Campaign Design How-To

Discussion and development of scenarios and campaigns for the game.

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Aldarisvet
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Aldarisvet »

taptap wrote: Allowing players, who were worse in one part to recover.
But if you face a campaign with a stable medium difficutly, you always can make an effort, concentrate yourself and recover a bit.

And totally another feeling you have when you pass some scenarios relatively easy and relaxed, and then suddenly you are shoked with an absolutely hard scenario, that demands all your resources or even almost impassable with resources you get already. Often this means that you have to replay 2-3 previous easy scenarios much carefully, and that thing (replaying scenarios) is what I hate most. Also I myself faced with others reaction playing my own campaign. People will never replay previous scenarios, they rather will use mass save&loads or debug mode. The difficulty level of the campaign must be shown on the very first scenario, not on some damned 4th scenario. So if the person see he cannot pass the first scenario on some level, he should choose easier level of difficutly.

In fact it is absolutely possible to create a good campaign with a fixed difficulty. Dead Water, for example. I cannot say that there are too easy or too hard scenarios in this campaign. All scenarios are challenging a bit at the hard difficulty.
Even Secret of the Ancients is more plain in difficulty that The Hammer Of Thursagan.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by taptap »

Aldarisvet wrote:People will never replay previous scenarios, they rather will use mass save&loads or debug mode.
This is not true. You reload yourself, so you assume everyone does, but you are wrong. Especially when balancing, do not reload. I played plenty of scenarios 3-4 times from start in Panther Lord and even restarted the whole campaign twice (when I was half-way through) before I managed to finish it on highest difficulty without saveload. I abandon campaigns that require saveload or debug, thus I never played some relatively popular UMC, where even the creator can't be bothered to play properly.

Balancing gold is crucial and I believe the guide is correct about that, while I am not convinced THoT does it that well itself. BUT the guide is wrong in equating gold scarcity with playing difficulty, they do not correlate at all. Gold draining scenarios can be easy (just few villages and low turn limit, while you have to recruit at least a few units), gold flood scenarios hard (think about several scenarios at the end of The Rise of Wesnoth) and having this variation helps. Instead of ever increasing differences between players, that makes balancing impossible, a little gold draining assures that you can balance for the next scenario with a reasonable expectation that everyone is close to minimum gold.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Inky »

Regarding the design guide and THoT, I find it baffling that esr specifically states not to use narrow bottlenecks in dungeon maps because they are frustrating, but then proceeds to fill the last scenario of THoT with them. I think the last scenario of THoT could really use a new map because all the bottlenecks make it just boring and tedious, and based on the scenario feedback thread most players feel the same way.
Aldarisvet wrote: And totally another feeling you have when you pass some scenarios relatively easy and relaxed, and then suddenly you are shoked with an absolutely hard scenario, that demands all your resources or even almost impassable with resources you get already.
I agree this is bad (Legend of Wesmere's Human Alliance was a particularly nasty example before they sort of fixed it in 1.12) but now there's always the option of changing the campaign difficulty partway through.
Aldarisvet wrote: Also I myself faced with others reaction playing my own campaign. People will never replay previous scenarios, they rather will use mass save&loads or debug mode.
I haven't played your campaign myself so I'm only guessing, but since you advertised your campaign as being extremely difficult, maybe this means that you've made your campaign too hard?
taptap wrote:I abandon campaigns that require saveload or debug, thus I never played some relatively popular UMC, where even the creator can't be bothered to play properly.
(If you haven't already) maybe you could try leaving the authors some feedback? Most UMC authors seem really open to player feedback and might be willing to make balancing changes based on people's comments. And even if the authors don't read it, I'm sure it would still be of interest to other players.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Chief_Chasso »

Aldarisvet wrote:And totally another feeling you have when you pass some scenarios relatively easy and relaxed, and then suddenly you are shoked with an absolutely hard scenario, that demands all your resources or even almost impassable with resources you get already.
I don't know... I think there should be some varying degree of difficulty between scenarios within a campaign. I think it adds excitement, but also rewarding for the player if they beat a particularly challenging scenario. And it seems players will most likely remember the more difficult scenarios, because they stand out more.

But I also think that there cannot be extreme variations in difficulty. I think that was the point in the guide.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Whiskeyjack »

Without being really for or against it, I can see why someone would want varying degrees of difficulty in scenarios (for highest difficulty): If you can only beat highest difficulties by knowing the campaign very well (like having to try your hardest in the "easy" scenarios), it might add to the replay value of a campaign (from a tactical point of view). You beat it once on some lower difficulty and then go for the highest one.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Aldarisvet »

taptap wrote:
Aldarisvet wrote:People will never replay previous scenarios, they rather will use mass save&loads or debug mode.
This is not true. You reload yourself, so you assume everyone does, but you are wrong. Especially when balancing, do not reload. I played plenty of scenarios 3-4 times from start in Panther Lord and even restarted the whole campaign twice (when I was half-way through) before I managed to finish it on highest difficulty without saveload. I abandon campaigns that require saveload or debug, thus I never played some relatively popular UMC, where even the creator can't be bothered to play properly.
I never said I use reloads, but people in general are not so honest, especially players without multiplayer experience.
After I faced that scenario with bandits I decided to start the whole campaign from the start and I played all scenarios without reloads at all. Because at the first time I was focusing more on Thunderers, and in that scenario I understood that I need more advanced Guardsmans.
But I lost my paticence when I saw the scenario with elves because I understand that I have to start over 2 scenarios back again. I do not have desire to play bad campaigns, I do not have much excessive time in my life because I am father of 2 sons.
You seemingly have more patience, but look. If you have to study the campaign and to know more about it in a whole before being able to pass it, this is not a good campaign (btw this is written also in the topic guide-file).
The player is not a seer to forsee what type of units he would need in the future. The campaign must be made in so way that the player would not have to guess and have a risk being wrong in his choice. I already wrote about in the Secrets of the Ancients feedback thread.
Specifically lets take that scenario with drakes. In that scenario you are granted with mages [later added: actually this is wrong, I forget that this happens only in the next scenario and that is even more strange]. This scenario is extremely easy for the one reason - to advance as much mages as you can, because they are needed in the future. But why I should recruit damned level1 mages, when I have high-level dwarves that can tear apart drakes? (and moreover, I repeat, this is a dwarvish campaign and making a big accent on the mages is not good for me, the campaign should discover specifics of different dwarvish units and adding healers there just ruining it all). Should I forsee that I will face elves in the forest in the future?
The player should be delicately guided through the campaign. In particular, in the case with that drake scenario, there are too choices:
1). You do not have ability to recruit veteran dwaves. Possibly they are gone somewhere for this scenario with the main hero and you have only the Loremaster left with the Archmage and mages to recruit. That will force the player to advance mages because he have no other choice. The scenario would be more challenging because it is harder to fight drakes only with mages - but this for good! Give the player more gold there, so he can afford losing some mages during the fight. But he will have lot of advanced mages to the scenario with forest. This option is really easy to implement for this campaign.
2) You are forced in that situation that even veteran dwarves are worse that level1 mages that you just got. Possibly it is hard to create such situation, may be except the case that you have already fight with the elves in the forest instead of drakes. So another option is - you have your veteran dwarvish units but you have to immediately to use your newly granted mages in the large scale as a main firepower. This option is not suitable for the THoT, but may be a hint for campaign developers. If you granting a new unit type to the player, care to make it clear that the player badly needs to advance a lot of units of that type asap, and not rely just on that: 'Oh, I gifted him this unit type to recruit in this scenario, so 2 scenarios later he would definetely have a lot of advanced units of this type where they are really badly needed'.

I hope that my ideas are clear.
Whiskeyjack wrote:Without being really for or against it, I can see why someone would want varying degrees of difficulty in scenarios (for highest difficulty): If you can only beat highest difficulties by knowing the campaign very well (like having to try your hardest in the "easy" scenarios), it might add to the replay value of a campaign (from a tactical point of view). You beat it once on some lower difficulty and then go for the highest one.
I can understand this argument, but I think that this is not a good way to add a replay value. Not in that price. In fact you are saying that tomato surprises is a good way to make a campaign intresting.

Look what is written in the topic guide file, and in this point I agree:
________________________
Hence, the *First-Time-Possible Rule (FTPR)*: It should be possible for a skilled enough Wesnoth player to win each scenario without any restarts first time he/she plays it, provided he/she doesn't make any actual mistakes and is not seriously unlucky.
________________________
If that that First-Time-Possible Rule works over every scenario, this of course should work about a campaign in a whole.
Last edited by Aldarisvet on February 2nd, 2016, 7:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Sire »

I'll guess I'l leave my opinions on making campaigns in this topic, hopefully they will prove to be useful to those aspiring to make campaigns or to veterans looking for ideas.

In regards to making campaigns, I believe the most difficult part about making one is trying to take in consideration the variability of recalled units and carryover gold. I believe the guide tried to address this variability by having an "easy scenario, then hard scenario", but that is just one idea of attempting balance. I consider the cornerstone of campaigns to be the overarching story and the ability to recall units, the carryover gold aspect I do not care much for.

So, in theory, if did not use the carryover system and taking into account the recall system not being abused (recruiting units higher than 20 gold and then just recalling them in the next scenario as need be), I think campaigns may be able to be better balanced down the road. While my current campaigns does use the gold carryover system, if I ever get around to making any more, I am considering not using gold carryover.

As for balancing campaigns and doing developer playthroughs, I do not save and reload, in contrast of how I would play normal Wesnoth. Making sure each scenario is beatable without even having to save or reload is important. Now, as for guidelines on how to achieve balance, I use Wesnoth's gold system as a balancing guide. I believe this is mentioned in the guide, but remember that the initial gold values will provide just an estimate, these values may have to be adjusted alongside other factors (unit recruitment, map design, etc), to get a more balanced map. Remember that balance and difficulty are two different things, just because a scenario is hard does not mean it is not balanced.

I design my maps and scenarios for first time playthroughs on Normal. Then, if the player wants some replay value and some more of a challenge, they can try Hard difficulty. As for the difficulty curve, I prefer the traditional "curve" where the difficulty ramps up over the course of the campaign, making sense as the player understands how the campaign works and having more veterans to recall.

For the most part, I think it may just be differing philosophies how to make campaigns. Everyone has their own method of achieving their goal, and some aspects may be shared across the different methods. As long as the end result is "fun, not frustration", then I think the creator did a good job.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Whiskeyjack »

Aldarisvet wrote:I can understand this argument, but I think that this is not a good way to add a replay value. Not in that price. In fact you are saying that tomato surprises is a good way to make a campaign intresting.

Look what is written in the topic guide file, and in this point I agree:
________________________
Hence, the *First-Time-Possible Rule (FTPR)*: It should be possible for a skilled enough Wesnoth player to win each scenario without any restarts first time he/she plays it, provided he/she doesn't make any actual mistakes and is not seriously unlucky.
________________________
If that that First-Time-Possible Rule works over every scenario, this of course should work about a campaign in a whole.
Actually, I didn´t. Like I said in my very first sentence, I´m neither for nor against this ;) (meaning I didn´t want to judge this).

The argument I brought forward of course only applies to highest difficulty and was a reaction to your criticism of match-ups/maps like in THoT. I wasn´t thinking of tomato surprises when writing that. I think the rule esr establishes here is a good one, however there is a certain ceiling for the difficulty a player can beat on first run - take that for difficulty hard if you like. I see no problem with adding another layer over this (e.g. calling it nightmare) which is only beatable by being a very good player and knowing the campaign. You can include bad match-ups + difficult terrain in your campaign, it´s all a matter of the gold + time available. Therefore you can balance scenarios to still be beatable in such match-ups without rushing a certain unit type at a certain point (and honestly, I never had your problems in that campaign, rushing ~2 healers and using normals dwarves worked just fine for me in the forest scenario IIRC, it´s all a matter of AI manipulation and terrain exploitation), but you can add a higher difficulty by giving more gold to the enemies such that only a player knowing how to build his army prior to the scenario could beat it.
-> There is only another option here, not a "price to be paid". That would only apply if said mechanics kick in on medium difficulty or the like - which then should be rightfully criticized according to esr´s guiding principles.
Sire wrote:As long as the end result is "fun, not frustration", then I think the creator did a good job.
I think this is the crux of the matter. There are very different designers and very different players and there are always people liking a thing and others that don´t like it. There are people who like tomato surprises for example. Most people don´t, but you could still make a good scenario with those - only for a smaller audience. I think at least some of the points brought up in this discussion are just to subjective on a certain matter, to be generalized into a sepparation in "good" and "bad" design or even the judgement of a certain campaign/scenario to be either.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by Aldarisvet »

Ups, I found that I was mistaken.
You cannon recruit mages in the scenario with drakes in THOT! I somehow forget about it.
That only makes me really wonder, what for it is so extremely easy scenario then.
You can recruit mages from Fear scenario.
______________________

Now look at this. There are two replays for Fear scenario here.
On old one, where I used recalled veteran level3 dwarves. After facing the next scenario with elves in the forest I understood that I could do absolutely nothing. Moreover I was at minimum gold because level3 dwarves are costly to support. Yea, that was the reason why I became angry about this campaign.
And a new one, that I played today. I recruited only level1 mages at that time (except gryphon rider, he is loyal). And I finished this scenario with lot of advanced mages and with bonus gold. Because level1 mages are cheap to support.
This is LOL! Mages with Inspire just rocks!
I repeat again, is this a dwarvish campaign? No, it is not. I will prove that I am right finishing it using no more dwarves recalled and recruited. I already relatevily easely passed the forest scenario. Yea, mages rocks there.

First attempt replay
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Only mages replay
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Last edited by Aldarisvet on January 31st, 2016, 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by octalot »

Aldarisvet wrote:Now look at this. There are two replays for Fear scenario here.
Your recruitment seems unbalanced - only units with pierce damage (guardsmen and thunderers), never scouts nor fighters. And including the auto-recalls, there are only 10 units on the recall list, but there are four already-max-level units with 62. 68. 75 and 77 XP.

The walkthough suggests using pathfinders (scouts) on the forest map, for ranged blade damage.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

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Aldarisvet wrote:I repeat again, is this a dwarvish campaign? No, it is not. I will prove that I am right finishing it using no more dwarves recalled and recruited. I already relatevily easely passed the forest scenario. Yea, mages rocks there.
And your point exactly is? So the creator didn´t intend it as a solely dwarvish campaign, so what? If you don´t like that, go make your own dwarf campaign!?
Good luck in the last scenario, I don´t think it is possible to beat without dwarves, but that would certainly be an accomplishment...
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

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Well, the last scenario is undeatable without dwarves for sure.
I just finished that masochistic scenario.
However I was able to pass forest scenario even killing 2 elvish leaders (I think with desire it is possible to kill all 3). At least I got some revenge, it was a pleasure to fry Woses with Red mages, and also elves are vulnerabe to arcane. Then I passed orcish siege scenario recalling mages only too.
The main thing I am happy that yesterday I was able to pass Fear scenario using only mages. It was intresting to play it, carefully thinking about every step while using Loremasters Inspire ability. Still I cant belive that so great masses of dwarves was killed by some level1 mages. So I am less angry on this campaign now, but still I think there are many bad things in it, and it can not be a sample. The last scenario is a king of boredom. Some scenarios are really too easy (and my main point as I wrote in the beginning that the difficulty of scenarios in the campaign should not jump from super easy to hard), and scenario in the forest just demonstrates how weak dwarves in the forest against elves, so if you unprepeared, you can be helpless. I do not think that pathfinders will help there much, mages needed there badly. However I think that with some extra gold (above minimum for scenario) it is possible to pass (break through) the forest scenario without mages, sacrificing some sentinels, leaving them to die, they have good resisitances defending and have 40% rate at forest, and they could cover retreating heroes attracting attacks on them, but I do not like retreating losing high-level units, I prefer killing enemy leaders :D
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

Post by taptap »

Aldarisvet wrote:Well, the last scenario is undeatable without dwarves for sure.
If you have an issue with The Hammer of Thursagan, please remember that this is not the place to discuss it at length. There are feedback threads elsewhere.
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Re: Campaign Design How-To

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taptap wrote:
Aldarisvet wrote:Well, the last scenario is undeatable without dwarves for sure.
If you have an issue with The Hammer of Thursagan, please remember that this is not the place to discuss it at length. There are feedback threads elsewhere.
It was not about only The Hammer of Thursagan campaign, it was about campaigns building. I will sum up, and will no more bother this thread.

Things that should not be done in the good campaign, from my point of view.
1. Do not make series of medium and easy difficulty scenarios ended up with some really hard (especially when you cycling this practice through the campaign). Relaxed player could be unprepeared for sharp growing of difficulty.
2. Player is not a seer, he do not know your campaign as you do. Do not expect him to advance units exactly of type that is specially needed for some hard scenario. If you gifted him a new unit type, do not expect that player will rush to advance new units of this type. Give him more time, make some hints that high-level units of this type would be needed in the future.
3. Every scenario should be passable with the starting minimum amount of gold that is defined for this scenario because otherwise there is no difference between having or not having that minimum amount, it could be just 0 gold then. [What exactly I faced in Forbidded forest is all this 3 points violated. And probably the third was most devastating. 80 gold, to recall 4 units, is that serious for so suddenly hard scenario???]
4. Do not make super long scenarios with many bottlenecks. The player would be tired and bored with 100+ turns. [Also in case of Undelevels scenario that leads to the effect that the dungeon map looks quite quadratic and unnatural. Would be much better to split the scenario in 2 scenarios, to fight undead in another map].
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