HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

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Joined: March 14th, 2013, 12:26 am

HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by denispir »


This thread is intended to list ideas as diverse as possible on how to design a HARD(er) difficulty, for game authors to stop relying mostly or even only on the (in)famous gold parameter ;-). <1> I tried below to be as clear and specific as possible, since vague or obscure hints do not help as well: please do so too. I also tried to classify ideas, namely by what they change, but this is probably rather arbitrary. Finally, all below options advantage an ennemy: opposite options would indeed disadvantage the player...

* some unit(s) on the ennemy side placed on map
* more units (placed on map)
* higher-level units
* stronger units
* more useful units
* more diverse units
* experienced units
* a recall list!
* traitors? (also via event below)
* (harder) beast, monsters

* better terrain (movement/protection) for the ennemy on key areas...
* ...especially on predictable very first combat zone
* bigger/smaller terrain zones
* zones with different shapes
* good tiles or zones in range of a key area
* easier or wider pass (cave corridors, mountains valleys, in between water...)
* harder or narrower pass (for the player)
* open/blocked passage
* faster/slower predictable movement pathes

* not: more gold!
* reinforcements appear
* new side appears
* hidden units (out of cave, house, secret gate, forest, water...)
* (stronger) beasts, monsters appear
* unit or commando sent with tactical mission (also via AI below)

Tactics: AI / Micro-AI
(Use Micro-AIs because the std one makes about anything about impossible. <2>)
* decent, sensible tactic ! according to objective and situation
* troops more or better grouped...
* ...and remain grouped!
* no loss of troops/gold for vain or useless village grab
* no/less stupid suicides (how?)
* tactical movement of part(s) of troops
* tactical change (also via event)
* adaptation to predictable player tactics (when there is a choice)
* tactical move through off-map travel!

Question: How to find events or tactics that would not make replay much easier?

Thank you for reading!

<1> Also because I intend to get rid of gold as a power source, with the perverse effect of a vicious circle: the better a player does for whatever reasons (skill, experience, luck, replay, and/or attention...) the more gold she gets. Which makes her even more powerful and allows doing even better. Not only this is certainly unwishable and unfair, but it forces us to "desperately" design crazily harder and harder scenarios just because of that, especially on hard difficulty. This also makes scenarios & campaigns unplayable for most, because players giving feedback on forums just cannot be representative of the true Wesnoth population, instead they are among the most skilled and experienced folks.

<2> See this wiki page.
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by gnombat »

The wiki page BuildingScenariosBalancing lists some ideas.
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by denispir »

gnombat wrote: December 1st, 2019, 2:27 pm The wiki page BuildingScenariosBalancing lists some ideas.
Thank you gnombat! Indeed the page lists many ideas, and good ones (numerous are similar to mine ;-)).

This page also points to a deep flaw of Wesnoth and similar games, say "power games", using money or other resources: namely that any power advantage gained at the beginning, for any reason (skill, exp, investment, luck...) will make even more power in a vicious circle, and this endlessly. So that slight differences continually increase, in troops and money for Wesnoth. Conversely, a slightly less powerful player will experience bigger and bigger weakness compared to what the game requires. A visible mark of this is playthroughs evoking troops in later scenarios far more powerful than what the "average player" may have. A consequence is that game authors, especially in campaigns, need to designs always more difficult challenges; even more since the feedback they get is certainly from players far above the average. Doing so, they let far behind most players, and always more and farther. Wesnoth is inherently unstable in power, thus impossible to balance! No surprise we always speak of balance.

The wiki page BuildingScenariosBalancing also tries to find some workarounds. However, it does not list the sheer abandonment of money as a source of power, a very strong perverse effect which cutting thus has equally strong correction potential. In wesnoth, we have several source of power that thus increase automatically themselves, directly or indirectly:
* money money (at scenario start)
* sheer troop forces
* XP and level
* control and gain of time and space (through forces)
* money money money (at scenario end)

For a better, fairer, and better challenging game, we would ideally have the opposite: a self-regulating game that, when players do quite well, presents them higher challenges or handicaps them. And conversely a game that offers advantages or presents lower challenges to players who had an initial disdvantage. I'm thinking at a way of mitigating this by:
  • Keeping money as only a way to limit troop force in recruit/recall.
  • Adapting scenario challenge to the forces of the player, measured by global available troop forces (not in time to finish).
I will probably open a thread on the topic, to try and better understand this vicious circle that and find solutions.
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by Carreiro »

How would you enforce this exactly though?
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by Helmet »

What about making levels harder via new status effects?

For example, imagine on NORMAL difficulty that a player has 10 typical, healthy units ready for battle. The oppositional units are similar and the battle is balanced. On HARD difficulty, however, the player's units are no longer healthy. All of the units drank some dirty water prior to the battle and acquired "dysentery." The units could begin the battle afflicted with, say, 1 hit points of damage per turn. That would make the scenario more challenging, I think.

A plague would be much worse.
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by Wussel »

Maybe your focus should be on how to make easy really easy?

Single most meaningful way would be to allow second and third level units to be recruited.

Basically on easy there in not enough experience running around. Moreover beginner tend to loose units, which equals to loss of the little experience they got. Some campaigns are more easy on higher difficulties, if the player is able to avoid losses. Saveloading is really helping them there.

So basically a fix should be applied there.
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Re: HARD level: ideas to design it (other than gold)

Post by gfgtdf »

I agree with all these points.

If I were to write a campaign now my approach would probably be to fix the amount of units l that can be recalled one could in a specific scenario for example say that at most 5 units can be recalled.

For the case that a player has for some reason no( or very) recall units at all one could for example add a 'temporary mercenary' logic that cost 20 gold can be used alternatively to recall units and are in power slightly weaker than good recall units or maybe cost more upkeep or have a different disadvantage, but these units would only stay there for one scenario.

For the garrover gold, not sure maybe also cap it at 50.

( All these are not proposals for mainline rather what I'd do I would write a campaign)

Another Problem with the carryover mechanic is that, it forces us to put turn limit In each scenario in order to prevent xp/gold farming, I really think that turn limits should be an exception for when they really make sense story wise and not the regular case. I once wrote an add-on 'no turn limit' for the 1.14 addon server that removes turn limit, and instaed changes the game such that unit no longer gain xp/gold after that turn. If I were to write a campaign I would probably add a similar mechanic to most of the scenarios.

Other than that I'd really like to have a generic 'make harder' [modification]s that increases the difficulty of a campaign, for example by adding random Boni to enemy units, in particular to compensate other nice addon that tye the plaayer an unfair advantage.
Scenario with Robots SP scenario (1.11/1.12), allows you to build your units with components, PYR No preperation turn 1.12 mp-mod that allows you to select your units immideately after the game begins.
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