Heroic: dungeons

The new Heroes games produced by Ubisoft. Please specify which game you are referring to in your post.

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Groovy
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Heroic: dungeons

Postby Groovy » Oct 31 2011, 6:24

This topic was spawned from here.

I wasn’t going to include dungeons in the design, but Panda Tar has convinced me of the error of my ways, so here they are.

The reason that I wasn’t keen on including dungeons initially is that there are already (or have been historically) numerous adventure map items and structures that keep the player enthralled in exploring the world, there are also seemingly large structures that can be cleared in a flash, and the effect of dungeons appears to be easy enough to simulate with a simple portal or subterranean gate. This makes adding traditional dungeons difficult to justify.

The two kinds of dungeons that I’m thinking of adding don’t quite adhere to tradition. They are dungeons in the sense that they are not spread out over the adventure map like regular terrain, but exist in uncharted territory with only their entrance visible on the adventure map.

The first kind of dungeon that I’m thinking of adding is territorial beast lairs. A territorial beast is a particular kind of juggernaut (boss monster) that lives in the world instead of being summoned. There is a different territorial beast associated with each terrain type. I’ve introduced them in this topic.

Territorial beast lairs naturally lend themselves to dungeon implementation due to the sheer size of the creatures that live there. Each beast lives in a unique setting that contributes meaningfully to the battle should the player decide to attack it, so perhaps the whole lair should be modelled as a large combat arena. The hero would enter it from the adventure map and move about normally until establishing contact with the territorial beast, at which point the whole lair would be faithfully converted into a battlefield. This would also help to accommodate the enormous size of the beast on the combat arena without the hero’s army getting claustrophobic.

The other kind of dungeon that I’m thinking of adding is planes. Planes constitute my attempt at imbuing the game with more ambience. They represent otherworldly locations that are not charted on the normal map. If you think back to H3 with its Magic Clouds, Evil Fog, Fiery Fields and similar tilesets, that’s the atmosphere that I’m striving for.

The player’s hero would enter a plane through a Planar Rift, which would be located somewhere on the adventure map. Once through it, he would find himself in a fantastical setting – Shadow Realm, Plane of Fire, Dream World, The Firmament – that would be unlike anything he could expect to find on a normal map (surface or underground). They would be made from unusual materials and perhaps obey slightly different laws of physics (haven’t thought this through yet).

Planes could serve an invaluable storytelling function as places to forge otherworldly alliances, acquire magical powers, defeat elusive monsters, find relics, meet the gods, explore one’s psyche, and other such quests.

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Postby mr.hackcrag » Oct 31 2011, 18:06

Your description makes me want to play it. :) Imagining a HoMM game is more fun than playing it because there are no bugs in my imagination.

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Postby Kristo » Nov 1 2011, 2:42

This reminds me of Lords of Magic 2. The key to making these dungeons fun is that they exist "outside of time" from the normal adventure map. I wouldn't want a crucial hero stuck inside one of these places for days while enemy heroes steamrolled my territory. But if one were free to explore these places at his own pace, they become nice little side quests with (hopefully) fat bonuses at the end if you win.
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Postby MattII » Nov 1 2011, 6:03

I like the sound of planes, not sure how you'd do lairs though.

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Postby Edwardas 3 » Nov 1 2011, 12:31

In Might and Magic Heroes Kingdoms there are vestiges and rifts ,though I never had tried them .
Lord Godwinson in BDJ mods for MM 6 and 7

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Postby Groovy » Nov 1 2011, 19:33

Thanks for the safety tip, Kristo. I can’t help but agree, even though it throws a spanner in the works. The trouble is that the game requires dungeons to take place “inside of time”, partly for multiplayer reasons and partly to prevent skill abuse due to the skill-up-as-you-use design philosophy. Which leaves me scratching my head looking for ways to implement it.

This is the best that I could come up with:

Because juggernaut lairs will be modelled as battlefields, they need not be large in size. A battlefield 2-3 times bigger than what we have now should do. If we use the 1 dungeon tile = 1 battlefield tile conversion, a capable hero should be able to traverse it in a couple of days. This should reduce the exposure to enemy invasion to acceptable levels.

Planes are a different proposition. Immersion in them is important and shouldn’t be rushed. What I thought of doing here is making them into solitary quests – leave your army behind and undertake the mysterious, perilous journey on your own, hero. It’s feasible because heroes will already take part in combat, kind of like H4. It could make a welcome change from the usual army clashes. Having the army stay behind should assist with kingdom defence while the hero is away. It should also discourage the player from relying on the superhero strategy, which is one of the goals of the design in any event.

Do you have any better ideas?
Your description makes me want to play it. :) Imagining a HoMM game is more fun than playing it because there are no bugs in my imagination.
Of course, in my imagination, all my designs work flawlessly and are well balanced. :D

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Postby Kristo » Nov 3 2011, 0:55

Simultaneous turns?

I do like where you're going with this, but from a strategic standpoint I'd caution you against making these things too big. Winning the game is important to me. So much so that I've found myself routinely avoiding these little excursions whenever they appear in prior Heroes games. I just can't afford the time. They've taken various forms over the years: huge treasure troves guarded by Azure Dragons in H3, the outer half of the map in H2's Beltway, the center island in...every map with a center island. More often that not, these things turn out to be red herrings. I can win without them, and so I do.

I'm sure dungeons would be fun if implemented properly. They're basically what NWC had in mind for the H3 underground layer anyway. But if it's much bigger than a boss battle, I'd probably skip it. It's a hard sell for me to want to take a hero (ostensibly important enough to want to bother with these things) off the map for a few turns. The payoff would have to be game-breakingly large to be worth the time, at which point they cease to be fun for everyone else.
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Postby Groovy » Nov 3 2011, 21:27

How big they turn out to be is really a question for the map maker. The concept is versatile enough, I think, not to be limited to side quests. Planes can serve to replace border guards and gates, for example. The player might find his way blocked by a planar intrusion, and he’d have to send a hero to another realm to learn how to remove it or move through it. At the very least, it would be more realistic than a massive army having to ask permission from a border guard to move through the area so that it can sack a well defended and fortified town on the other side.

You raise an important concern, though, of how to prevent dungeons (planes in particular) from becoming another underground layer. It would be easy enough to impose restrictions like no towns, a single entry/exit, and so on, but I’m not sure that this is the best approach. Let me chew on this for a bit...

Oh, and how do you see simultaneous turns helping with dungeons?

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Postby Kristo » Nov 4 2011, 1:40

Simultaneous turns would allow players to more freely explore dungeons at the beginning of the game without worrying about making the other players wait. I'm envisioning these things as oversized battle arenas, not as multi-day side quests. If they end up being the latter, then no, it really doesn't matter much. You'd have the same things to do, just on a different plane of existence.

One thing these threads have highlighted is how designing a Heroes game is a holistic process. Little features like dungeons end up affecting more and more of the game the deeper you think about it.
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