A word on game design

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Kirdan
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A word on game design

Post by Kirdan »

I've been playing around with "Heir to the Throne" on medium level. With mixed succes.
I've gotten to "Crossroads" and now I'm stuck. I've simply not enough money. Then going back to earlier scenarios to try to improve my situation. I've went as far back as scenario one "Elves besieged" and my conclussion is that I need lots of money for "Crossroads", which mean win #6(SoE) huge, which requires a white mage and lots of money, which again means win #4 huge. In other words:

scenario 1: Save money, finish early and get XP for your small army
scenario 2: Get as much XP as possible. Get a druid, hero and some rangers
scenario 3 "The Ilse of Anduin": It's crucial to win with LOTS of money left. Advance a few mages and get a hero more (they are good in the next scenario).
Now... Bay of Pearls (#4) seem to by the decisive scenario. You have to have at least $200. I have completed with less by killing to sea Orch, but that will leave you with out any money for scenario 6 ("Siege of Elensefar"), so that's a no go. You _have_ to either earn lots of money or kill the land Orch. Both things require superior land strength, so they are essential the same. Btw... A red mage will do wonders in this scenario, but a white mage is needed for #6 (to kill skeletons).
I've almost done this (one turn short), but it's is really really hard!


It's possible that you can earn lots of money killing the land Orch and fighting the #5a scenario, but on "Isle of the Damned" (#5b) there's not much money or XP to find. You can easily advance Konrad and win, byt letting mermen reign the seas, but you'll be left with little over $100 retained. ... which put me at SoE with $164 total - far too few.

Conclussion: Winning this campaign requires intimate knowledge of requirement for future scenarios and special behaviour of enemy forces in specific situations. This is bad game design IMHO. In BoP, I have absolute ly no reason to chose a white mage over a red, when I have two druids, but I know I'll need it. This and the money factor makes you end up doing a lot of things not need to win the current scenario and most likely not improving your current situation. In other words. You are not playing one scenario at a time, you play against requiresment of all scenarios at any given moment and you need to know them in advance to win.
The result is largely defined by how much money you get with you from Anduin.

Now... tell me that I just need to play better and earn more money :)

scott
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Post by scott »

Well, ok. First, you can do Siege of Elensefar without a white mage. You can hire lots of elvish fighters or use red mages to great effect, or any number of things.

Second, extend your logic to the hard level. Is it the game's fault if you're not skilled enough on the hard level to have enough money and units to win later levels? No! Back down to the medium level now, and the same logic applies. If you don't play skillfully enough or haven't learned some good tactics, over time you will not have earned enough gold or units and it's not the game's fault.

Your argument that the game should be playable without prior knowledge of how to win each level and no apparent minimum skill required may apply to easy. Many people have argued this before and I think this is the only valid complaint. How do you rate the game on easy?

I'm not saying you're unskilled, but I am saying it's not too much for the game to expect you to have a certain amount of skill and tactics to win at anything other than the easy level. Even at the easy level it's not a foregone conclusion and you can argue that you still need to have some skill to play without prior knowledge.


Edit: I wanted to just make it clear that I'm not attacking you, but that I only agree if you're talking about the easy level and I'm interested in whether you think this is true on easy or not.
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Kirdan
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Post by Kirdan »

scott wrote:I am saying it's not too much for the game to expect you to have a certain amount of skill and tactics
Agree. But my point is that skills and tactics are not the same as prior knowledge of the next 3-4 scenarios.
scott wrote:I wanted to just make it clear that I'm not attacking you, but that I only agree if you're talking about the easy level and I'm interested in whether you think this is true on easy or not.
Don't worry. I know my post was a bit provoking. I haven't played on easy. I actually felt that the challenges in the first 6 scenarios were at a good level on medium. Only thing was that I've realized that even though I can win SoE with only $120 from start, it just isn't going to get me past "Crossroads". So I went back trying to get a better offset for SoE and now I find my self doing a lot of things in ealier scenarios just because I know I'll need it in scenario 6. The most significant of these are probably that I don't try to settle with killing the sea Orch in BoP. Because I know that that won't get me ready for SoE. I would actually be interested if anyone had arrived at SoE with over $200 just by killing the Sea Orch in BoP and holding out to the end (which is easy if you fortify in your keep).

Also... I would add. Even on the hard level, (which I haven't played) there is a limit to just how good you can get. Even on the hard level the game can be made, but should not be made unwinable. I'm not saying I'm playning as good as you can, but I've really spend lots of time trying to beat medium level, and I think I play very decent. But even with $208, 2 heroes, 2 rangers (with good XP), 2 druids, several nealy advanced archers and figthers and two nearly advanced mages, I just can't come from BoP with enough money. Winning it is no problem.

autolycus
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Post by autolycus »

I think the main point is that scenario tactics and campign strategy are two different animals. It is possible to win individual scenarios using purely tactical skills. However, campaigns don't provide a good test of strategic skills simply because a player can't possibly evaluate the relative strengths of different strategies if the scenarios behave as random events.

I play campaigns for the story at first, not for the strategy. Once you know what's coming, you can play for the strategic win. :)
as kingfishers catch fire
so dragonflies draw flame
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Kirdan
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Post by Kirdan »

Ok... now I've played #4, #5b and #6 again. All three scenarios after the plan with no accidents. I might have been able to win Siege of Elensefar, if I had sacrificed a few valuable units to do so. Still... I find my self planing for how to beat the Siege of Elsenfar already in scenario 2 when I recruit horsemen and the strategy involves careful timing of how to ride 2 horsemen down the right map edge to assinate the necromancer. By careful I mean knowing in advance how certain orchish assassins are going to react to my movement to avoid getting a horsman poisoned. ... I don't regard this as stragegy. Its more a puzzle. ... which I guess is what I'm trying to say with the first post.

Ok... so maybe $165 is just to little to start SoE with. But I have difficult seeing how I can get more without having the upper hand from start in BoP (for which $208 is clearly not enough).. which means, back to Anduin to earn more money, which again means getting more advanced units in the two first scenarios. Unless there is a magic way to start IoA with more than $100.

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turin
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Post by turin »

1) how many advanced units do you have by the end of Isle of Anduin? you should have 4-5.

2) how much gold? i would try for ~250...

if you are playing on medium or hard, though, just go a difficulty level down. because in wesnoth, "easy" = medium, "medium" = hard, and "hard" = almost impossible.
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joshbosh321
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Post by joshbosh321 »

this shows that you should plan for the worst - I somethimes hold off completing a scenario untill my units have gotten some xp or I have captured some more villiages. Adapt these strategys, and take advantage of scenarios that obviously are meant for gold buildup (isle of anduin). Learn to look at scenarios and figure out if they're meant to be resource draining or gold building.
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Kirdan
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Post by Kirdan »

turin wrote:1) how many advanced units do you have by the end of Isle of Anduin? you should have 4-5. [

2) how much gold? i would try for ~250...
I've completed Anduin with 16-20 units (can't remember) and ~$250. But the leaves me with $208 at Bay of Pearls which doesn't seem to be enough to beat the land orch and save money enough for SoE.

I think I'll stick with medium I've read advice that tactics which work on easy break on medium so that it isn't much help to practice on easy. ... which sound reasonable.

Dacyn
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Post by Dacyn »

Kirdan wrote:Its more a puzzle.
When people say "puzzle", they usually mean scenarios like Canyon Race (A Gryphon's Tale); i.e. scenarios that have only one way to win. There are still multiple ways to prepare for the next scenarios, so it is still strategy. This:
scenario 1: Save money, finish early and get XP for your small army
scenario 2: Get as much XP as possible. Get a druid, hero and some rangers
scenario 3 "The Ilse of Anduin": It's crucial to win with LOTS of money left. Advance a few mages and get a hero more (they are good in the next scenario).
Now... Bay of Pearls (#4) seem to by the decisive scenario. You have to have at least $200. I have completed with less by killing to sea Orch, but that will leave you with out any money for scenario 6 ("Siege of Elensefar"), so that's a no go. You _have_ to either earn lots of money or kill the land Orch. Both things require superior land strength, so they are essential the same. Btw... A red mage will do wonders in this scenario, but a white mage is needed for #6 (to kill skeletons).
is a strategy you developed. It is not one intended by scenario designers.

Your real problem is that people who already know the campaign have an advantage in long-term strategy. This is true, for example it is explicit with the choice between IotD/MMP...

Kirdan
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Post by Kirdan »

Dacyn wrote:Your real problem is that people who already know the campaign have an advantage in long-term strategy. This is true, for example it is explicit with the choice between IotD/MMP...
Yes... and another example is the horseman race to kill the necromancer in SoE (which I guess is the only way to kill him unless you are loaded with $$ at the start).
I would be interested in knowing if anyone had arrived at SoE with more than $200 by only killing the sea Orch in BoP and going to IotD.

Kirdan
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Post by Kirdan »

I've given it a little more thought. I guess I'm a little influenced by my background as boardgamer (I've played lots of Empires in Arms and World in Flames). The difference here is that you play against a human opponent and every game is different. Maybe it's unfair to compare Wesnoth AI to this. Or - in other words - if there was and AI for these boardgames it would probably be the same. (ie. you know it's going to attack Pearl Harbour.).

In that light the AI in Wesnoth is actually pretty good. Which reminds me.... I've just been playing the PS2 "Buffy - Chaos Bleeds game" and it has a very bad "AI". Every thing happens in exactly the same place every time.
I guess it's just the nature of playing against AI, that it feels like more of a puzzle than strategy. And in that respect Wesnoth is certainly not worse than other games. Actually... the AI is so good it got me fooled into "forgetting" it was not an human opponent.

ott
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Post by ott »

For general campaign strategy, have a look at
http://wiki.wesnoth.org/?CampaignStrategies and please contribute any ideas of your own.

For walkthroughs and suggestions for the mainline campaigns, see http://wiki.wesnoth.org/?ScenarioDiscussion.

URLs from memory, the Wiki seems down right now.

autolycus
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Post by autolycus »

Dacyn wrote:Your real problem is that people who already know the campaign have an advantage in long-term strategy. This is true, for example it is explicit with the choice between IotD/MMP...
I was wondering about this problem, so these are some thoughts about possible solutions:

1) more branches - hard to implement; it just means that you have to go through the tree more times if you want to 'master' the game.
2) more randoms and surprises in each scenario.
3) more limitations, so that players are forced into strategies which are always suboptimal - which means their tactics have to be superoptimal.
4) clearly limited options (or at least, clearly implied limited options) so that players -know- they are going to be 'unfairly' treated if a killer scenario is on the way.

I think 1) is good but too difficult - needs time most of us don't have. I think 2) is a bit arbitrary, becomes 'find the easter egg' quite often. I think 3) is good because it encourages more careful thought - things are tough, yet you know you have a chance if you plan ahead. I think 4) is good if you do it through 'story' clues and 'story' effects.

What limitations can be imposed? Some obvious ones: time controls make army strength less important, gold controls make army quality (however the player calculates that) and 'loyal' more important, use of scenario terrain that cuts down advantages of speed and defence inherent to a particular faction or range of available units.

How can the player be fairly prepared while still allowing for plot surprises etc? We've got many good examples in existing scenarios - e.g. choice between tundra or swamp campaign with the obvious problems of each and the obvious enemies 'native' to each. If the plot allows choice of branch and the story clearly outlines the expected limitations without giving away specific surprises, that's good.

Lines like "You will not likely be able to seize the fort and hold it, master," from one advisor in a story, followed by "I believe there are ways around this obstacle," from another advisor, can hint to the player that the direct approach would be difficult. Advice about rockfalls is good, and better if the player is given the choice between rushing through and taking damage or going slow and wasting time but not taking damage.

A lot of this stuff is based on what seems to work for me as I play through the scenarios. It's a sort of 'best practices' list, my opinion only.
as kingfishers catch fire
so dragonflies draw flame
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Dacyn
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Post by Dacyn »

autolycus wrote:1) is good but too difficult - needs time most of us don't have.
If people had the time, they would also have the time to beat the system. So it's worthless :)
Same thing for 2)...

autolycus
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Post by autolycus »

Dacyn wrote:
autolycus wrote:1) is good but too difficult - needs time most of us don't have.
If people had the time, they would also have the time to beat the system. So it's worthless :)
Same thing for 2)...
Yes, it takes more time to put the stuff in than for a bunch of dedicated gamers to break... :) Ideally, if you generate branches more quickly than they could be attacked, you would be in a good situation. No, it's not totally worthless - you still get some additional replay value. Some.
as kingfishers catch fire
so dragonflies draw flame
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