Gedankenexperiments of Might and Magic: Part I - The Races

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

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Gedankenexperiments of Might and Magic: Part I - The Races

Postby Tobius » Jan 20 2008, 1:33

Hey folks,

I am from Germany and about one month ago we started thinking there about Heroes VI, too. The discussions there are still hot, but we decided to do the next step. That is why I am here now. I want to present the provisional result and I want to invite you to join in the discussion about this new concept. Speaking of 'new' I must admit that I did not read all the 60 pages here. So if there is already something like our 'German' concept I am sorry. But I think it should be original enough to add some fresh ideas on this topic. The original discussion is hundreds of posts long by now which is why I will summarize the current state of the first part of the concept. The whole concept is four parts long:

1st part: The Races
2nd part: The Heroes
3rd part: The Magic
4th part: The Gameplay

It is possible that one part covers parts of another, but there should be no problem to discuss each topic by its own. I think, it is the only way to keep the things clearly laid out. Well, CH is much bigger than our little German community what is one motivation for me to post this concept here. I hope that it can be enhanced in a faster and more effective way if more and more people join in the discussion.

Herewith you are sincerely invited!

*****************************
The Basics

1. General Facts:
1.1 We probably leave the old world and enter a completely new one.
1.2 In this new world the old 'factions' are replaced by new 'races'.
1.3 These factions could be: Humans, Elves, Orcs, etc.
1.4 Each of the races has an unique town.
1.5 Every town has an unique build-tree so there are no fixed towns anymore.
1.6 The build-tree enables various possibilties to develop the town.
1.7 The towns themselves have several tiers.
1.8 You cannot build every possible town structure because the build-place is limited ( might be more build-place available the higher the twon tier is).
1.9 There are different general directions for town structures imaginable.

2. Creature development:
2.1 There are several creature-tiers
2.2 There are different creatures to choose from
2.3 So you decide which creatures you want to recruit for your game youself
2.4 The traditional upgrades are replaced by add-ons for the armies to provide the enhancements which are available in specific town structures.

*****************************
Well, you see everything is possible. I hope we can work on it. Besides it is necessary to create build-trees for each race as well as enhancements, specials and much more.

I looking forward to an exciting discussion!

Greetings
Tobius

Special thanks to: Little Imp, kitty, Alaric, grumpy old man, Lord Otto, Der Mentat, Incubus, Frifix, Dragonhunter, Mad Jack, Shard of Truth.
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Postby Wulfstan8182 » Jan 20 2008, 2:01

Insulting post deleted by moderator.
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Postby Kristo » Jan 20 2008, 7:04

Interesting. How does the player "unlock" the higher town tiers? Is it just by upgrading the Town Hall equivalent structure? There's tremendous variety here with so many choices. You could play Humans for dozens of games and never play it the same way twice. Unfortunately, this much variety would make it nearly impossible to balance. Even if the five tiers are mathematically balanced, uber-combinations may exist - ones that you cannot predict. You'd need an incredible amount of playtesting to sort those out.

It would be simpler (and we need simple if we want competent computer opponents) to have lots of factions with linear builds. Instead of 22 creatures, limit each faction to 7. That gives you 15 factions instead of 5, and you're free to toss a few creatures if they don't fit. I encourage you to mix and match as well. The race-based factions thing is way overdone. As long as you're leaving the old universes behind, you might as well freshen things up a bit.

In summary, with so many creature choices there will probably be a few correct ways to play each faction. Why not identify the correct ways up front and sub-divide them along those lines? It will make things easier on both playtesters and AI programmers.
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Postby Pitsu » Jan 20 2008, 7:47

Kristo wrote:In summary, with so many creature choices there will probably be a few correct ways to play each faction. Why not identify the correct ways up front and sub-divide them along those lines? It will make things easier on both playtesters and AI programmers.


The "correct" way should depend on opponents town and the buidup that opponent has chosen. I am afraid that 15 factions with pre-determined strategies are way less interesting than 5 factions that can adopt to different needs and change its orientation in response to enemy plans. To build counters in linear town systems (H1-3 in fact) one should have access to different types of towns - if opponent is turreting, an original knight player has to find a warlock or wizard town to have a chance in late game. Thus, IMO, each town should allow different strategies with different efficiancies against different enemies, or each player should have access to different towns that allow strategic choices between them. Otherwise it is not a strategy game.
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Postby parcaleste » Jan 20 2008, 8:04

I've got a headache just by skipping this :drama: imagine if I have to play it :scared:

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Postby Nelgirith » Jan 20 2008, 8:43

Quite interesting, but the gameplay sounds as difficult to understand than the old elemental chains. Don't forget that the "lambda" H5 player is dumb and doesn't like stuff that isn't crystal clear to understand :D

I have only one MAJOR problem with what you wrote :

1.1 We leave the old world and enter a completely new one.


Why on earth should we have to move onto another universe, this trend of pushing the red button and starting a game in a new univere is getting tiresome and is very cheap :disagree:

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Postby Jolly Joker » Jan 20 2008, 9:23

Pitsu wrote:
Kristo wrote:In summary, with so many creature choices there will probably be a few correct ways to play each faction. Why not identify the correct ways up front and sub-divide them along those lines? It will make things easier on both playtesters and AI programmers.


The "correct" way should depend on opponents town and the buidup that opponent has chosen. I am afraid that 15 factions with pre-determined strategies are way less interesting than 5 factions that can adopt to different needs and change its orientation in response to enemy plans. To build counters in linear town systems (H1-3 in fact) one should have access to different types of towns - if opponent is turreting, an original knight player has to find a warlock or wizard town to have a chance in late game. Thus, IMO, each town should allow different strategies with different efficiancies against different enemies, or each player should have access to different towns that allow strategic choices between them. Otherwise it is not a strategy game.


If my arithmetics are right, one town like this allows 6400 different 7-slot armies, which is impossible to test (5 towns with 6400 possible armies each? Come on!).
Reducing everything to one less position in each tier makes this 972, still a lot but certainly better.
In fact, I see that the towns have 3 categories each for the creatures, except humans have 4. This could be easily adjusted by combining magic and religion to 1 category for example and reduce this further to
2 out of 3, 2 out of 3, 1 out of 3, 1 out of 3, 1 out of 3 which would make 243 different army possibilities - which might sound just right.

However, that's just the theory. The practise means that the LOW tiers should allow already FIGHTING tough neutrals. That means, again looking at the humans, that you can't waste slots for example with sappers. The Archer/Gargoyle combination will be most probably the right one, with tier 2 adding another 2 except the Ram.
That in turn means, that the system is already flawed from the beginning, because there are units there that won't ever be used.
Furthermore I notice that Undead and Demons are yet again mixed together. That alone is reason enough to to put this abomination to the flames. :)
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Postby Tobius » Jan 20 2008, 15:44

Hey JJ,

Thanks for your objection. First of all I have to say that you made one big logical mistake. It is right that there are 6400 possible armies, but you do not need to test these out, because you only need to balance creatures on every single tier. You don't need to balance a Titan and a Sacristan, because you will never have the choice between these creatures. You 'simply' need to adjust the balance, for example, between a Titan and an Angel as well es between a Sacristan and an Archer. So there are 10 combinations on tiers 1 and 2 and 4 combinations on each of the higher tiers. That is a total of 32 combinations each race and no 6400!

But I see your point. You think, it is simply wrong to choose between 4 or even 5 creatures. Well, as I pointed out above the balancing isn't as hard as you thought. Besides the production of games gets more and more complex as well as the pretensions of the players. With this concept we stay abreast of changes. With reducing the number creatures too many traditional or wish creatures would get lost, wouldn't they?

But the reducing of choice is the last resort if nothing else works. In this case I would delete the military equipment. Another possiblity was to choose on tier 1 betwee two different 3-creature-combinations and on tier 2 it could depends on to your choice at tier 1 or otherwise you have just again the choice. You see that the concept is flexible enough to react.

But I totally disagree with your last point. We do not mix Undead and Demons. This concept is nothing like this. Yes, some creatures are known from former heroes games, but these are no alignments anymore. Moreover you didn't seem to understand that you don't have to 'mix' creatures of different development directions. You can play only with demons if you want. But there is the possibility to change these fixed armies. This is freedom of choice. What is wrong about this?
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Postby Jolly Joker » Jan 20 2008, 15:57

Well, I don't think it's me who makes the logical mistake here.
I think, we are beyond balancing creatures for their tier - it must be allowed to balance ARMY-wise, which is what the Heroes franchise does. What we see with H 5 (and we did see this with H 4 as well, even though it wasn't as obvious) is that a stack that might have a positive effect on a higher level stack (be it friend or foe) may be much more important for your army than a simple combat unit. It's QUITE difficult to balance this, but on the other hand this is part of what makes the game interesting.

So, to put home the point: balancing units tier for tier would be at least 2 steps back.

Secondly, of course you do mix undead and demon units - the same way they did in H 4. Sure you can go for EITHER undead OR demon unit, but why would you do that?
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Postby Akul » Jan 20 2008, 16:23

Mixing demon and undead units is the choice of the rule-maker. If he wants all evil units to be in just one faction, his choice since he makes factions. God never wrote that undead and demons can't be in one faction, so there is no rule.
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Postby Jolly Joker » Jan 20 2008, 16:34

Well, yes, there is. We had that in H4, and a mixed town like that was pretty universally rejected. There is no reason to repeat, what has been rejected from an overwhelming majority.
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Postby Nelgirith » Jan 20 2008, 16:43

Akul wrote:Mixing demon and undead units is the choice of the rule-maker. If he wants all evil units to be in just one faction, his choice since he makes factions. God never wrote that undead and demons can't be in one faction, so there is no rule.


Noone said that, but H4 Necro faction sucked because of that mix.


Tobius wrote:Thanks for your objection. First of all I have to say that you made one big logical mistake. It is right that there are 6400 possible armies, but you do not need to test these out, because you only need to balance creatures on every single tier. You don't need to balance a Titan and a Sacristan, because you will never have the choice between these creatures. You 'simply' need to adjust the balance, for example, between a Titan and an Angel as well es between a Sacristan and an Archer. So there are 10 combinations on tiers 1 and 2 and 4 combinations on each of the higher tiers. That is a total of 32 combinations each race and no 6400!


If that's your opinion, then you should think again about it.

There are units that have some kind of empathy when playing together, the exemples that come to my mind are Dungeon with Blood Furies/Witch + Grim Raiders/Black Riders or Sylvans' Dryads + Treants.
These units have a strong empathy and with your system you might create several situations like these that will require balancing not only within a faction but also between all factions.

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Postby Tobius » Jan 20 2008, 17:11

Jolly Joker wrote:I think, we are beyond balancing creatures for their tier - it must be allowed to balance ARMY-wise [...] So, to put home the point: balancing units tier for tier would be at least 2 steps back.

I must disagree with you here, because it is simply impossible to get the balance right without balancing creatures for their tier. If this is well made, I think there should be no problems with army combinations. I really cannot follow your 'logic'. If a stack has positive effects on a higher, then there is a need of 'enhancement' or rather 'speciality' to provide this effect. But these specials are just right balanced yet, because if this was not the case, the affected creature was not balanced for its tier, which is orthogonal to my premise that every creature is balanced for their tier.

In short: If the creatures are balanced for their tier, it is simply impossible that their specials are destroying the balance, because these specials themselves are part of balancing the creature for its tier.

I hope this is understandable somehow.

Jolly Joker wrote:Well, yes, there is. We had that in H4, and a mixed town like that was pretty universally rejected. There is no reason to repeat, what has been rejected from an overwhelming majority.

Again I cannot agree with you. You know, that Heroes IV was supposed to be some kind of revolutionary evolution of the franchise, but failed. There are plenty of reasons for this failure, for example, the misstakes in production and marketing itself, i.e. missing multiplayer funtion or the catastrophic shift in graphic engine. In my humble opinion it was not the mix of former inferno and necropolis itself that lead to the rejection. The main factor for me was the bad presentation. It simply lacked a satisfying context.

But we are talking about this concept, so tell me your suggestion for improvements of this undead demon problem.

Jolly Joker wrote:Sure you can go for EITHER undead OR demon unit, but why would you do that?

May be because you want to 'put this abomination to the flames' seeing that unacceptable new freedom of choice? ;)

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Postby Jolly Joker » Jan 20 2008, 17:50

The question isn't why H4 was a failure for YOU here. The simple fact is, that no matter whether people liked H4 or not (there ARE those who do like it and play it), even a lot of those who do like it as a game don't like the fact that demonic and undead creatures were mixed in a town (and to a lesser extent others as well). So one thing to keep in mind when designing a new Homm is to not throwing together creatures and towns needlessly. It's clearly better not to use a certain type of creature at all because that leaves the possibility to add them later on as a new town.

So the first thing is, that mixing, for example, Tower and Haven, Dungeon and Stronghold, Necropolis and Inferno for absolutely no reason is a very bad design decision. There is no arguing around that either.

Second, no Homm game ever had a tier-wise belancing, and there is absolutely no reason why it should start now.
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Postby Metathron » Jan 20 2008, 18:34

As for the HoMM IV mixture of necropolis and inferno troops (dubbed "Infernopolis"), yes this town was met with a lot of opposition from HoMM players, but I have yet to see anyone provide an actual, logical explanation as to why the two could not fit together. Instead, people went with their gut reactions and their disliking of the Infernopolis was set in stone.

In any case, wasn't there a similar outrage from fans way back when with the prematurely deceased HoMM III Forge town? Again, a lot of players opted for firmly rejecting it, coming up with pseudo reasons as to why the town is not right; e.g. the town was too scientifically minded and science fiction should have no place in the fantasy environment of HoMM, when in fact science fiction lies at the heart of the Might and Magic universe. So instead we got the "illustrious" Conflux.

As for why I think a joint inferno & necro town can (not should, mind you) make sense...well, both towns fall into the evil category, and both could be affected by light magic spells that dealt damage to undead & infernal troops. Furthermore, a player could always choose to go either the undead or inferno route and not mix troops at all. But perhaps the biggest reason why I liked the HoMM IV Infernopolis is that the HoMM III Inferno was, to put it bluntly, the most bland and boring town in any of the HoMM installments so far (with perhaps the HoMM V Fortress a distant second). I, for one, would therefore rather see a combined, well thought out town for a future HoMM game than having multiple, race-based and for the most part unimaginative, towns.

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Postby Tobius » Jan 20 2008, 18:39

There are several reasons for replacing the factions of former heroes games. One reason is to leave behind the overhault stereotypes of former heroes games. Furthermore there is the idea of greater freedom for the player to play his own Heroes without any limitations. I think it is not right to speak of throwing together creatures and towns needlessly, because there is at least the reason of evolving the franchise. Without innovations and new concept Heroes would die a hard death. It is no successful way to do hold on to overhault principles. I mean, the Haven faction, for example, is as old as the Heroes franchise itself. Changes are needed if Heroes should live on. More factions, artifacts, units without fundamental innovations will not do. However, I think that you wall against innovations - at least against the ones of this concept.

Apart from that I think, we talk at cross purposes concerning the balancing. Please, tell me why it is so important to differentiate between ARMY-wise and TIER-wise balancing. I really do not see the relation to this concept.

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Postby Qurqirish Dragon » Jan 20 2008, 19:12

Jolly Joker wrote: If my arithmetics are right, one town like this allows 6400 different 7-slot armies, which is impossible to test (5 towns with 6400 possible armies each? Come on!).
Reducing everything to one less position in each tier makes this 972, still a lot but certainly better.
In fact, I see that the towns have 3 categories each for the creatures, except humans have 4. This could be easily adjusted by combining magic and religion to 1 category for example and reduce this further to
2 out of 3, 2 out of 3, 1 out of 3, 1 out of 3, 1 out of 3 which would make 243 different army possibilities - which might sound just right.

I see no problem with choices like this. I do think that the large rosters as they are currently proposed may be a bit too difficult to handle all at once, but I will not dismiss it out of hand.

That said, I do agree with the idea that since each town has 3 (or 4) classes of creature, making only one from each type at each tier may be the way to go. The 4th type for one faction may well be useful in defining a faction's character - more adaptable, but perhaps lacking in something else to compensate?

However, that's just the theory. The practise means that the LOW tiers should allow already FIGHTING tough neutrals. That means, again looking at the humans, that you can't waste slots for example with sappers. The Archer/Gargoyle combination will be most probably the right one, with tier 2 adding another 2 except the Ram.
That in turn means, that the system is already flawed from the beginning, because there are units there that won't ever be used.


Here is where you are jumping the gun. No stats or abilities have been given for the lineup (not even things as simple as "strong for this tier" notations), so you cannot say that the archer/gargoyle combo is stronger than anything else. Yes, having a level 1 flying unit and a level 1 shooting unit SEEMS to be the best combo, but that is assumeing the units are similar in character to what we already know.

If we assume that the recruit is a melee-fighter, the archer a ranged-attack unit, the sapper a relatively weak unit, but with special abilities in seiges, the gargoyle a magic-resistant flyer, and the sacristan a "buffing" unit (either spellcaster, or a bonus for being on the field - divine aid if you will), then if the recruit is stronger and faster than the gargoyle, it may be more useful. The special ability of a sapper may make it more useful, based on the scenario (lots of towns = more seiges = more useful) and so on.

All the lists we have here can do is give us a feeling for the themes of the towns, which brings us to...


Furthermore I notice that Undead and Demons are yet again mixed together. That alone is reason enough to to put this abomination to the flames. :)


This, of course, I cannot say is right or wrong, because it is your opinion. But let me make this hypothetical argument for why undead and demons SHOULD go together:
Based on the description we have been given, it seems the Haevok are a DEMON race, and the demons themselves *are* the necromancers. Why do necromancers have to be undead themselves? Given this setup, it only seems natural that if necromancy is commonplace among the demons, that they should use them in their forces.
Continuing this line of thought, the demonic units should be stronger and / or more expensive then their corresponding level undead. This is because they wouldn't create creatures that are stronger then themselves without a good means to control them. Thus they are more valuable either for their strength or their mastery of the undead units.

I, personally am neither for nor against this combination a-priori. Just as I wasn't against the Forge- in concept- in H3. (I do think the forge should have been done differently, but my ideas actually added MORE sci-fi elements, not less. But that is another story)

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Postby Pitsu » Jan 20 2008, 20:02

Nelgirith wrote:There are units that have some kind of empathy when playing together, the exemples that come to my mind are Dungeon with Blood Furies/Witch + Grim Raiders/Black Riders or Sylvans' Dryads + Treants.
These units have a strong empathy and with your system you might create several situations like these that will require balancing not only within a faction but also between all factions.


I agree that one cannot just balance units among its tier, but one has to count synergies with other creatures, hero skills and spells. On the other hand I do not fear some 6400 or whatever numbers were given out. Unless you cut all abilities you cannot build a mathematical algorithm for balancing anyway. Basically, the developers should design a number of viable unit/hero combinations for each town, that are better than a random mix. These certain numbers of development processes all have to have their strengths and weaknesses and it must be ensured that other combinations are rather worse than better. These combinations have to be balanced, not every single random mix. In Starcraft analogy: if you build just zealots and reapers and fall under air attack, it is not a problem of game balance, but your strategy.
As I said in another H6 dedicated discussion, IMO H5 has done quite good job in introducing creature/skill synergies. Alternative upgrades and level based town has made building schedule less linear and less predictable for opponent. H6 should go even further. To continue I quote:

So the first thing is, that mixing, for example, Tower and Haven, Dungeon and Stronghold, Necropolis and Inferno for absolutely no reason is a very bad design decision. There is no arguing around that either.


With such mixes the town lineup comes truly unpredictable. If your opponent plays Infernopolis, you do not know from start whether in decisive battle you are against vampires or succubi. To prepare yourself for conflict, you must spy and adopt to your opponent much more than in e.g. H3, where a Castle player is going to have angels, not titans. Sure, the mix of nations should make sense, or better keep the well defined factions separate and introduce new creatures to them. Nothing wrong with creature sharing too (same creature available in more than one town).

And as I said before, for me its also fine to have lot of towns with linear build, but give each player early access to many towns. It is pretty much the same anyway.
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Postby Nelgirith » Jan 20 2008, 20:32

I'm definately not in favor of another Infernopolis for several reasons, the main being that I love playing Inferno since it was first introduced in HoMM games and on the other hand, I truely hate Necropolis since itwas first introduced. There's no need for a rational explanation as to why I hated the Infernopolis, I just hated it. Period.

I'm not against some form of mix in the future but rather than mixing old existing factions, I'd rather see a mix of different "kinds" of creatures.

Necropolis : undead (as in H5 today, no morale effect, no mind effect) and living creatures (necromancers, slaves, possessed men ... which would be affected by morale)

Inferno : demons and beasts (werewolves and so on)

Haven : human warriors + holy creatures

Academy : human magicians + mechanical creatures (a bit like the H4 Academy)

Preserve : wood elves + animals
etc...

Among each tier, we could have the choice between these 2 kinds of creatures or more

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Postby Metathron » Jan 20 2008, 22:14

Nelgirith wrote:There's no need for a rational explanation as to why I hated the Infernopolis


But you just gave a rational explanation, i.e. you like playing the Inferno and dislike the Necropolis, ergo an Infernopolis does not suit your taste. Fairy nuff.
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