Unit Pruners and the Anti-Drakes

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Unit Pruners and the Anti-Drakes

Post by Shade »

OK... The only thing I'm going to say about units and the about the state of much of the current debate is this:

For the Anti-Drake faction:
-If you hate Drakes, and have always hated Drakes, don't push your agenda in that part of the unit pruning debate. The case for and against them is pretty well known. If the axe is to fall on the drakes, it should fall on them as a whole- not be pushed towards a slow death by anorexia. So keep the 'anti-drake agenda' away from the 'unit pruning ideal'. The opposite is also true, keep any pro-faction sentiments away from this debate as well.

Basically, the work pending on the Drakes is the possible exchange of the 'Clasher' for something that is liked better (but fills the heavy fighter niche [hopefully, as it depends on art and 'Core Developer Consensus']), and to finish the third level advancements where appropriate (this doesn't mean that every Drake will get a third level), and new art for the fighter-- This is the first time since the Drakes went in that they have received attention, they are in flux--

Even after Neo's done Drawing, and I'm done playing with them, there is a good chance the 'Core Devs' will come an re-tool them some more... This probably means that not all of Neo's art and stats will get implemented, this also means that my toying with the stats probably won't stand without change, this also means that it is unlikely that any 1 person, outside of Dave, will get their own way with the whole faction, and this isn't a bad thing. It means that there will be a core vision for the faction, without a dictatorship of vision...

Anybody using the unit pruning debate to justify a drake lobotomy-- as a back-door to removal should be shot (well, not really). The basic scenario I see is this: Prune the Drakes to the point where they are sterile and useless with no hope of rehabilitation at 'such a late stage', then use that as grounds for removal. This sort of concept hijacking is what lured me into the debate... It doesn't make me very happy... The same goes for Woses... (This is OT, but that is my sole objection to Miyo's plan to reduce all drakes to one lv. 1 drake and have them branch from there: the perception that they are sterile and useless is almost as bad as them being sterile and useless. Them being flying & fire breathers makes them unique enough without making them 'the' faction with one first level unit.)

Now as to the topic of unit pruning:
The crux of the unit pruning debate, as mentioned by Cedric, Sanna, and Miyo (& others) is that recent releases have saw a large number of new units come in. This glut of new units has diminished their enjoyment of the game as their ability (or anybody's) to know 'the units' has been diminished. It also diminishes the uniqueness of each faction as everything gets dragged towards a generic grey average, and muddies the conceptual clarity behind each faction. This has struck a chord of agreement with a great many people- a reduction, or roll-back, or re-thinking of some of these units is probably for the best. However, arguments about unit pruning should bear in mind that:

-Adding a branch to an existing unit tree that is used in MP or the Campaigns should probably be strongly frowned upon at this point (the 'Elvish Sorceress' comes to mind)
-Adding a 4th level unit that at all should be frowned upon, particularly if it breaks the 'I'm a Major Magi' principle. The 4th level of the 'General' bit me at the end of TROW... I now have and important character who can get to a higher level than the two hero characters...
-Adding units that aren't used in Campaigns or aren't needed in MP should be frowned upon (This is why there is a wiki & unit thread).
-Units that severely diminish the clarity of choices in a unit tree should be frowned upon. You shouldn't have to have 100 fun facts about a unit tree memorised to pick your upgrade. The base differences between base units in a faction should be considered for clarity of role, and so should the available upgrade paths.
-Units that diminish the uniqueness of a given faction should be discouraged. The movement towards 'generic grey goo' in Wesnoth should be stopped.
-Major re-toolngs of the core faction that play well should be given lots of very careful thought. This means either by Unit Addition or Fundamental stat changes (re: movement types). The factions that should be more or less complete are: Northerners, Loyalists, Rebels, and to a lesser extent the Undead. It can be argued that the Knalgan Alliance needs some more work, and the Drakes are still under active (re)construction.
-Moving per Campaign units buys nothing but more grief for third party scenario developers. I mean if you sole justification for moving a unit to a campaign folder is to un-clutter http://wesnoth.slack.it/units.cgi , check the little boxes for what you want to see by default and update you bloody bookmarks!
-Unit pruning should not be about the fact you want to remove a faction, or because your favourite faction has a hard time coping with a given faction, or UNIT.
-Probably shouldn't run over a faction that is being worked on for the first time in months. Working on the Drakes is hard enough, if you want the axe to fall on them, that's fine-- I'll happily remove the whole darn faction from CVS if I'm told to do so (and sacrifice many hours work), but I refuse to let let them stay 'bad'-- Them staying bad is once again a shallow ploy to get them removed. The fact that no sane developer will touch them is because loud unending debate follows them...

In closing, I'd just like to say that Unit Pruning should be about creating factions in which the base units are clearly differentiated, and in which the choices in upgrade paths can be clearly delineated. The point of this exercise should be about those two things. I find it somewhat disagreeable when age old flame wars get integrated into this discussion. I find it even more disagreeable when I start to think that people might be trying to push quiet and hidden agendas. 'Engineering Disputes' are inevitable, but healthy-- even amongst the developers. A lot of good can come from an 'honest' unit audit...

PS- A lot of what I have said touches Jetryl new units. This is not meant as a slight against him. He is a prolific and highly skilled CONTRIBUTOR whom I respect very much. I wish him all the best in his future efforts :)

PPS- Everything mentioned above should be considered MY OPINION.

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Post by Ayin »

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said here.
-Units that diminish the uniqueness of a given faction should be discouraged. The movement towards 'generic grey goo' in Wesnoth should be stopped.
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Post by scott »

Re: rollback, is this the list for consideration?
You could go back really far, which is what I did. I probably left some out.

- advanced saurians
- new mermen and mermaids
- new naga
- troll rocklobber

- goblin spearman/impaler
- direwolf rider

- elvish sorceress line
- L2 elvish lord
- elvish outrider

- grand general
- silver mage
- lancer
- grand knight
- cavalier
- L2 gryphon master (whichever faction)
- Iron mauler (?)

- necrophage
- soul shooter
- soulless

- dwarvish sentinel line
- dwarvish runemaster
- dwarvish ulfserker
- dwarvish dragonguard

You can go back as far as you want... As far as I can tell, this is the list of addtions since not including those used as campaign special units.

Some of the added units were added for faction balancing (goblin pierce unit). Others, like the mers, were approved. In fact, were any of these not approved? There are L2 and L3 goblin spearman units and a javeliner planned, as well as a L3 orcish crossbow, slayer, and revenant.

Maybe the unit-bloat people can specify exactly which units are ok and which are not. A vast majority of these units have a specific purpose and some have been around for so long it's hard to think of wesnoth without them (grand knight).

The most problematic units are upgrades since they cannot be kept out of any campaign or MP era. The rest can simply be excluded by campaign designers (for mainline campaigns) or MP era designers (for BFW "core" eras).
Last edited by scott on October 22nd, 2004, 9:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unit Pruners and the Anti-Drakes

Post by Dacyn »

Shade wrote:-Moving per Campaign units buys nothing but more grief for third party scenario developers. I mean if you sole justification for moving a unit to a campaign folder is to un-clutter http://wesnoth.slack.it/units.cgi , check the little boxes for what you want to see by default and update you bloody bookmarks!
I wrote:point is to encourage people to use "core" units rather than units specific to other campaigns.
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Post by Circon »

Lvl 3 untis should not be rolled back. It's the low-level units with identical trees that seem to be the problem.
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Post by turin »

I don't think we should be trying to prune upgrades. As it says in the FPI,
is thought that a better, more interesting way to do things would be to have more alternate paths of advancement within the 3 levels rather than have 4+ levels of advancement.
this seems to mean the official dev line is "more upgrades are good if they are good, balanced and interesting". so why should we try to prune upgrade options if they fit those three criteria?

instead, we should try to prune unnecessary lvl1s, like possibly the new mermen and naga units, or maybe the ghoul, which serves no purpose as far as I can see and is unbalanced to boot...
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Post by Neoriceisgood »

The ghoul has an ugly bellý; but I wouldn't "miss"in as a unit; Mostly because I'm all in favor of nice graphics; wich the ghoul definetly lacks (I would redo it but that would mean redoing the necrophage aswell; wich is a no no to me)

Though It still saddens me that the (same) people are still trying to axe the drakes even if it kills them; It appears they always had a hard time; When I just created them there was a huge fight over how "Drakonian"resembled the word Draconian wich was a synonim for strickt; and this is why they should be named Dragons/Drakes/Draks/ManDrakes or whatever people could come up with; when they finaly got in E.A finaly decided that the name should be changed; as someone gave him the rights to set any name to his will.
Now the Drakes were terribly weak and people wanted them removed for that; And myself I had reasons for redoing them as I realised afterwards that Fmunoz was right about my animation being to static on drakes;
Also alot of drake units got frowned upon as they appeared "Un-drakeish" wichever that is, on wich I also agreed in my drake revision (exception of clasher line included) by removing the slave, mage and petit lines;

Now that the Drakes finaly got renewed, the saurians got added as turin suggested (I believe) and finaly appear to become a faction that matters; People start giving the Unit Bloat as reason to remove them; among other reasons; And this realy pisses me off; Each time someone comes up with some reason to remove Drakes; and just when I get around with fixing all reasons that had a point reasons like
"There are to many units, lets axe the drakes" show up; Well the same people give "The units are starting to look to much alike " came up with the unit bloat; And guess what? The Drakes are practicaly the most unique of all factions around.
another reason is
-Drakes are unwesnothish; I'm not sure about you, but I believe Dave is the real "designer"of wesnoth; and if he says something is wesnothish, it is.

And ofcourse the eternal struggle of "This race is to strong/weak" still goes; But I believe they are currently more balanced than undead ever where thanks to the addition of Saurians.

In all honoustly, I think all of you are just jealous that I'm the only person whom ever pulled it off getting not just a unit(32 of em), a race(3 of em) but an entire faction into wesnoth; And I'll be sure to find all sorts of reasons to take down your factions if that ever happens (that's a no no situation isn't it?)
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Post by Jetrel »

Times like this when I wish we had an emoticon for a steaming pile of [censored] - it would be a perfect means of expressing how I feel.

Boy. I'd like to say this - there is nothing wrong with "new" units, in fact they add a lot to the game. What is wrong, then?

The only problem comes when we have units IN THE SAME FACTION, be that multi or single player, which basically fill the same function. The presence of these in single player is the fault of a campaign designer.

Having units is not a problem at all, you simply have to be choosy in which ones you put into which faction. Just because you have a elven unit with regenerate (the wose) does not mean he needs to be in every era.

I am of the opinion, that we should move toward a more "high fantasy" feel for wesnoth, with multiple factions of the same race. Factions are differentiate by culture, largely. A group of northern human barbarians will fight quite differently from the trained armies of wesnoth; they will also look different.

The visual look of multiple armies will be helped a great deal whenever that patch for "active recoloring" of units goes through. I think that such a patch should be used when possible - in clothes and such, but should not be used on skin or fur. Thus we will still need to rely on the ground circles for primary differentiation.

However, having multiple cultures of the same race offers a very different feel to the game - not all elves are wood elves.

For example, one of the primary problems with the "elvish sorceress" line is really that it conflicts with the feel of our current wood elves. It would feel much more appropriate as a member of a "high elven" faction.

I only made it a branch of the elvish shaman because there are no high elves in the game. I could fix that.

Differentiation between races really lies in their unusual capabilities, and natural strengths - with the notable exception of the mermen, the acclimation of our current races to specific terrains is somewhat artificial at best.

There is no reason a group of humans could not be accustomed to mountainous terrain, or a group of dwarves to living on the plains, or even the forest. What should distinguish the races is the presense of certain modifiers - for example, the extreme durability of the dwarves. The fact that dwarves do not know healing magic.

Trolls should be one of the extremely few races that get regeneration.

Orcs, regardless of where they are used to living, breed in large numbers, and pay little heed to spending the lives of their kind to further an end. They are generally stupid, which is reflected in their lack of complex skills (significant magic), and yet often possess brutal strength.


The following races could serve to have multiple cultures represented in completely different unit sets for each one:

Humans, Elves

The following races could have different cultures represented by slightly different unit sets (for example, some groups of orcs are not allied with trolls. Also, some dwarves might use crossbows instead of guns.) This would mean having "multiple sets" of units in which almost all overlap:

Dwarves, Orcs

The following races are rare or special enough - not in gameplay, but in world presence, that they only need one faction:

Undead, Drakes, Saurians, Mermen, Naga


What is the purpose of this? The purpose is to keep wesnoth, unlike almost every other game out there, as more of a high-fantasy game. By having many more of the mundane creatures in our world, we will allow a much greater contrast.

By keeping the "fantastic" - those things wholly in the realm of fantasy (lizard men, drakes, naga) less common than humanoids, they become more exotic, more arcane, more fascinating.

Take the palantir, for example. If bobby the average elf smith could make them and sell 'em down at his corner shop - even if they were just as capable as normal, they would start to seem a lot less amazing. People would use them like cellphones, to chat with each other across a great distance. Joey would mope about being fired to his mom on a palantir. Rob would talk dirty to his girlfriend the next village over on his palantir.

It's quite degrading, no? Despite the fact that it's the same damn magic rock, it IS something different by rote of its context. It's a far cry from the irreproducible masterpieces of Feanor, which shone in the burning hands of kinds, and which were desired by the valar themselves.

That's my stance on unit inclusion. I think, we need a lot more units.
If unit capabilities are hard to remember - the interace need to be improved - but.. the very presence of traits makes unit stats rather variable. A strong and resilient elvish champion is more different from a loyal, quick champion than he is from a strong, resilient marshal, for all purposes other than leadership.

Mouseovers, and graphical work should be used to make unit capabilities more intuitive. Frail units should look frail (why I was opposed to the otherwise nice "chub dread" unit that was proposed as a replacement for the shadow).

Really, the point I want to make is - Wesnoth is not done.
I am not sure how to read the reactions of some of the administrators - Miyo perhaps. I can only theorize that his stance is largely in the interests of maintaining the integrity of wesnoth - keeping a person from making some transient change, losing interest, and waltzing away with a half-finished thing hanging in the game that is hard to remove because other people have taken a liking to it.

He should understand that I (and likely Neo) am not like that. I have chosen to set aside the next year or two of "hobby" work in order to make wesnoth into one of the greatest free games of all time. We have a choice: We can reach a certain mediocre feature/content set, and all drift away. OR, we can finish what we have started.

Perhaps miyo has. However, it is not to my detriment to continue working for a few years. I intend to make videogames for a career - I can think of no more constructive way to spend my time.

Certain milestones must be reached to maintain coherency, however, this draconian micromanagement of what is allowed in right now is entirely inappropriate for a project that is not done.

Stifling of contribution at this point in development is a cardinal sin of open-source development, because it fragments the development of single projects as creators duplicate work because of creative differences. By doing so, these individual works are liable to fail, as creative teams have dithered away into dysfunction.

I joined wesnoth because I don't have the time between a double major in math and physics, the study of several languages, musicianship, and many other things to write my own damn game and have any semblance of a social life. By being on the wesnoth team, others can take care of the coding which I am perfectly capable of, but wish not to do. I can focus on my much more lacking aspects, such as my artistic skills.

I'm out of practice, but I'm still a better coder than I am an artist. Perhaps I will soon have blow the cobwebs off of that talent.
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Post by turin »

The main problem with new units is this: people like knowing all the units in the game, knowing their stats, being able to recall them from memory. (at least, I certainly do). The changes you propose would make this nigh on impossible.
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Post by ott »

If the game is to have long term traction, there needs to be a way for it to stay alive.

One of the ways to do that is to keep adding new units, and to provide for ways this does not break existing campaigns. Right now new units introduced by campaigns seem to be able to bleed across into existing campaigns far too easily (see a related topic).

Assuming this is fixed, the question still remains: is adding new units the way this game is going to stay alive over the next 2-3 years? This is a vision issue, and should probably be answered by Dave or one of the other core devs. The way I read the Wesnoth Philosophy, adding lots of units seems compatible with KISS and other core concepts.

Diablo II achieved a long term fanbase by having zillions of items, with a lot of variability between instances, as well as a complex set of interactions between items and characters. It took a _long_ time to learn the available items and how they interacted. We could do the same for Wesnoth, where units seem to be the equivalent of DII items, with traits making for variability similar to the random stats in DII items. This seems to be partly what Jetryl advocates. Some great ideas in there!

I could also happily live with a small fixed set of units, which have been exquisitely balanced through extensive playtesting. The focus here would then be on a growing set of campaigns and innovative multiplayer maps to keep the game fresh. This seems to be what Shade is after. CivII/FreeCiv seems to have succeeded through this approach; this way of thinking makes lots of sense to me.

Currently the game seems to be in a phase of lots of new units being added, but with also a lot of new maps and campaigns being created. With care, I think both these directions could be accommodated, though it risks the game becoming nethack-like (not necessarily a bad thing).

Which way should it be going, according to the people who drive the vision?
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Post by Circon »

Nethack=Yuck. Angband>Nethack. Nethack=Lots more darawrf units.

But I could handle moving in that direction, just leave out all the in-jokes such as the HGttG Towels...
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Post by Ayin »

Bah. Angband sucks. Nethack is the all-time best roguelike.

(by the way, those comments should go to OT ^^ )
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Post by Neoriceisgood »

Someone mentioned the Darawrf!?
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Post by joshbosh321 »

Oh, yeah. Go nethack and xnethack.:)
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Post by autolycus »

I love Jetryl's post. It does set the basis for a good discussion on how to provide long-term growth for Wesnoth.

I think that we could work on modpacks as mentioned elsewhere - but the development hierarchy (not 'developer'!) should be such that it ensures modularity (you can choose to include a group or not) and uniqueness (if you include it, it shouldn't overlap too much if at all with the core packs). It would be a bit like MtG, I guess; except that it must be designed such that a fallback to core Wesnoth won't make things less entertaining.

Our focus should be on the gameplay first, and then in parallel, the incorporation of modpacks with obvious unifying themes and good descriptive documentation, and scenarios which make good use of these modpacks and/or are part of them.
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