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Thread: Unit Theory

  1. #1

    Unit Theory

    I wanted to give you guys a bit of information on how we're going to go about selecting the units we offer to each race. I think it's important to understand the theory so that the choices make sense. Without a structured philosophy things like this can quickly devolve into selecting units that will “look cool” on the battlefield.

    So, what qualities are we looking to offer with our choice of units?

    Balance – It is of the utmost importance that the races are equal from a “power” point of view. In many games (including MoM, as much as we may love it) the races are not balanced. There are several great races and some that are mediocre at best. This can go so far as to have a best and worst race. That is something we want to completely avoid in Worlds of Magic. Each race has to be an equal choice at the start of the game. In MoM I feel that the race selection could add or lesson the challenge of the game, but that's not how we want to add challenge in WoM. The challenge is going to come from different levels of AI (or opponent) skill.

    Flavor – We want each race to feel genuinely unique. It's not going to be enough to have “swordsmen” for every faction with a different 3D model to represent each one. The units really need to reflect the race's particular strengths and weaknesses. We want the player to feel a connection between the race they selected and the units they can build. (Of course, conquering a city of another race will allow you to build those units as well.)

    The decision to use the D20 system for the base combat mechanics greatly lessons the challenge of offering units that are very different, but perfectly balanced. Those of you familiar with the D20 system understand “Challenge Ratings” and how they can be used to represent a unit's power numerically. (As we have many, many years of D20 experience this is a system we are very familiar with). Using this system we will be able to form a rough idea of different units' comparable power levels and create vastly different, but very balanced units. (Play testing will help us level out any minor balance issues.)

    Now, at first the problem may seem as simple as selecting 8 to 10 units that step up the challenge rating one by one. A CR1, then a CR2, a CR3, etc. The problem with this is that it is BORING. Some of the most flavorful units may fall right on the same CR line for the same race.

    So, what do we do about it? Well, first we can nudge the CR one way or the other with things like weapons and armor or even the number of characters in a unit. (Six skeletons are more powerful than four, etc.) However, a different (and sometimes better) solution is to tweak the build and maintenance cost of the units. This will allow us to give races cheap, almost disposable units, and high cost extremely powerful ones. Some races may have two or even three CR 1 units (swordsmen and bowmen might be CR1) and two CR10 units with the remainder falling somewhere in between.

    How are we going to come up with the building and maintenance costs? A lot of hard work and play testing. The CR ratings themselves should get us close, but it's going to take actual play testing to make sure that skeletons aren't the ultimate unit in the universe simply because of their low cost.

    Now, you may wonder why I'm telling you all this. Well, we want unit suggestions. What would you like to see in game? (I know we haven't announced the races yet, but I may do that in a few minutes.) Either way, you should understand the theory. Let us know what you think of it.

  2. #2
    Mage’s Assistant
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    To me, one of the greater flaws in MOM was the fact that you could indeed build all units in any city you have conquered. It makes the beginning choice almost meaningless. It would be more interesting if you could only build low and medium power units from conquered cities, so you could build powerful units only of the race you chose to begin with.

    In MOM all races had a focus in their units. All dark elves could shoot energy, all gnolls had better than average attack stats, and so on. I would like to see this in WOM as well. Such as more or less all elven units would be able to use bows or low level spells, all human units being multi-classes of sorts(due to them having "Any" as their multi-class choice in d20 ), all dwarven units being heavily armored, etc. A heavy theme on the units of each race would be cool, you can of course deviate from the theme with say 20% of their units, but more than half should have something that says "These units belong to THAT race".

  3. #3
    The racial benefits will effect all that races units. So elves are going to have better bowman that can't be put to sleep. Dwarvish priests will have more hit points and a bonus to wisdom. Humans (as their stat bonus is flexible) will have dextrous archers and strong swordsmen, but no spell immunity. I think the flavor is going to come across.

    I see your point about being able to produce all another race's units just because you capture one of their cities. Still, I don't like the idea of begin limited to one race's units. Maybe something in the middle. Some races would work with each other, others wouldn't. Either way, you shouldn't find Paladins and Blackguards serving the same master.

  4. #4
    Developer Hoverdog's Avatar
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    Balance – It is of the utmost importance that the races are equal from a “power” point of view. In many games (including MoM, as much as we may love it) the races are not balanced. There are several great races and some that are mediocre at best. This can go so far as to have a best and worst race. That is something we want to completely avoid in Worlds of Magic. Each race has to be an equal choice at the start of the game. In MoM I feel that the race selection could add or lesson the challenge of the game, but that's not how we want to add challenge in WoM. The challenge is going to come from different levels of AI (or opponent) skill.
    I don't necessarily agree. While MoM's balance was completely out of the window (take those poor klackons, for example), getting overboard in the other direction can have even worse results. Cutting all races to a arbitrary level is a recipe for blandness. Case in point: Elemental. All factions there are balanced, but at the same time they are similar and boring. It's not a competitive RTS game where balance is first and foremost. I'd rather have two races that play in a completely different way, even if race A is better than race B, than then factions that just vary by +2 attack and banned University building.

  5. #5
    I see your point. However, I think we're going to be able to achieve balance and flavor. Both are crucial IMO. I suppose I shouldn't have said balance was of the "utmost" importance, lol. What we're doing to ensure we have both is utilizing D20's mechanics to offer units/races that are completely different, but that have comparable power levels. Think of all the CR1 creatures in D20 and some of the VAST differences between them.

    You'll see what I'm talking about when we begin to publish our tentative units lists.

  6. #6
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    It is very hard (almost impossible?) to balance even just 2 different races/faction for all game settings. Map size, number of choke points (narrow strategical passages), the dominant type of terrain, research speed modifier etc. standard customization.
    Let's see typical strategical choices in almost all games:
    1 - to build combat stuff now or to invest in economy or research and build more and better stuff later?
    2 - to fight now or to build some more combat stuff?
    3 - what to do on the begining: rushing, turtling or economic development?
    Different races probably will bee specialized in those different strategies. And these strategies work best on different maps and versus specific enemy's strategies (rushing > development > turtling > rushing and so on).
    And different characteristics of units. For example slow but strong units are good on small maps, but they lose vs weaker but faster units on large maps.

    Edit:
    I'm talking about competitive MP games.
    Last edited by John Madlock; 02-14-2013 at 05:49 PM.
    Sorry, signature is under construction.

  7. #7
    The balance I'm talking about is from a power/construction time/construction cost/maintenance cost point of view. You're right in saying that depending on the circumstances one race is almost certainly going to have some advantage or disadvantage. However, all I mean say by "balanced" is that all of the races will be viable solid choices. The idea is to let you pick the race you want and then let you develop strategies that work for that race. We don't want people picking a race because "They suck, so it makes the game more challenging!" Lol.

  8. #8
    All I know is that I'd want to see at least the "cool" units from MoM make it in. (Airships, Dragons, Angels, etc.)

    But yeah, each unit having unique strategic value would be awesome. Where most 4x games fall apart is because of bland unit\tech balance, due to tons of tech that boil down to meaningless incremental upgrades. (+1 dmg, +2 dmg, +3dmg, etc...)

    That isn't to say each race can't have SOME units that fit certain molds, as it will be very difficult to make every single unit in the game completely different from eachother.


    For example, take the starting infantry units for each race, they would likely look something like:

    HUMANS:
    Human Swordsman
    Attack: 2
    Defense: 2
    Speed: 2
    Abilities: None
    Cost: Low


    ELVES:
    Elf Swordsman
    Attack: 2
    Defense: 1
    Speed: 3
    Abilities: None
    Cost: Low


    DWARVES:
    Dwarven Axeman
    Attack: 3
    Defense: 2
    Speed: 1
    Abilities: None
    Cost: Low


    UNDEAD:
    Undead Zombie
    Attack: 1
    Defense: 1
    Speed: 1
    Abilities: Infection (If battle is won, enemy's defeated units have a chance turn into zombies)
    Cost: Very Low


    With the exception of the Zombies, I don't see a whole lot of ways to differentiate these types of units other than stat tweaks... I mean, you gotta have fodder units, right? Or is there a better way?

  9. #9
    Yes, be on the lookout for “cool” units. We may not have the exact same cool units, but we are very pro-cool.

    Eliminating monotony is where D20 gets to shine IMO. Let's consider a couple of base unit examples. (Keep in mind this is all theory, nothing is set in stone yet.)

    Humans are the “flexible” race. Their benefits will kind-of “wrap” around what they're doing. So the human base unit is going to have a slight bonus in strength since it's a melee unit. The members of the unit will be equipped with longspears and light armor.
    Strengths:
    They will be able to move top distance for an infantry unit.
    Longspears are two-handed so they deal two hand damage. (extra strength damage)
    They also do serious critical damage (x3 rather than x2).
    They can also brace for a charge. (We will almost certainly have a charge mechanic for cavalry).
    Weaknesses:
    They are lightly armored
    They don't have a lot of hit points
    They have low saving throws (a single fireball is probably going to mess these guys up).

    Undead come with a load of immunities and weaknesses. This gives even their most basic units unique flavor. We'll take a unit of skeletons are our example. They wear no armor and only attack with their claws.
    Strengths:
    They will be able to move top distance for an infantry unit.
    Each skeleton in the unit gets two claw attacks per attack. (four skeletons = eight claws per attack)
    Damage Resistance 5/bludgeoning. (Any slashing or piercing attack looses 5 damage off the top)
    Undead immunities (Undead are immune to a load of things. I won't go into it here.)
    Weaknesses:
    Low armor class. (They are easy to hit. They can easily be bludgeoned to death.)
    The individual claw attacks are weak. (Against opponents with a high AC a lucky hit won't do much)
    Weak to positive energy. (They can be “cured” to death fairly easily.)
    Can be turned easily. (If they are alone on the battlefield against a cleric their chances are slim.)

    These units are very different and are going to have to use different strategies to win. I think there is a lot of flavor even at the beginning. Now, the gap between humans and dwarves is not quite as great, but the dwarves are slower, better armored, equipped with hammers perhaps (take that skeletons!). The elves have better savings throws and are immune to sleep. Flavorful balance all over the place!

  10. #10
    Moderator Asmodai's Avatar
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    This is probably a no as it increases complexity probably more than you'd like but is there any chance the player can design their own units. For example you build a barracks that creates level 1 human warriors. Now there could be some presets like the longspear unit that you describe above but alternately you can choose to design (and save your designs) units with different weapon/armor combinations. What you choose for weapon and armor changes the cost and build time (training time really) for the unit. So you'd make crossbowman, light spearman, and heavy swordsman from the same barracks with time/money being the difference between them. But you could also make a longspearman with heavy armor type if you wanted. You'd need a stable of course to make mounted units though, a temple to make priests, etc. Again I understand if this makes it too complex for your liking but Alpha Centauri for example had a unit creation interface that worked very well in a Civ/MoM style game. I conceed it did make more sense there though since you improved the various components though research which isn't really part of a MoM like game. Anyway just a thought.

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