn't always better, especially if that choice is like a no-brainer / false choice. Then it's just more labor.

    Anyway.... one thing is, I think that the current existing military buildings as they are, just kind of suck. They're weak and worse than that, they just don't feel good to get. They feel too "behind the scenes, weird number-oriented, non-immediate benefit". It should be like BAM, I built this thing, and I immediately got this tangible benefit. So how's this:

    - You can buy Warriors anytime from the Armies screen, for 80 Materials
    - You can also buy a Warrior as a city upgrade, for free
    - The two military buildings convert a warrior into a Cavalry or Archer, respectively.
     
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  9. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    I like that proposal. It sort of brings back the "material influx" (which as somebody mentioned was really only critically useful when you needed to build soldiers immediately), but directy granting you a warrior instead of materials. Sounds good to me!

    That's interesting... because I think it's the first time somebody said that.
     
  10. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    I don't see anyone arguing that more choice is better...? Manual exploration used to be a non-choice that was crappy wasted labor, and you wisely ameliorated it with auto-exploration. (Hopefully now that we're moving back to strictly manual exploration, the new monster system will make it more interesting.) But army composition and the when to change your army were never uninteresting choices. I have consistently been critical of the idea that there is an optimal army and we know what it is. One high scorer gave his strategy as having 1 single warrior(!), while ComfortablyNumb always goes maxed out w/6 warriors. I've never believed that Cavalry were the "best" unit since the first build of the pre-1.0 beta, but that's been the conventional wisdom. And since Emperors were introduced, I've tried to follow the unit compositions there t/o my game with each emperor. I found (and Nachfischer did too, I believe) that archers + warriors was far more effective than I thought it'd be; at the same time Shirin's army (warriors + cavalry) I found much harder to manage. To my mind there is simply no way to argue that this sort of exploration of the combat system is not interesting, or that it involves non-choices.

    Are Warriors still going to be 1 HP? Because if they are, those military choices are largely false choices--you will have to upgrade your warriors to have a viable army. But otherwise, it's definitely an improvement over the earlier proposal.
     
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  11. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    Actually, if this is the problem that you're trying to solve with the changes to the army vis a vis military buildings, I think maybe the effort is somewhat misdirected? The real problem with the military buildings as balanced, interesting choices vs Shaman's Hut or Farms* is that there isn't much that they can meaningfully "hook into" in the mechanics of the overmap. Having them upgrade the game's other subsystem (combat) is maybe always going to be a bit unsatisfying?

    * Since Farms actually open all land to influence, including mining and gem mining, maybe the name should be changed to "Expand"?
     
  12. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    I just had a crazy idea. What if we got rid of materials? Hear me out.

    - The objective of the game is to win battles. Battles are the bottleneck through which all meaningful action happens. It's the core mechanism.
    - Cities are basically like, go through your upgrades, get your one-time bonuses from them (for combat), and then either abandon them or push your luck and get VP for awhile before abandoning them.
    - You gain military this way, through city upgrades.
    - Food determines the rate at which you gain these upgrades
    - We can now take "abandonment" out of the shadows, because after T3, it's just "ABANDON, OR 3 VP + a STRIFE?" every turn.

    In all of this, I don't see where we need materials. Actually I think a lot of my recent work has been trying to figure out how to use materials.
     
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  13. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    I guess the only remaining question with that is what do you spend on exploration, then. Maybe exploring takes up all your food for that turn or something like that.
     
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  14. Nachtfischer

    Nachtfischer Well-Known Member

    That sounds like it adds more enforced waiting. The decision would then be to either explore or "wait to get something".

    Apart from that, I can see the reasoning behind getting rid of materials. Especially since they'd be much less important without the "traditional" army management. Then again, I found it made for some interesting choices on where to build a city: Do I go all for wood/food to get upgrades as fast as possible or do I try to catch some additional mountains/materials? Well, we'd still have that with gems, but I'm not 100% sure it's really outright better to drop materials completely...
     
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  15. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Actually... should we just get rid of exploration? No way will the team actually let me do this, but let's just think about it... does this game really need fog at all to begin with?
     
  16. ComfortablyNumb

    ComfortablyNumb New Member

    As soon as u institute rovers and their negating surprise attacks, coupled with gems already appearing...you don't...

    But to now remove materials, exploring, sneak attacks... there is far less interaction with the map. I know increasing map activity was a goal. I think these changes will result in as naxht said, more enforced waiting.

    I respect your goal of more focus on combat, less on decisions that are not substantial. I think less isn't always more especially as your game already cuts a lot of fluff out. To get rid of materials, army selection, as well as exploring destroys the 4x nature of the game...
     
  17. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    What I'm kind of realizing is this:

    This game is about the tactical battles. That's where you gain VP, that's where the game is interesting and fun, that's like the "bottleneck" point of information. It's the core mechanism.

    So the map, actually, needs to be kind of simple, and have JUST enough resolution for providing choices. Currently it's still just bogged down by too much weight. Like, it should be interesting, which is what I've been trying to do, but it shouldn't be heavy. It should be light and simple and yet have big ramifications on battles.

    We can manage the enforced waiting by just making everything happen basically twice as fast, resources wise. To illustrate, what if cities leveled up at 50 food and tiles had 1/2 the # of turns before they died?

    I don't care at all about destroying the 4x nature of the game. Actually, wait... I do actively care, in that I WANT to destroy the 4x nature of the game. I just did a talk about this. "4X", think about it - the title of this genre actually suggests a lack of focus. It's like if there was a genre called 4D and it was like "Driving, Decapitation, Division, and Dryness" or something. Like four different words that really have no connection other than that they all start with the same letter.

    What I want to do is make the best game I possibly can, and if that ends up being similar to 4X, fine, if not, also fine, and it's likely the answer will be "not" since 4Xes are kind of messy.
     
  18. Senator

    Senator Moderator

    The logical endpoint of this and the other proposed changes is to simply say that the game on the overmap isn't necessary, let's chuck and it and make Empire a game of one combat after another. I think you need to move in the opposite direction: make materials more important, to increase interest on the overmap and create a game that is more about making real tradeoffs.

    [EDIT: Cross-posted with Keith's response to ComfortablyNumb. I still think that the quality of choices in the overmap has been going down over the last few proposals, regardless of how "light" or "heavy" the map should be.]
     
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  19. keithburgun

    keithburgun Administrator, Lead Designer Staff Member

    Senator, no I disagree. I think you need some kind of a resource overmap game to feed into the strategic battles. It's just that it needs to be balanced, not too big, and not too small. Currently, it's too big.

    Also, I've spent the last 3 months trying to make materials more important and it has been actually the source of problems. I shouldn't "come up with a resource first and then figure out how to make it useful". Gems, I always knew what they were going to do, and what their identity was. Materials, not so much. Materials have ALWAYS sucked, everything about them, the 200 cap, yuck.
     
  20. Silvercloak

    Silvercloak New Member

    I agree that the heart of the game is in combat, and that you therefore want to keep the map-level game simple, and look to cut any bloat from it. In their current form materials do feel a bit like this. Also, the numbers on the overworld map (food, resources) are all unnecessarily large compared to the small, tight feel of numbers in combat. Generally you can get a nice feel by scaling things so that every point increment is a noticeable difference.

    I also agree with the comments that it's important that the map have a meaningful part to play in the game, or it feels tacked on (you could remove the map entirely, but maps help fun and immersion). I'd look to reduce the number of decisions the player can make at the map level, but have each of them feel meaningful and many of them non-obvious.

    Ideas, in no particular order:
    • Currently city placement has lots of options, but doesn't make much difference between locations. Generally only the adjacent tiles matter; larger-scale geometry is irrelevant. It would be good to fix this. Perhaps a tension between a more spread out empire, which lets you see and access more places, and a tighter empire where you get some defence bonuses from having cities close to each other.
      • You could have exploration just centered on your cities: each city can see a certain distance, and you have some opportunities to increase that distance. This would encourage spreading out (so you'd need a mechanic encouraging huddling to balance it).
      • Another mechanic that might encourage spreading out would be other prizes scattered around the map. For instance some places where you can get a particular spell card to add to your deck (by building a city at the location, or perhaps by beating a foe there).
    • A smaller map might help the board-game feel. It seems very large at the moment.
      • You could go even smaller if you reduce the tiles cities benefit from to the four in a cross shape around them.
    • It could be nice if the desolation had combat-relevance as well as economy-relevance. This would help link the two halves of the game.
      • Generally different terrains having combat relevance might be good. Perhaps you choose to build a city in the mountains because although it will grow more slowly, it will be easier to defend. This is the kind of tension in decisions I'd like to have.
    • I don't actually see a huge mechanical separation between food and materials right now. You spend them in different ways, but as you get them in very almost the same way, it does seem like there's a way to wrap them into one. Think you might be onto something there. However, I think I might get rid of food rather than materials. A bank of things to spend *is* an interesting component of the game (particularly if there is an interesting range of things to spend them on, and the choice isn't always obvious).
     

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