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H7: Would you prefer 2D or 3D townscreens?
2D
3D
I don't care.
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Features  → A Quill suggestions compilation

by Jörgen Linde

H5 Ideas/Suggestions

A Quill suggestions compilation.


1. General ideas 2. Game Options 3. Basic Principles 4. Questions 5. Miscellaneous
6. Basic Troop Ideas 7. Detailed Troop Ideas 8. Magic System Ideas 9. Hero classes & Unique abilities

Introduction

These ideas are a compilation from different members of the Quill. They have been arranged to provide a more easily readable structure (which could be further enhanced). To see each individual contributor, please read through the messages on the Quill starting from the 14th of November, 2003).

An important aspect is that the developers should study what made the previous HoMM games successful and try to come up with the best elements and modify them with fresh ideas in order to revive the series to its past glory.

The basis of the game is Might, Magic and Heroes, indicating strategy in a fantasy environment with an rpg element in the form of heroes.

Therefore a brainstorming of ideas followed by iterative discussions and revisions, leading to a compilation of these resulting ideas would be useful and hopefully productive.

Here is a compilation of ideas that have been discussed on the Statesman's Quill (Yahoo Groups Quill). The spirit of some of these suggestions could for example be included in polls to determine which is the most popular concept. Some of these ideas are different alternatives to certain game elements.


General Ideas

  • A solid design plan that basically includes old concepts and some new concepts, forming the whole concept.
  • Solid AI (needs to be improved compared to H4).
  • Atmospheric and consistent town factions, buildings and creatures. H4 was not the epitome of the HoMM series in regards to this point, I think.
  • Atmospheric and functional GUI, map, mini-map, sounds and animations.
  • Several different building and management paths for each town type, with pro's and con's.
  • No inflation of different high level creatures.
  • Some kind of hero participation inspired by the one in H4.
  • Map objects that are inspired by H4 but adapted for the H5 environment.
    E.g: Adventure objects, Landscape objects, Artifacts and Characters.
  • A design tool for mapmakers that is inspired by the one in H4, but well documented and intuitive.
  • A tool for creating/replacing and/or modifying existing creatures and artifacts could also be nice from a mapmaker's point of view.
  • Possibly a new inspiring and effective Magic System.
  • A resource system that is consistent with the former HoMM series.
  • Heroes should be an intuitive game ... where you do not really need the manual to start the game...
  • Incorporate an option screen with a number of optional "rules" -- some more extreme than others, and a way for these options to be set by the mapmaker or left as player-selectable. For random maps (if a random map generating program can be made) they would always be player-selectable.
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Options

One thing that has been very successful in WoG is the WoG Options screen and I think a similar options screen would be an excellent addition to Heroes 5. This allows for a LOT of different options in the game, but controllable by the player. A lot of the WoG options add new functionality to weaker skills, monsters, artifacts, etc. or create new objects through use of scripting and most of these shouldn't be necessary in a new well-balanced Heroes game, but there are other options too that add diversity, especially for random map games. If an option screen is included, mapmakers should then have the choice to set any of these options as On/Off/Player Choice. This is similar to the idea of random towns and castles, but extends to many more options.

For example, the WoG option for Arrow Towers gaining "experience" in the game, the longer the castle is owned by a player and/or the more battles won against an attacker, would be a good option to include. With this off, castles are easier to capture at any time, making for one type of game, but with it on, the arrow towers will provide a much stronger defence later in the game (until the castle changes hands), making for a somewhat different experience. Another example is the Rogues Map Rule option, where Rogues will attack the player at random, after the player visits certain objects or picks up treasures. This makes exploration more dangerous and scouts must carry more troops with them to survive a sudden Rogue attack (or not touch anything!). The Rogue attacks add spice to a game, but it won't suit all players or even every map so it's perfect as an player-selectable option.

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Basic principles

Principle 1 - Quality and Fun
The Quality and Fun factor of the H5 game should be in preference to a fancy looking game. I'd rather have 4 balanced factions than 10 imbalanced ones; I'd rather have 20 creatures that are truely unique in ways that impact strategy rather than 800 with different names, pictures, but only minor variations in statistics (probably 80% of HoMM II creatures are superfluous); I'd rather have a game with no memory leaks than one with elaborate graphics; I'd rather have 4 cities with real atmosphere than 20 with matching templates; etc.

Principle 2 - A New Game
Not a re-make or routine expansion of an old game. The one thing heroes IV did right was to introduce new gaming experiences. Many games produced today are realtime garbage in which I have no interest, and most of the turn-based games are inferior clones of Master of Magic. Heroes is different, but I would enjoy more than a choice between two games. And I think WOG proves that there is no need for another update of HoMM I-III.

Principle 3 - Keep things simple
There is a tendancy for a community to demand more and more with each successive release of a title, but the result often is an inferior product. As much as I appreciate the progression from HoMM I to HoMM III (HoMM II in my opinion is simply a good expansion pack to HoMM I) to HoMM IV, we need to recognize what has been lost. Mapmaking has become infinitely time consuming (to the point I cannot finish maps); play against human opponents is limited to those with massive amounts of free time or limited to tiny maps; interfaces become increasingly complex; steep learning curves weed out new players. I hate that the best HoMM strategy is to send out as meany weak scouts as possible in all directions; I hate having to constantly change formation, ordering of troops, equiping of artifacts, and other micro-management; I hate trying to figure out which troups are immune to which attacks; I hate trying to memorize the form of 20 different quest huts; 80 creature dwellings, 40 powerups that all do very similar things, etc.

Principle 4 - Strategy, tactics, and role playing are all key elements to the HoMM series.
I most value being rewarded for wise decision making and empathizing with steadily progressing heroes. The only reason I haven't shifted all my playing time to competing titles such as disciples, age of wonders, warlords, etc. is that none of these games handle role playing and tactics as well as heroes. Still, I dislike all or nothing effects like magic resistance, morale, minitaur's blocking, etc. as these depend more upon luck than skill. And to me the biggest failing of HoMM IV is not the AI but the idiotic 3-D battle map where I can't even tell where my troops will be moving, when they block enemy shooters, or whether they are aligned for a dragon breath attack. One can't plan what one doesn't know. I believe heroes and magic are central to heroes of might and magic: the focus of the game should be on small numbers of groups rather than deployment of troops all over the map, and that a well planned skill tree and magic system is vital.

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Questions

  • Should the player be able to found new towns?
    E.g: there could be "Town site locations", a kind of adventure objects, on the map. They would require a hero with a certain amount of resources and a set of necessary skills (some of which certain kinds of units could also have, like dwarves are good builders) in order to found the new town of the faction type that the hero (or unit which has the necessary building skill) adhers to. The hero (player) gets to name the town by the way.
    Or (alternatively), should the towns only be allowed to be pregenerated and thus only conquered and reconquered without any new potential building sites on the map?
  • How many faction types should be in the game and which kinds?
  • Would a new kind of resource system add to atmosphere and could it be done?
  • Should conquered towns be razeable and should some structures be damaged/destroyed during sieges and stuff? Should there be a skill that can prevent such damages from occurring?
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Miscellaneous

  • Implement skill requirements for being able to pick up some artifacts. This could be an option for players to turn on/off if there are a set of default requirements for some artifacts. The editor should be able to manipulate each artifact's pick-up requirement attributes.
  • Implement possibility to create 'self-designed' artifacts by collecting special resources and an item to a new special adventure object (called artificer or witch or so). This idea is reminiscent of the Diablo 2 style of putting gems and runes into slotted artifacts.
  • Implement an AD&D 2nd edition type of limit to how much extra it costs to get a new level, once you reach higher levels. If it costs 500.000 experience to go from level 36 to level 37, does it really have to increase even further to 700.000 from level 37 to level 38? When you reach such figures, it takes long enough to gather the first amount.
  • Implement more animal creatures in Heroes 5. Creatures such as spiders, bears, snakes, lions, etc. Of course, many of the natural creatures would have to come in giant versions to be a realistic challenge.
  • In the Heroes 4 expansions a couple of really peculiar creatures are added, but I'd also like to see more lower level creatures that could be used in campaigns without huge armies available for the player. I'd like a large number of non-attached creatures for use.
  • What could be really nice is a town editor of some sort, perhaps one that lets you create your own graphics as well, but even if it just lets you customize the creatures available in a default town (change which ones and/or stats) that could be great.
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Basic Troop Ideas

We currently have four basic ideas:

  1. One thing I'd like to see back in Heroes is the ability to upgrade creatures, although I don't think it should be in the same way as in Heroes 3. I'd just like to see creatures being able to develop their quality, even if it's only a marginal development, instead of only their quantity.

  2. One different way to do this would be to have buildings that can produce arms and armour for troops. These buildings can be upgraded to make more effective arms/armour for certain troop types.
    There could similarily exist magic buildings for improving spell caster units. When such a building is in place it will cost to manufacture the arms (etc) before the troop could get them and therby increase its different attributes.

    That way, all units can potentially be eligible for upgrading, but in reality (you have to choose how to upgrade your armouries as a strategic component) only some units can benefit (= be upgraded) from these upgrades while others can't (i.e. in that town). In order to reach the best level upgrades, maybe some quests need to be fulfilled as well as fulfilling resource requirements.

    For example: In order to get a special kind of Paladin Armour, a hero needs to bring to town the scales of a certain dragon.

    Also:
    If you have a talented hero(ine) (- talented in certain magic or certain martial skills or other skills), he or she can become a teacher - by being in garrison for example - and if this requirement is coupled with some kind of training facility, the appropriate troops can be trained to gain experience and thus become more effective offensively/defensively/magically/resistantly/morally/luckily.

  3. Give upgrades a plus and a minus. In H2 and H3 upgrades got both and it was just a matter of resources... Imagine from Swordsman to Crusaders.... they get more defence and more attack, but they get slower... (more armour slows them down) Or from Stone Gargoyle to Obsidian Gargoyle... they are faster, but lose defence, being more brittle...

  4. I would suggest a base race (e.g. humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, etc.) for each city, with most units from that city being derived from that base unit. Military units available to each race could include a base citizen unit (e.g. peasant, hunter, miner, raider, slave), an infantry unit (pikeman, sworddancers, axemen, skull crackers, grunts), a scouting unit (spies, rangers, cave creepers, reavers, assassins) , a cavalry unit (horsemen, unicorn riders, donkey brigades, wolf riders, wolverine tamers) , a chariot unit (e.g. iron wagon, walking tower, a steam powered digger, a flame belcher, a cauldron on wheels), an archery unit (archers, bowmen, hammer throwers, spear throwers, ravenmasters), and an aerial unit (dragon tamers, pegesus riders, balloons, orcish cannonballs, goblin kites). Citizen units could be trained (at a cost) into any chosen military unit provided necessary supporting structures are available. Clearly, some of my unit ideas are silly; they are simply possibilities that came to mind quickly. What I like about the approach is its potential to develop logical atmosphere for each city -- dwarves with affinity for earth and magine, elves as a race of culture and finesse, orcs as forceful brutes, goblins as sneaky scoundrels. Other races could be available as allies (e.g. pixies), through creature dwellings (e.g. rocs), through construction (e.g. golems), through summoning (e.g. imps), or only as monsters (e.g. hydras).

Conclusions (of 1-4):
Decisions are important and fun. Not all units should be upgradeable (at the same place). Atmosphere in troop themes are important.

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Detailed Troop Ideas

I've been thinking a while about creatures and towns and stuff, trying to form a new but still familiar, concept for H5 town dwellings and troops.

All towns in the HoMM series have had dwellings, and so should H5. In the past, the series introduced upgrades to these dwellings (- some of which needed other buildings as prerequisites).

I'd like H5 to use something similar, maybe expand on a few things. However, for starters, the troop building system in H4 is good I think. I like the way you have to choose between one of two dwellings for each dwelling level. I also like that when it has been built, you can't build the other alternative too (- unless it is built using a scripted event).

Here's an early vision of how things could work in H5 regarding township troops ...

Important structures for building creatures:

The basic creature dwellings
These dwellings produce the creatures and the creatures range from level 1 to level 6 (or so). The basic creatures that are being produced differ in features depending on level and town faction. Some creatures are inherently weak (- e.g. Peasants and Goblins) but can be upgraded in several ways by being trained and equipped with different weapons and armour and even mounts. I'll give some examples later on. Other creatures are inherently more powerful and inherently have special abilities (- e.g. Dragons, Vampires, Trolls, etc.). Such creatures usually don't use armour or weapons and are subject to a different kind of upgrade.

The equipment facilities
These buildings are specific to each town faction. They include Weapon smiths, Blacksmiths and Spell towers. Usually they have a certain dwelling prerequisite. These buildings can be upgraded, the basic Blacksmith building in a certain town faction could be called the Tannery and become available when you have built a Farmstead (- a dwelling that generates Peasants). The tannery produces leather armour. When you build a Tannery, you can equip the peasant into a slightly better unit (better in defence). If you also build a weaponsmith (level 1) you will be able to equip the peasant with flails instead of pitchforkes, which increases the offensive capability of the peasant a little bit. We can call these modified units Peasant (armoured), Peasant (armed) and Peasant (Armed and Armoured). The blacksmith can be upgraded to include for example ring mail and plate armour for the Life faction. The Life faction Weapon smith can similarily be upgraded (from the basic flails) to include pikes, halberds, bows (= fletchery), crossbows and lances. The wepons and armours increase offensive and defensive capabilities of the equipped unit. They might even add special abilities to the unit (if it receives training in these armaments). The Spell Towers add spellcasting abilities to certain spellcaster units.

Mountdwellings
These buildings are housing and breedingplaces or playgrounds for mounts such as horses, griffins, wolves and pegasi. Some town factions can have more than one kind of mount and if that is the case, there is a mount facility to build for each of these mounts. A mount is needed when you want to upgrade a certain unit to a mounted version. Example: One of the two level 3 dwellings (of the faction known in H4 as Life) is the Barracks. This dwelling produces (already) trained fighters known (here) as Swordsmen. The mountdwelling for this town faction is the stables which can be built at any time after the presence of a fort and the farmhouse. The stables temporarily increase movement of visiting units and now that the Barracks are in place it can be used for upgrading Swordsmen into Knights. However, this would require a training facility (the Sparring Grounds) to be present as well.

Training facilities
Training units into an improved version is often important. Not all units can be trained though. Note also that undead units need no training at all. There are different training facilities for different units (and different factions), here are som examples: Archery Range (- for peasants to become Bowmen. Requires the Fletchery upgrade at the weapon smith), Sparring Grounds, Gladiator Arena, Fighting Pits, Cathedral, Druid Henge, Wizard Tower, Warlock Tower, Mausoleum, etc.

Example: Barracks + Stables -> the upgrade known as Knight becomes available. It is a mounted and specially trained version of the swordsman. If we on top of this buy Lances for the knights, the Knights (with lance) will receive a charging bonus to attacks.

In the following examples, "[ ]" means optional ...

Living creatures
Now we have a formula for the different living creatures that a dwelling can produce:
Basic Creature Dwelling [+ Training] [+ Equipment] [+ Mount] --> Actual [upgraded] Creature

Some living creatures are inherently very strong but they can become upgraded through different means (- Dragons is one example. Dragons can be upgraded by their own growing experiences, by fierceness in battle).

Undead creatures
Undead units follow a slightly different formula, because they don't need any training (they retain old experiences):
Basic Undead Dwelling [+ Equipment] [+ Mount] --> Actual [upgraded] Undead Creature.

Example: Skeleton + Sword + Ring mail -> the upgrade Skeleton Warrior is available.

Magically artificed creatures and mechanical units
Creatures such as gargoyles and golems don't need training and have no post creation equipment.
Artificed Dwelling --> Actual Artificed Creature

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Magic system

I don't have precise suggestions for a magic system, but it seems to me that there is much potential for improvement. I would like to see a system where magic interactions themselves have tactical richness and spells grow in power (rather than number) as a character advances in level. I would like a system where the player must experiment, burning mana and resources, to learn how to cast a spell rather than having them handed out in mage guilds. (For instance, having randomly generated formulas for spells, with experiments showing how close the player came to the spell.) And I think it is silly to have a dozen different spells that do essentially the same thing (e.g. magic arrow, flames strike, lightning bolt, implosion, disintegrate).

Virtually all combat spells do one of the following things: direct damage, alter a creature stat (attack, defense, morale, movement, damage, etc.), grant or deny a unit special abilities (forgetfulness, guardian angel, first strike, fly, etc.), create (or recreate) units (summon elemental, raise dead, illusion), or alter the battlefield (quicksand, teleport, displacement, remove obstical). I think it might be intresting to see fewer spells that can be enhanced in numerous ways (e.g. greater impact, affecting larger area and more creatures, better overcoming magic resistance, casting with less mana, casting more than once per round. And perhaps each school of mana can have one major spell specialization and one or two minor spell areas. For example, summoners would focus upon creature creation, having wider choices of types and larger numbers of summoned creatures, with minor effects on battlefield manipulation (summon a small pool of quicksand) and special abilities (summon a spirit to guide your sword into a first strike).

I can say I prefered HoMM III spell casting to HoMM IV because different levels of expertise truly enhanced spells -- to the point that some first level spells were worth more than 4th level spells. In HoMM IV, increasing levels doesn't make much difference unless one learns a new level spell.

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Hero Classes and Unique Abilities

What I'd really like to see is a 3-tiered system with both Basic and Advanced classes:

  1. Strong but balanced abilities for each Basic class -- this would serve to really define the heroes of different classes. These abilities would probably be level-based and remain with the hero the whole game. For example, a Wizard may cast multiple spells each round in combat, a Warrior may get multiple attacks, a Necromancer may raise enemy creatures it kills as allied Undead, and so on.

  2. Advanced classes with interesting, varied, useful and balanced abilities. These would be in addition to the basic class abilities and would distinguish heroes of the same basic class from each other. They could be similar to the better abilities of Heroes IV.

  3. Individual unique abilities as in Heroes III, but again, better balanced. This would further distinguish heroes as individuals. I would suggest dropping the abilities relating to bonus gold or resources -- I think the Estates skill adequately covers that. These abilities would mostly concentrate on bonuses to a specific secondary skill, monster or spell, but with better bonuses (especially for monsters) than H3, in order to really make it POWERFUL to give those monsters to that hero, not merely a minor bonus.

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