[Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Brainstorm ideas of possible additions to the game. Read this before posting!

Moderators: Forum Moderators, Developers

Forum rules
Before posting a new idea, you must read the following:
Scatha
Posts: 111
Joined: March 29th, 2008, 2:55 pm

[Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Scatha »

Summary of Proposal
While it's okay, the 'Marksman' weapon special is more complicated than most abilities in Wesnoth, less well tied to its lore explanation, and occupies design space too similar to the 'Magical' weapon special. An alternative ability is proposed which addresses all of these concerns. Impact on gameplay is discussed and possible objections are addressed.

Proposed replacement ability:
(We will refer to this as 'New Marksman' to distinguish it from the existing ability, 'Old Marksman').

New Marksman is a weapon special which means that, when attacking, the chance to hit is ten percentage points higher than normal ("An extra 10% absolute chance to hit when attacking.").

The idea originates from this thread: http://forums.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=27154 , where it was discussed as a possible melee ability.
Problems with Old Marksman
Complexity and proximity to Magical:
Compared to other abilities in Wesnoth, such as Magical, Charge, Skirmisher, Regenerates, or Illuminates, Old Marksman is slightly on the complicated side. The level of complexity is not high, but it is aggravated by the fact that the rules aren't powerfully tied to the lore behind the ability (as in Leadership, Slows, or Poisons), and the fact that it's a very similar ability to the simpler and better designed 'Magical'.

Magical is "Always 70% chance to hit". Old Marksman is "When attacking, at least 60% chance to hit." There are three small differences: 60 rather than 70 makes them feel a little different but in terms of facilitating interesting gameplay isn't much of a difference; 'at least' feels like it should be a bigger difference, but since most of the time most units have defences of 40 and above, this clause isn't really pulling its weight; 'when attacking' is the clause which does the most and the one I propose to keep.

New Marksman is of a similar complexity to Old Marksman. To my mind it is slightly simpler (it replaces "min(X, 60)" with "X+10"), but in any case it's fairly close. It gains in that it's a better fit to the flavour of 'Marksmanship', and that it no longer lies in the shadow of Magical.


Lore behind Marksman:
The idea of a Marksman is simply someone who is, when given a chance to prepare their attack, unusually good at hitting their target. New Marksman interprets this by always increasing their chance to hit. Old Marksman interprets this by making cover useless. Now, "cover is useless" is a very powerful concept, but it is better fitted by Magical, both in lore terms (what use hiding against magic?) and in the elegance of the execution of the Magical weapon special.

Old Marksman stands up less well to scrutiny of interpretations in specific situations.
Example (1): You're being shot at by an expert marksman, who is known to be so good that they can pick off targets in cover fairly reliably. Wouldn't you still rather have some trees or battlements to hide behind than be caught in the open, even if they help less than normal?
Example (2): A rookie archer and an expert marksman are taking shots. Against opponents who hide themselves well, the expert has a much higher hit rate, but, inexplicably, when given a clear shot at targets in the open the expert misses just as many as the rookie (and as many as they did against targets in cover).
Gameplay Implications
Of course WINR, and if a poorly justified ability gives rise to better gameplay than a more carefully matched one, it's generally going to be better to go with the first. With that said, I'd like to consider gameplay implications.

Generalities: The first thing to notice is that New Marksman is still best against high defence units. Against a unit on 70% terrain it gives +33% expected damage, while against unit on 40% terrain it will be half that. That said of course in comparison to Old Marksman it's the same against units on 50% terrain, worse against units on higher defence terrain, and better against units that are already easy to hit.

So New Marksman does work as a terrain neutraliser, but it leaves the absolute terrain neutralisation to Magical. It emphasises attacking over defence, since it is always useful when attacking. This gives it more of a unique character among abilities, as well as helping 'Magical' to feel more, well, magical.

We now discuss specific units.

Orcish Assassin / Slayer
For the Assassin the main question is whether one hits at least once. With Old Marksman it's a slightly boring flat 93.6% chance. With New Marksman this can vary, but remains high (78.4% chance to poison a unit on 70% terrain), and is more reliable against units in the open (97.3% chance against a unit on 40% terrain). I think that overally this makes the Assassin more interesting to use and defend against, without changing balance very much one way or the other.

The Slayer, in multiplayer most often seen as a side Leader, does a bit more raw damage. Again it seems that the positives of the change are of roughly the same order as the negative, but this will generally make the Slayer slightly better against cavalry and drakes, and slightly worse against saurians and elusivefoot units (discussed more under the Elvish Marksman below).

Drake Glider
While there are some changes, I'm not sure there are any large implications for the drake glider line (though scout vs scout fights should be considered). In particular note that it is no change whatsoever against ghosts, the opposing scout against whom their fire breath is most powerful.

Elvish Marksman
This would get noticeably better against drakes and horses, and noticeably worse against elusivefoot units. The elusivefoot movetype gives units high defences in exchange for negative physical resists. Roughly, these two cancel out most of the time, with most attacks which bypass the defence value having Magical as well as a magic damage type. Old Marksman attacks with significant damage and a physical damage type bypass the high defence but still benefit from the low physical resists, making them extremely powerful. New Marksman would still be more use against elusivefoot units than it would against just about any other type of unit, but it would no longer be crazily good against them. My personal feeling is that that is probably a good thing, but your mileage may vary.

Arif (from the Khalifate):
I think that New Marksman would improve the balance of the Khalifate against Knalgans, by making Hodor-style tactics (i.e. recruiting mostly outlaws) more of a possibility; currently the Arif is incredibly strong against footpads and thieves. I don't know how important it is to discuss this one, since the Khalifate are still being balanced and I'm sure a method would be found to balance them with Old Marksman, but I wanted to mention it as an incidental effect (and perhaps benefit).
Possible Objections
"This leads to certain hits!"
In the thread I linked to above, where something similar was being discussed, some people objected on the grounds that New Marksman could lead to situations in which you could get certain hits (against Heavy Infantry in swamp or shallow water, or Skeletons in deep water), and that attacks without luck had no place in Wesnoth. I would like to respectfully point out that this objection is misguided: while luck is a very important part of the game, there are lots of parts of the game already which are deterministic (for instance, movement, or the maximum amount of damage a unit can do) without causing a problem for the game. Moreover there already exist situations of guaranteed kills: ulfzerkers attacking dark adepts. These by no means spoil the game, and they probably come up more often than attacking a HI in swamp with a marksman unit.

"It will upset the balance!"
Ahh ... perhaps. I think I make the case above that this would have a relatively minimal effect on balance, but of course the effect would be non-zero. I would want to test this, and if this idea gets enough support in principal I would be very happy to test it.

"It will make the gameplay less fun!"
I believe that this will make the gameplay more fun rather than less fun, by making it more different from Magical, but it's possible that the Magical is just such an important effect for the game that duplicating it is more helpful than having a different ability. And while New Marksman is a little cleaner to describe than Old Marksman, it is more obvious how to use Old Marksman in game. Again I think that testing would be helpful.
What now?
I'd love to find out other people's opinions on this. If there's substantial support, I'll probably teach myself some WML and make an era to test this and find out whether either of the last two possible objections I mention has substantial merit.

Velensk
Multiplayer Contributor
Posts: 3991
Joined: January 24th, 2007, 12:56 am

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Velensk »

I actually kind of like this idea, though I do think marksman as it was before was a fine ability, I just think that this would be more generically useful. Marksman as it was used before only gave you any sort of advantage if your enemy was in cover or good at dodging.
"There are two kinds of old men in the world. The kind who didn't go to war and who say that they should have lived fast died young and left a handsome corpse and the old men who did go to war and who say that there is no such thing as a handsome corpse."

User avatar
em3
Posts: 342
Joined: April 1st, 2009, 8:59 pm
Location: Poland

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by em3 »

I like the idea. ^_^

This will make the Marksman trait even more different from Magical.
ride on shooting star

User avatar
Maiklas3000
Posts: 532
Joined: June 23rd, 2010, 10:43 am

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Maiklas3000 »

I like the idea, on the basis of being easier to understand, more realistic, and tactically-enriching. I do have one concern. Marksmen are used most often against 60% defense, IMHO, such as most units on fortress or mountain hexes as well as most flying units. And, as you pointed out, the proposed change would make Marksmen less effective against 60% defense. The way you did your calculation, you would say the proposed Marksman would be 16.666% less effective on 60% defense, but a better way to say is that you lose 50% of the Marksman bonus in that case, so that's really a big nerfing.

Caphriel
Posts: 994
Joined: April 21st, 2008, 4:10 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Caphriel »

As Maiklas pointed out, this would be a considerable role change to the marksman weapon special. It would make Marksman somewhat more effective against units with low defense, and considerably less effective against units with high defense. Elvish marksmen would become more effective against cavalry and drakes (80% chance to hit drakes in the open?), and considerably less effective against units with high defense. Although elusivefoot got mentioned, this would also reduce the effectiveness of the assassin against dwarves in hills and mountains, and assassins are very important in that matchup.

I can only address multiplayer balance, but I think, given the current balance, that some effort would need to be made to adjust if this change were implemented. Assassins are very important for finishing elusivefoot units, and high defense units in general, because of the tendency of the Northerners to be limited to two strikes. Similarly, the ability of gliders to reliably finish off low-health units is important to the Drakes under certain circumstances, when not wasting damage is more important than giving experience to another unit.

Just some things to consider.

Scatha
Posts: 111
Joined: March 29th, 2008, 2:55 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Scatha »

Maiklas and Caphriel, thanks for the comments. I did think about these points and wrote a little about them in my original post, but perhaps I should have discussed them more fully.
Maiklas3000 wrote:Marksmen are used most often against 60% defense, IMHO, such as most units on fortress or mountain hexes as well as most flying units.
I think that in ideal situations this is what marksman is used for, and in campaigns it may be true that this is most of the time. In multiplayer you don't always have enough units to afford you such efficiency, so while you do have a nerf here (and there are lots of different ways to express the change numerically -- I think the cleanest way of thinking about it is as a cut from a 50% bonus to a 25% one, which I agree is substantial), it should be made up for at least in part by the bonus they get in attacking units on lower defence ground. I'm not sure whether it's actually a nerf overall, but it would change the role of the marksman special a bit (moving from a total specialist at dealing with high defence to a generally good buff which particularly helps against high defence). It may well be that this would be more of a nerf in campaigns, where you tend to have more control of the situation.
Caphriel wrote:Although elusivefoot got mentioned, this would also reduce the effectiveness of the assassin against dwarves in hills and mountains, and assassins are very important in that matchup.
Assassins would get slightly less effective against dwarves in hills and mountains, however here (as I expressed) the relevant thing is normally hitting once. Against a dwarf in hills (60% defence) the chance of poisoning drops from 93.6% to 87.5%, which is not a huge change. Against that, one would reduce the rate of frustrating failure to poison units caught in the open.

Likewise drake gliders would become a little worse at finishing low health units in high defence (particularly when they need 2 or 3 out of their 3 hits), but also become a little better at finishing low health units in low defence situations. It's not obvious to me which of these is a bigger effect; my guess is that's in the vicinity of neutral, but I'd want to test to discover if that's correct.

If you think my judgement is off on this one, though, do say! Also if you think of any other situations where it would have serious impact which I might have missed.

(Velensk and em3, thanks for the support -- it is useful to discover)

Caphriel
Posts: 994
Joined: April 21st, 2008, 4:10 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Caphriel »

The chance of failing to poison a dwarf in the mountains (or any other case of 70% defense) jumps from 6.4% to 21.6%, though. Failing over three times as often; slightly over 1/5 of each attempt. Consider that this is the primary method the Northerners have for removing dwarves from mountains... Similarly, while currently attempting to poison an elf archer in forest may be a good idea, it'd become a lots less of a good idea if you have a 1/5 chance of failing. I don't think the increased odds against targets with low defense balances that out, because the Northerners have other options for dealing with units on low defense.

I'm not saying that this is would be a bad change, but the Northerners in particular rely on the marksman weapon special being good against units with high defense.

Scatha
Posts: 111
Joined: March 29th, 2008, 2:55 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Scatha »

Caphriel wrote:The chance of failing to poison a dwarf in the mountains (or any other case of 70% defense) jumps from 6.4% to 21.6%, though. Failing over three times as often; slightly over 1/5 of each attempt.
While correct, "Failing over three times as often" is kind of misleading, as it's simply the wrong measurement to take here (for example, consider a drop from a 99.99% chance to poison to a 99.96% chance; while failing over three times as often this has a negligible effect on the actual power level). The relevant measure here is the ratio between the success rates, and that shows that the chance of poisoning is about 83.7% what it was before. So this is a nerf which in the worst case (and 70% doesn't come up that much) is less bad than the recent nerf to footpad damage (OK I'm rhetorically overstating my case here a little bit, since sometimes you don't just care about poisoning them) and is balanced by several good effects when you attack the (more frequent) low defences.

All this said, I would want to watch the effects on the assassin closely.

Caphriel
Posts: 994
Joined: April 21st, 2008, 4:10 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Caphriel »

Good point. The 1/5 failure rate was the more relevant bit. Failure rate goes from about 1/19 to 1/5, which is pretty significant. The footpad change was a nerf made for balance reasons, not a nerf made for... well, flavor reasons.

However, while you can say that the lower probability of poisoning units with high defense is balanced by the higher probability of poisoning units with low defense, players generally care more about poisoning the ones with high defense.

Atz
Art Contributor
Posts: 313
Joined: August 21st, 2008, 2:22 am

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Atz »

If this were changed in the way suggested, it might be possible to fix the assassin problem by giving it an extra strike. This would raise the chance to poison against units in 60% to almost exactly where it was before. However, then the issue would be its effectiveness against units in the open... at the very least, damage per strike would need to be changed.

Caphriel
Posts: 994
Joined: April 21st, 2008, 4:10 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Caphriel »

I considered suggesting that, but then it's damage against elusivefoot units drops. If it's 2-4 instead of 3-3, then it does 3-4 at night against units with -30% blade resist, instead of 5-3. On the other hand, it'd be extremely high probability to poison units on 40% defense. 99.19%, if I did the math right.

Insinuator
Posts: 706
Joined: January 6th, 2004, 10:42 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Insinuator »

Scatha wrote:In multiplayer you don't always have enough units to afford you such efficiency, so while you do have a nerf here (and there are lots of different ways to express the change numerically -- I think the cleanest way of thinking about it is as a cut from a 50% bonus to a 25% one, which I agree is substantial), it should be made up for at least in part by the bonus they get in attacking units on lower defence ground. I'm not sure whether it's actually a nerf overall, but it would change the role of the marksman special a bit (moving from a total specialist at dealing with high defence to a generally good buff which particularly helps against high defence). It may well be that this would be more of a nerf in campaigns, where you tend to have more control of the situation.
Changing Marksman in this manner is most certainly a "nerf" regardless of MP or SP. Marksman is designed to dislodge entrenched enemies from highly defensible positions. Particularly with regard to the Orcish Assassin, it is their key way to defeat the Dwarves. This change would make it easier to hit units in the open, which, I'll admit, makes more sense from a realistic viewpoint, but weakens the ability. Who cares if you've got 80% or 70% when poisoning a Drake on grass? As was mentioned above, with three strikes, it makes little difference. However, if the same is applied to a Footpad on a village or a Dwarf on a mountain, the difference between 40% chance to hit and 60% is huge! Those are the cases that really matter.

And as far as efficiency of units, MP requires it far more than SP does. You must choose very carefully which units to move where precisely because you have so few. So weakening the ability of a key unit for the Orcs can lead to a domino effect of weakening their entire ability versus Dwarves, Elves, and perhaps even Humans.

Your explanation does makes more sense than the current implementation, though.

Scaeb
Posts: 96
Joined: April 14th, 2011, 3:21 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Scaeb »

I like the suggestion, makes more sense.

The assassin-implications however must be thoroughly contemplated. The other marksmen would be less affected, as the just abovementioned "dislodging" is only a relevant tactics in combination with poison.

Glenn
Posts: 2
Joined: July 26th, 2010, 3:39 pm

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Glenn »

I personally think it's a good idea, explains the background and such much better than the old marksman. However, it remains true that old marksman is the ability always used for dislodging elusivefoot and other high defense units (especially in the orcs' case). Honestly though, i think that it may be a good change to make the orcish assassin actually ABLE to fail. Having an 87.5% chance compared to a... what was it? 97.5% chance to poison something doesn't really make much of a difference (think: shooting at units sitting in water), and it also reduces the frustration of a next-to garuantee that at least one of your units is going to get poisoned every time an assassin pops up. I honestly don't think that it's really an issue fighting dwarves, because there are so few mountain hexes on most maps anyway, and you still have a ridiculous cth.
With non-poisoning marksmen, this could have a bigger negative effect, especially with elves. while it's true that elves have the ability to buy magi, players rarely do because they're too slow to keep up with the rest of an elvish force in, say a forest. My elvish armies are always powered along by at least 2 marksmen (in campaigns) and it's always one of my high priorities to get one (in mp). This would drastically reduce their combat effectiveness in their intended area of excellence (dislodging elusivefoot units and other units with high defense). Granted, it would make slaughtering hordes of cavalry a whole lot easier but that's unimportant, seeing as elves have ridiculous amount of archers in their armies. If you can fix that thing with the elves' balance, then I'm 100% behind this, but otherwise i still think it's a good idea.
Thumbs-up :D

User avatar
Kranix
Posts: 6
Joined: November 28th, 2010, 8:06 pm
Location: Denmark

Re: [Mainline] Replace the 'Marksman' weapon special

Post by Kranix »

I am not experienced enough to say much about this idea, but I'd like to point something out:
Scatha wrote:Moreover there already exist situations of guaranteed kills: ulfzerkers attacking dark adepts.
Wesnoth help wrote:berserk
Whether used offensively or defensively, this attack presses the engagement until of the combatants is slain, or 30 rounds of attacks have occurred.
Theoretically, it's possible for a DA to survive an ulfserker attack.
Last edited by Kranix on May 18th, 2011, 7:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Post Reply