My last post – A Plea For Smarter Games

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My last post – A Plea For Smarter Games

Postby cjlee » Nov 2 2016, 20:02

I am writing to articulate my wish for a smarter Heroes game.

I have played more Heroes, than some toddlers have lived. And over the years, I’ve come to feel that I really want this game to be more realistic and less theoretical. I want to see more sophistication in Heroes.

As I started in this post, ... 20#p366120 I really hope for more sophistication in the game such as weather, terrain and time of day/ seasonal considerations. Maybe you may not agree with all my ideas, but surely you will find many of them relevant and interesting.

I am tired of games that show ‘challenge’ by sticking huge stacks of Zounds of... Swarms of... Legions of... onto the battlefield. There are a lot more ways to offer challenge. Many more ways to solve a problem and to create problems for others to try solving.

Let me offer some more ideas here. Unlike the ideas I put in the modcrafting thread, my ideas here are more half baked and almost certainly not implementable in Heroes 1-5, although I hope that by offering them I put ideas into people’s heads because someone who wants to make a game, someone who wants to offer something on Kickstarter, could very well be reading and trolling for ideas.

All my ideas reflect realistic considerations for battle.

1) Supply and Logistics

As we all know, an army marches on its stomach. Feeding, clothing and supplying an army with weaponry is very important. Most of the Eastern Front during WW2 was won, not due to any Soviet ingenuity or heroism, but because German troops simply did not have enough supplies to prosecute their war.

In Heroes we are used to the idea of a super huge enemy army marching across the map, invincible for all time. In real life, armies were always limited in size and affected by desertions.

After years in Heroes gaming I am tired of games where I accumulate 1000 dragons over time and become invincible everywhere I go until when I meet the enemy with 10000 dragons. Every real life general has to manage campaigns where his forces are limited.

Take for example the Chinese Dungan campaign by Zuo Zhongtang (the guy whom General Tso’s Chicken is named after) in the 1870s. China had the world’s biggest pool of soldiers, and he could easily have conscripted a million men if he so desired. But he made do with an army of 120,000 of which he barely used 30,000 in most battles. Some battles were fought with only a few thousand men. Most of his men were billeted in separate settlements to avoid overtaxing food and water supplies. He established a great number of food depots all over Xinjiang, and considered defending his supply lines more important than the actual battle planning.

If General Zuo had conscripted a million men, he might very well have wound up like the Persian King Darius, managing a vast but awkward armed force that couldn’t achieve military objectives.

The reality is that the bigger your army, the more you have to spend on its upkeep and the more difficult it is to source supplies for them. Imagine an army of a million men marching through modern Kansas. If the million men camped outside your average Kansas town of 1000 people, they would consume all food and water supplies for the entire population for 3 years. There is no way that this town can ever hold enough food and water. Even in the modern world where we have bottled water, huge Walmart warehouses and canned food and refrigerators, the sum total of all food and water supplies would still not be enough. And the next town will be... 50 miles away, maybe 2 days’ fast march.

I don’t think Heroes gaming should be so focused on troop accumulation. It doesn’t work in real life. The USA had 20 million young men that it could bring to win the Vietnam war. The combined weight of these young men was probably twice that of the entire North Vietnamese nation. In practice even a superpower like the USA would have great difficulty supplying 20 million young men with food and clothes and bullets so far from home. All American troops would have been reduced to eating rice and wearing rubber-tyre sandals and straw hats, and even then they still would have to import rice from Thailand and rubber from Malaysia.

2) logarithmic stack growth.

This never made sense to me. A few dragons in week 1 become a legion within a year? Come on. The only reason for log growth, was to maintain the challenge when your hero gets more powerful and accumulates more troops.

But if troop accumulation was greatly reduced, and if terrain considerations reduced the number of troops that you can bring to bear, then there is no need to have log growth.

We don’t need to have a fiction of 1000 dragons defending a small shrine or obelisk to give the gamer challenge.

3) Physical space

Some fictions get tired after a while. The ‘stack’ system pretends that we have many units occupying the same space. I can keep up this pretense when numbers are moderate. But when I have a total of 10000 units and the enemy has 20000 units and we are supposedly fighting inside an abandoned mine or on a bridge, that stretches credibility too far.

Real life generals are limited by realistic dimensions. Some battlefields are simply not big enough to accommodate large armies. The best example is Thermopylae, where a small force was able to hold off a far bigger force because of the narrow pass.

Putting aside any racist assumptions about Greek heroism and Persian inferiority, the Persians could have won if they had chosen the top 1% of fighting men from their army, and deployed that against the Greeks at that narrow front. The top 1% of Persians would easily overpower the Greeks who were fighting with troops that were at most top 10% of a much smaller pool of fighting talent. Sending random troops to the front would have just resulted in slaughter and lower overall morale.

Numbers even made a negative difference at Myeongnyang, where the Koreans decisively defeated a Japanese force 30 times their size. A lot of the victory was due to the strong current in the narrow strait banging the Japanese ships against each other. The Koreans did not have enough firepower to destroy the Japanese fleet – a lot of the destruction was done by the Japanese themselve.

Just imagine trying to go against enemy firehounds on a narrow bridge. Your melee army is 100 times their size, but wind is against you. The firehounds blast away and you lose far more troops trying to take them out.

4) Initiative

I’ve always been a fan of the H5 initiative system, but the initiative system is also broken. Most spellcasters leading armies with poor natural morale, will be crushed by a hero with leadership and initiative artifacts leading an army with fast initiative. This is true even if you are matching a level 30 spellcaster against a level 15 might hero. I’ve seen many tough battles where the spellcaster had higher Might stats than the weaker might hero, but still fall behind due to low initiative/ poor troop actions.

It’s pretty routine to pump Royal Griffins to initiative 20, and pretty easy to slow zombies and archers to initiative 6 or 7. When that happens, one troop is essentially worth 3x the other on the battlefield. When a fast attacking side gets on average 2 attacks against a slow defensive side helmed by a spellcaster, there is only so much the caster can do.

The reality is that initiative aka experience/ firing rate matters on the battlefield. Whichever side that can shoot more arrows or bullets is usually stronger. I find it entirely correct that some troops should be able to attack 3-6 times as often as other troops. I wish the H5 initiative system was carried over to H6 and H7. But I also wish that more efforts be put into balancing the game with initiative in mind.

By all means have fast, strong, awesome Royal Griffins.

But the slow movers, like Zombies and Golems, should be made cheaper. Or more numerous and have more hp. Or have even more special abilities. Right now gold for gold, Zombies and Golems inflict far less damage than Griffins. Who will ever hire Zombies over Griffins? Even if I was playing Necromancer, I would prefer to hire Griffins and slap vampiricism on them. I would still do this if you halved the cost of Zombies. That’s how little regard I have for Zombies.

I would venture to suggest that Zombies should all be infectious. That works very well from a story perspective, and also makes sense. If you attack a zombie with melee troops, you should suffer disease. That way a slow Zombie doesn't need high initiative or ridiculously high hit points to fight the fast griffin. Every time the Griffin hits the Zombie, the Griffin gets even more ill.

Likewise, Golems should be protected by their own metal/ stone armour. Realistically, when swords and maces are used on metal and stone, the swords get more blunt. Back when copper and bronze was used to make weapons, after a battle weapons would get so blunt that you were really beating your opponent with a big hunk of metal, rather than cutting open his body with a sharp blade.

So the more times your swordsmen hit the Golem, the lower their attack and damage should get. And this should apply for the rest of the battle as well, since no way to sharpen swords on the battlefield. This should more effectively overcome the Golem's few actions vs faster initiative troops.

5) Real terrain

So far we have been pretending that battlefields are fair to all. But of course we know that is not true. How do you fit Titans into the underground? How do Battle Griffins dive underground? How do Dragons maneuver in dense forests? How do Paladins charge up steep slopes? How do Sea Monsters and Mermaids fight on land?

I have no answer for this. But I believe that a more sophisticated heroes game must eventually incorporate terrain exclusions. In other words certain types of creatures should be downright banned or severely crippled on certain terrain. Not a -1 speed/ -1 morale. More like a -5 speed, -5 morale. Even the most powerful armies and top generals cannot overcome realistic considerations found in our natural world.

The Mongols for instance, were some of the most terrifying warriors in the world. They were practically invincible on open ground. But they were trashed in Vietnam. Half the time they were not even beaten by Vietnamese warriors – but by sharpened bamboo stakes planted in the ground.

The Soviet Union had over 50000 tanks in the 1980s. These were well poised to sweep down the North European plain, where there are precious few obstacles between Paris and Moscow. But the Soviets suffered terribly in the mountains and poor roads of Afghanistan. Even now, the US has great difficulty managing helicopters in Afghanistan because of the high winds, plentiful cover and challenging altitudes. It’s not an environment where US air power can be decisively used.

By all means, I believe that PvP duels should be balanced. But don’t balance custom map or campaign scenarios. If a story is going to take place, let the game be designed around intelligent considerations that maximize the interest factor and the variety of heroes gaming. I got this idea from Starcraft 2, where the multiplayer game is very different from the official campaigns. They don’t try to balance via one-size-fits-all. They create two different sets of units.

I would like to see a Wizard venture into a pyramid, leaving his titans outside. He won’t be seeing dragons flying around the inside of the pyramid anyway.

I would like to see certain creatures barred from certain terrain where they should not logically fit. Sea Monsters, Pearl Princesses, Chaos hydras should just refuse to enter deserts.

I would like to see Inferno armies struggle in swampy or snowy ground, and Grim Raiders slowed dramatically. (Devils teleport everywhere, so they are unaffected by terrain. This should be another major strike in their favour. It also makes logical sense that Devils should be able to go anywhere, while Swamp Hydras will need to be near water.)

If you’re Haven and you want to invade the Necromancer’s swamp, most of your melee should be severely crippled. You should be left dependent on your archers – exactly as the English were left with on the muddy ground of Agincourt after several days’ rain. The game should not be designed to give you challenge by scripting 1000 bone dragons into the Necromancer’s castle. (How will they fit anyway?) It should give you challenge because your forces are suffering poor morale and lowered mobility while the enemy liches and vampires and bone dragons and ghosts are operating at maximum efficiency.

Think about it this way: the Afghans have always been known as the graveyard of empires. The Kurds have always been known as fierce mountain warriors. But Afghans have never built any empire of their own. And Kurds have never had a country of their own. They build their fearsome reputations by defending their terrain well, not because they were such superior soldiers that they could conquer their neighbours. It is a question of using one's native terrain well!

In the 20th century one very poor and underdeveloped country has defeated three of the five permanent UN security council members. Surely these guys are the strongest nation on the planet? Nah... it was Vietnam, fighting a defensive war against France, USA and China.

I believe that the slow, rotting necromancer army should never be a match for the knight on the grassy plain. Don’t try to balance it when in campaign, or when playing custom scenarios. Just tweak their unit stats when playing Pvp duels.


Did I say my last post? Never say never. Who knows, I’ll be back next year? But for now take it that this is going to be my last post in a while. Partly because I’ve uninstalled Heroes, and partly because I really have other things in my life that I need to attend to.

I go through my uninstallation cycle every two years or so. I’ve done this like 7 times by now. Maybe when Heroes 8 is produced, maybe when Heroes 5.9 comes out, maybe when Heroes 7.7 shows up. I’ll be back when I get tired of not having any interesting games in the TBS genre to play.
Last edited by cjlee on Nov 2 2016, 20:23, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My last post – A Plea For Smarter Games

Postby jeff » Nov 3 2016, 0:52

Well I will miss seeing you around; with UBI continually releasing uninspired MM titles, and not supplying heroes communities with current information to keep people interested; they have all but killed the fan sites. Far too many of our old regulars rarely even visit. I hope, when you do decide to come back; CH is still here and not just an archived repository of information.
Last edited by jeff on Nov 3 2016, 0:52, edited 1 time in total.
Mala Ipsa Nova :bugsquash:

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