Creatures and units

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Postby Panda Tar » May 2 2014, 12:43

Taking base on the terrain, I'm thinking on making the animals follow something like a Final Fantasy sort of classification. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Final Fantasy Series?

One example: there's a war-horse called Sleipnir, another one Mesmenir, then Shadonir, Leynir and Victanir. They are from the same family of monsters in Final Fantasy XII, very alike each other, although one is pretty much stronger than the other, and you'll find them in different areas of the game.

I was thinking on making horses, for example, having a family of animals similar to it. And in addition to some factions, when they're being used as units, each of those animals would then gain new abilities as they are serving said faction. Also to try and give more variation and life to the world itself.

I'll take the example of horses again. For now, I'd elaborate five distinct species, although they share similarities:
    - Horse (grasslands, hills, etc)
    - Pegasus (mountains, snow, etc)
    - Unicorn (forest, magic, etc)
    - Helhest (volcanic, dark, etc)
    - Kelpie (water, ocean, etc)


- When "Pegasus" is being used by a Heaven town, it's trained and improved to "Haizum", which is a spiritual flying horse. Instead of making Pegasus an alreay 'upgraded' unit, you see.
- When "Horse" is being used by a Royal town, it's trained and improved to "War Horse", stronger unit that would be fit as a Knights mount or to be used in War wagons.
- A "Helhest" turns into a "Nightmare" under the Hell banner. Humans use a "Helhest" to charge against group of enemies, by armoring it, naming it "Charger".
- "Kelpies" are turned into "Hippocampi" by Coral, but cannot be used by Hell due their incompatibility to extreme heat and volcanic terrain.

Due some compatibility, the original species can serve in more than only one way to any faction in particular, enabling hiring one, two or even three different units.

It his approach OK to you? :)

P.S.: This picture below shows the Wolf Genus in that same game. You have the Wolf, then Hyena, Cerberus, etc.

Image
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Postby Groovy » May 2 2014, 15:01

I love the lore implications, but I'm not clear on the mechanics. In particular:
  • Will the improved breeds exist outside of the faction that improved them? For example, can a Hell hero stumble upon Kelpies on the adventure map, but be unable to use them?
  • Will the improved breeds be able to operate as independent units, rather than only as mounts and drafts? For example, are Nightmare and Hippocampus units unto themselves, or do they need sentient creatures to ride them into battle?

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Postby Panda Tar » May 2 2014, 15:24

Groovy wrote:Will the improved breeds exist outside of the faction that improved them? For example, can a Hell hero stumble upon Kelpies on the adventure map, but be unable to use them?

That might happen. It's based on the logic of a faction not being able to control all natural elements, same as you proposal of a magic user, and that a faction is not familiar or don't understand all fauna/flora. The animal Kelpie (water horse) doesn't survive in a 'hellish' environment, so they have not enough expertise in dealing with advanced breeding of a kelpie. We can, however, consider a sub-breed, as a failed experience, a creature that wasn't supposed to live in that environment, but it was forced to, and was turned into a failed breed, used mainly as cannon fodder, something like a steaming Kelpie, bound to have a short lifespan in exchange of having fair damage.

But I do believe that having situations that you are unable to use all animals you find is a good part of the overall exploration feeling. Supposing you can destroy a place where these animals breed, you can either leave them or kill them, keeping in mind that sometimes, they can be useful in other ways, or in case you conquer another kind of town that might use it. But leaving them alone can represent a problem if an enemy player starts controlling them. Or having control over a dwelling you cannot use could generate a certain resource, symbolic.

What would you rather prefer?

Groovy wrote:Will the improved breeds be able to operate as independent units, rather than only as mounts and drafts? For example, are Nightmare and Hippocampus units unto themselves, or do they need sentient creatures to ride them into battle?

Yes, because once they're breeding within a faction domain, they are given purpose, magically, so they can either function as independent beings or depend on a sentient being (or both).
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Postby Groovy » May 2 2014, 18:17

Panda Tar wrote:But I do believe that having situations that you are unable to use all animals you find is a good part of the overall exploration feeling. Supposing you can destroy a place where these animals breed, you can either leave them or kill them, keeping in mind that sometimes, they can be useful in other ways, or in case you conquer another kind of town that might use it. But leaving them alone can represent a problem if an enemy player starts controlling them.

That is already a part of the design. For example, the human town uses horses and the dwarf town uses bears. If a dwarf player comes across horses on the adventure map, he won’t be able to integrate them into his town. Bears, he can train into Armoured Bear unit or Wagon unit, depending on his needs at the time. From what I understand, you are trying to accomplish the same effect using subspecies. We can, but I don’t see a tangible benefit to the gameplay to offset the increased complexity.

Can we create the desired lore without the subspecies existing outside of the faction that created them (in other words, there’s no impact on game mechanics)?

Panda Tar wrote:Yes, because once they're breeding within a faction domain, they are given purpose, magically, so they can either function as independent beings or depend on a sentient being (or both).

Ok.
Just keep in mind that we need composite high-level units to absorb low-level creatures so that they don’t become cannon fodder in the later stages of the game, when powerful creatures like dragons and giants become available.

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Postby Panda Tar » May 3 2014, 7:43

The idea of subspecies, in addition to try and give more variety to natural life to match the world design (ever changing energy), was to increase the range of options for a player to either design offensive and defensive strategies, also focusing on the unknown factor of exploration, where one can find a helping hand or specialized foes.

For example, Horses are native of Grasslands and Hills. Humans are native from those terrains. Humans are most compatible to Horses, thus have better understanding on how to apply horses into their ranks. However, Elves also know horses, and they might be able to use horses, although not with the same expertise as humans would. Besides, Elves have unicorns as their compatible species in forests, better than humans have with unicorns. Although similar, horse and unicorn are different animals. They just show how rich can be nature, where animals and sentient beings develop their skills in order to survive different environments.

I like the idea of the risk of one's decision to start exploring a place one doesn't know, a terrain that's not familiar. There's risk of not finding an easy path to follow. But that doesn't mean mechanisms cannot be used to aid. For instance, a book or a scroll, a torn page of a Bestiary that a player can find somehow that helps him tame certain animals, and unlock a dwelling. The faction would have some default abilities that could be imbued into those exotic animals, but keeping in mind that it would be much more troublesome and would present a high cost trying to keep foreign animals under control. :D
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Postby Groovy » May 3 2014, 8:25

I’m happy with the lore and realism side of things. What I still don’t see is how using subspecies gives a player options that he doesn’t already have with species alone. For example, what options does the distinction between horses and unicorns give a player that the distinction between horses and bears doesn’t?

An unspoken assumption in this conversation is the size of the bestiary. The bestiary I had in mind for the initial release of the game was to be a fraction of the size of the D&D one, less than a hundred units and fewer creatures. Perhaps ten of those would be animals. Of course, this could always be expanded later on. I take it that you were thinking of bigger numbers than this?

Panda Tar wrote:For instance, a book or a scroll, a torn page of a Bestiary that a player can find somehow that helps him tame certain animals, and unlock a dwelling.

Definitely. I’d like to get far away from the static town design of the HoMM series.

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Postby Panda Tar » May 3 2014, 20:31

Groovy wrote:For example, what options does the distinction between horses and unicorns give a player that the distinction between horses and bears doesn’t?


Well, if we take bears into account, they would also have their subspecies, keeping in mind that a horse is very different than a bear. It's not a matter of location, but of being a truly different animal. Where we would have the horse as an animal that's familiar to a human (so any other horse alike unit could be targeted as a potential unit, only not as effectively as a horse would be), humans are not keen of bears, nor any other of its variances. If it happens that a human player holds a certain scroll of bestiary of bears, he might have a small chance to use it as unit. But if a dwarf player engages battle with a human-controlled bear, there's a high chance the dwarfish lore might 'charm' the bear to his side. The same would apply to a horse, if a human tries to charm him, if the controlling player is not familiar to that subspecies. And therein lies the main difference between species and subspecies: means of control through familiarity.

There can also exist animals which don't fancy a certain faction townsfolk. A bear, for example, could not like nagas. Considering that, not even having a scroll of bestiary would make nagas able to hire or deal with bears (the old +50% damage against opposite enemies hoho, for example). But between a horse (which also would not be familiar to a naga) and a bear, bears are more efficient against nagas when it comes offensive layout, and horses, a defensive layout. Amongst all bear subspecies, though, not all of them have the same offensive power (the one that would be, suppose, based on water element, if any, which would be more resistible to a naga), such as would horses regarding defense (this one would be all way round. Water based horses would be more efficient in defending against nagas).

I take it that you were thinking of bigger numbers than this?

Yep. :D Given that some factions won't be available since the beginning, so won't be many specific creatures. Only after releasing the EP. :-D
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Postby Groovy » May 4 2014, 0:16

I think we have quite different ideas of what kind of game to make. Yours seem to be much more complex and chance-based than mine. I wasn’t going to introduce different kinds of damage, unit vs. unit battlefield relationships, and charming of enemy animal units, or make training of animals into units dependent on chance. I’ve outlined the reasons for preferring a simpler design here.

I wouldn’t want to dismiss these ideas without experimenting with them first, but my gut feeling is that they will interfere with the long-term strategising that I’m trying to encourage. I suggest holding off on them until we have the basic model working, and then experimenting with them to see whether they improve on it or not.

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Postby Panda Tar » May 4 2014, 5:26

OK.
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Postby Groovy » May 25 2014, 10:55

Units used in scenario 1:
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Postby Groovy » Oct 31 2014, 16:38

Here is the list of all the creature-unit combinations that I've come up with so far. The purpose of the table is to provide a high-level overview of creature usage across factions. My goal is for each faction to have 3 units in each category - 3 units using level 1 non-sentient creatures, 3 using level 1 sentient creatures, 3 using level 2 non-sentient creatures, etc.

The need for this is driven by a combination of game mechanics and map design. Maps will make folk dwellings and animal lairs available to the player, who will claim them in order to train the creatures who live there into units (troops). The actual inhabitants of the dwelling/lair will be chosen randomly during play. The choice will be restricted by the level of the dwelling/lair (fixed by map design) and its compatibility with the player's faction (the dwelling will have to be compatible). For the choice to be meaningful, there will have to be at least 2, preferably 3 races that are compatible with each type of settlement, and that behave sufficiently differently for the outcome of their random selection to matter. In short, whenever a player comes across a dwelling/lair on the map, he should be able to randomly choose from 3 races that can live there that are of the correct level and compatible with his faction.

A few guidelines for extending the list:
  • The table cannot show composite units (units made from multiple creatures) properly, but please bear in mind that they are there
  • A unit is usually, but not necessarily, of the same level as its creature. A composite unit is usually, but not necessarily, of a higher level than its creatures
  • The main design consideration at this stage of the process is compatibility between units and factions based on lore. We can worry about gameplay balance and things like that later on
  • There is no harm in coming up with too many compatible units at this stage. We'll just prune them later on down to 3 units per category that we want to use
  • Creatures for which we can only come up with one or two units will be discarded later on in favour of more popular creatures. The only exception is townsfolk

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Postby Panda Tar » Nov 13 2014, 2:25

So, Groovy, just give me a single example of what I could do here again? Finding other interrelations etc. ;|
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Postby Groovy » Nov 13 2014, 14:48

Just one example? The Barbarian faction needs another unit that is based on a non-sentient (animal) level 1 creature (currently it only uses two level 1 animals instead of three). That unit can be based on an animal from the above list, or you can add another animal to the list and base the unit on that.

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Postby Groovy » Jul 17 2015, 15:28

Would you like to revisit this topic, Panda? I think that the species lineup is sufficiently stable to start looking at it from the point of view of the world lore. The design of exotic factions is still outstanding, but I don't see it adding any new species.

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Postby Panda Tar » Jul 17 2015, 15:35

Ok, Ill take a look again this weekend.

Jesus, I'm so sleepy right now. It's like I have been cursed or something. :tired:
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Postby Groovy » Jul 17 2015, 16:29

A friend of mine used to say: "When I think of all the time that I've wasted when I could have been sleeping". Sigh. ;)

Here is an overview of the current species usage. Exotic faction usage is likely to change. Traditional one is not. Regardless of who uses what species, the list of species is pretty much fixed at this point.

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