Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

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sabalzen
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Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by sabalzen »

I very much enjoyed playing the campaigns for novices, mostly on 'Easy' setting. I also very much enjoyed playing 'Heir to the Throne', on 'Medium'. I even enjoyed the first few scenarios of 'Northern Rebirth' which is supposed to be for experts. But most of the campaigns I find to be frustratingly difficult, to the point where pretty rapidly they just aren't fun. Many of the scenarios include 'surprises' that make it very difficult to make it through at the first attempt, and appear to be designed to put players off rather than encouraging them to play further. In fact 'Heir to the Throne' is the only long campaign I've finished.

Most games I've played, after this much practice, I'd expect to be winning far more often than not on normal, default settings. Whereas on average, I'd guess that in the BfW campaign scenarios on 'normal' settings I need three attempts to get through each one. Which leads me to three possibilities:

1 I'm useless at this game, everyone else breezes through these campaigns without ever having to reload or go back a scenario or two to get more gold or the 'right' units

2 Everyone else also needs three goes to get through each scenario, but actually enjoys it

3 The campaigns are designed by expert players for the pleasure of other expert players, and the designers don't know, or don't mind, how hard they are for the average new player.

Which is it? I'm genuinely interested.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by teg »

The campaigns are designed to be challanging so you will need several tries to finish them.

An explanation to this is that Wesnoth is an evolutive game. The campaigns evolved and are played several times by the players. It is not like most commercial games in which you expect to play a new campaign when you buy a new version of the game. The future versions of Wesnoth will keep the actual campaigns with probably few changes so to keep them interesting for most players, you need to have challanging campaigns.

That's my opinion on it.
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JW
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by JW »

sabalzen wrote:I very much enjoyed playing the campaigns for novices, mostly on 'Easy' setting. I also very much enjoyed playing 'Heir to the Throne', on 'Medium'. I even enjoyed the first few scenarios of 'Northern Rebirth' which is supposed to be for experts. But most of the campaigns I find to be frustratingly difficult, to the point where pretty rapidly they just aren't fun.
Try the beginner campaigns on medium and then expert. You'll find your skill increasing an then the expert campaigns won't be so tough.
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Turuk
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Turuk »

Wesnoth is also designed so that as a player gets better at understanding the mechanics of the game, they can hopefully go up a skill level in campaign settings, but note that this is not a guarantee. Not all of the campaigns are equal, which is why Northern Rebirth in particular has Normal, Challenging, Difficult and even Nightmare, instead of Easy, Normal and Hard. The campaigns also state in their description as being novice, intermediate, or expert level.

These varying difficulties are given (instead of just one setting) so that users may choose the level that suits them the best. If you cannot always go up to the next difficulty level, I would not say that it's too hard, but perhaps those campaigns at that level require a different strategy than you are used to, or require you to play more aggressively or cautiously than you have in the past. I would look through the threads on the forum to see the tips and advice offered by others to get through some of the harder scenarios in certain campaigns. No one can breeze through the highest difficulties without at least restarting at scenario at some point, so you are not alone.

Personally, I have gone through all the mainline campaigns at the highest difficulty, and I can say that it did not just happen shortly after I started playing. It takes a while to get to know the game and build up your skill through playing the various mainline and even user-made campaigns to test your ability to manipulate any faction against a variety of opponents, especially since campaigns often feature enemy recruit lists you would not see in MP. You will get better if you gradually ramp up the skill levels.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by zookeeper »

sabalzen wrote:I very much enjoyed playing the campaigns for novices, mostly on 'Easy' setting. I also very much enjoyed playing 'Heir to the Throne', on 'Medium'. I even enjoyed the first few scenarios of 'Northern Rebirth' which is supposed to be for experts. But most of the campaigns I find to be frustratingly difficult, to the point where pretty rapidly they just aren't fun. Many of the scenarios include 'surprises' that make it very difficult to make it through at the first attempt, and appear to be designed to put players off rather than encouraging them to play further. In fact 'Heir to the Throne' is the only long campaign I've finished.

Most games I've played, after this much practice, I'd expect to be winning far more often than not on normal, default settings. Whereas on average, I'd guess that in the BfW campaign scenarios on 'normal' settings I need three attempts to get through each one. Which leads me to three possibilities:

1 I'm useless at this game, everyone else breezes through these campaigns without ever having to reload or go back a scenario or two to get more gold or the 'right' units

2 Everyone else also needs three goes to get through each scenario, but actually enjoys it

3 The campaigns are designed by expert players for the pleasure of other expert players, and the designers don't know, or don't mind, how hard they are for the average new player.

Which is it? I'm genuinely interested.
Well, I know it's not 1 since apparently a lot of newbies tend to have a hard time. ;)

Firstly, there's surely a bit of 3 as all the campaign developers and maintainers are above average players, and it's genuinely hard to estimate how the newbie players will manage or what spots exactly they'll have a hard time with. Even the easy difficulty levels usually aren't geared towards people who actually don't grasp even all the basic gameplay mechanics (damage, defense, resistances, etc), and it takes a while for a new player to get the hang of those, so there will be people having trouble even on the easiest level. I don't think that's a problem, really, and it's again hard to tell which newbies who complain about difficulties are the ones who need to learn a bit more of the basics first and which are the ones who know enough that it'd be fair for them to be able to win.

Surprises which you need to have prior experience of in order to survive are things which should be fixed. Strangely enough, people seem to complain about those relatively rarely. In any case, annoying surprises are not an intentional part of the gameplay and any single case is likely to get fixed if people complain about it and almost guaranteed to get fixed if someone also presents a good proposal for the exact changes that should be made.

As for simply having to play a couple of times in order to find a good strategy to beat a scenario, that's something that can't really be helped, I'm afraid. There's no way to balance a scenario so that the player who mostly picks spearmen against skeletons will be able to recover from his mistake without restarting while the player who mostly picks HI and mages won't find it dreadfully trivial.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Ken_Oh »

sabalzen wrote:Many of the scenarios include 'surprises' that make it very difficult to make it through at the first attempt, and appear to be designed to put players off rather than encouraging them to play further.
Yes, Yes, YES! This is the worst thing about any of the campaigns. There's no excuse for this. It actually comes in many forms.

1. When you start a scenario, most of the time the enemies recruit second. This actually encourages the player to recruit, end the turn, see what the enemies' recruit lists look like when they recruit, and then restart the scenario with the additional knowledge, possibly recruiting Heavy Infantrymen instead of Spearmen given the enemy has Skeletons.

2. moveto events. Consider if you're playing HttT, Siege of Elensefar for the first time but you're an absolute mathematical genius who also knows the mechanics of the game better than another else. You might recruit just enough units to get the job done. You have a bit of bad luck, but it's nothing that you didn't prepare for. But, then, as you bring the rest of your units to the cave, you get smacked with some surprise units. What you have may not be mathematically enough and you don't have the time to go back to a keep to recruit. You're screwed.

3. Side turn events. Like moveto but they can suck too.

Even those fogged, go to x,y scenarios can be better with some indication of what it would take to finish the scenario. Should you put all of your gold into recruits or would X amount be enough? Maybe you should only be able to pick X number of units, and that would be an indication of what it would take.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Turuk »

Not bad points, but for 1 and 3, I do not see why this is different than any battle situation. You do not always know what your enemy is going to throw at you, and as many times the player is the offensive character moving into a new area, it would make sense that they are recruiting their troops first and the defender reacts.

For 1, I would say learn to recruit sparingly at best then on the first turn, or recruit all-purpose units that would not be out of place given any enemy. Usually, after a scenario or two in, the player generally has an idea of the units they will be facing or some clues based on the story or dialogue to indicate what might be coming.

For the events such as 2 and 3, it kind of follows with what I already said. Not all battles mean that you will always know everything that the enemy has laid out, and ambushes and surprise attacks are often used to gain the upper hand. It usually just means a player has to be prepared to react and adapt their strategy quickly.

Tomato surprises are different and can be horrible, but most of them have been removed from mainline campaigns. Not having moveto or side events would be a bit boring, as you would always know where the enemies are coming from.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Ken_Oh »

Turuk wrote:Not bad points, but for 1 and 3, I do not see why this is different than any battle situation. You do not always know what your enemy is going to throw at you
But, in MP, you do. You may not know exactly what's coming, but you at least know to not expect an Armageddon Drake or even any level 2+ units. It's not usually a huge issue because people can usually guess that Orcs will recruit Orcs and Undead will recruit the standard Undead, etc. and they usually come in the form of level 1 units.
Turuk wrote:Tomato surprises are different and can be horrible, but most of them have been removed from mainline campaigns. Not having moveto or side events would be a bit boring, as you would always know where the enemies are coming from.
I kind of disagree here. I'd rather know what can possibly happen during a scenario but not have control over all of it. Instead of moveto events where things pop out of nowhere, indications of what might happen if a, b or c happens are better. For example, if you move to x,y then the drawbridge goes down, if the enemy moves there, the drawbridge goes up, or the enemy will destroy the damn if they get to x,y. To make the scenario actually interesting is if you put in enough of these kinds of events that you can't prevent every event triggering in ways you don't want, meaning you have to weigh the pros and cons of letting the action occur vs. preventing it or reversing it. And, instead surprising side events, they should be indicated, like "Sire, our scouts have spotted enemy 4 horsemen on the horizon to the west. They should be in view within a half-day."
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Turuk »

Ken_Oh wrote:But, in MP, you do. You may not know exactly what's coming, but you at least know to not expect an Armageddon Drake or even any level 2+ units. It's not usually a huge issue because people can usually guess that Orcs will recruit Orcs and Undead will recruit the standard Undead, etc. and they usually come in the form of level 1 units.
Right, but MP is completely different from singleplayer campaigns and you still don't always know what faction the opposing player has. For campaigns, often the enemy is given level 2 recruits later in the campaign when you have your own, or so few that your level 1s can deal with the level 2s. And Orcs still recruit Orc level 2s, you usually do not not see them recruiting Armageddon Drakes or Paladins. ;) You cannot limit the recruit lists given that the player will be recalling their own veteran troops.
Ken_Oh wrote:I kind of disagree here. I'd rather know what can possibly happen during a scenario but not have control over all of it. Instead of moveto events where things pop out of nowhere, indications of what might happen if a, b or c happens are better. For example, if you move to x,y then the drawbridge goes down, if the enemy moves there, the drawbridge goes up. To make the scenario actually interesting is if you put in enough of these kinds of events that you can't prevent every event triggering in ways you don't want, meaning you have to weigh the pros and cons of letting the action occur vs. preventing it or reversing it. And, instead surprising side events, they should be indicated, like "Sire, our scouts have spotted enemy 4 horsemen on the horizon to the west. They should be in view within a half-day."
I see what you are saying, but scouts don't always spot every enemy, or you don't always have scouts, or your scouts are killed by the enemy. ;) Knowing that doing A would make this happen, doing B would make this happen, and C would make this happen shows a lot of foreknowledge that you would not expect the leader of the troops to have upon entering a new area, or even when he is suddenly being assaulted by an enemy. I am sure that that could work well in some scenarios, but not as a replacement to moveto and side events. Leaders don't always have that much control over what is going to happen in a battle.


EDIT: I do like the drawbridge idea, or perhaps even a scenario where the player had to defend and could choose to destroy bridges in order to funnel enemy units or change the flow of attack. Your ideas would be interesting to play in a UMC.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Ken_Oh »

Yeah, I do have a SP campaign that I've been meaning to finish. Too bad I've got other, more interesting things to work on. ;)
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by A Guy »

There's a particularly egregious example of a tomato surprise in the Northern Rebirth level, Old Friend, that triggers upon moving to a range of coordinates. Said event gave the enemy FORTY-TWO (yes, I counted them) Goblin Knights, and gave each orcish leader 2,000 gold.. Sure, I could survive due to the buttload of gold I had, but I lost loads upon loads of veterans, and it took me more than an hour to finish the level due to the large number of units causing immense lag. I just decided to restart after completing it and not to move to the area I moved to before.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by ShikadiQueen »

Blame this guy.
I got better!
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Turuk »

Ken_Oh, your ideas are not without merit though as far as perhaps at least forewarning the player in some cases or providing some reaction time to the surprise (enemies spawning further away, extra dialogue beforehand giving a hint or two). Check your PMs concerning that.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Jetrel »

Basically, in most videogames, "Beginner" is this neutered, useless, fairy-mode that you never play because it's absurdly easy. "Normal" is the difficulty mode that actual beginners start at, and "Beginner" is reserved for [censored] people and five-year olds.

In battle for wesnoth, we expect people of normal intelligence to actually use beginner when they're new to the game. Shocking, I know.

Normal is for people who have a 'familiar' amount of experience with wesnoth. Not with "videogames in general", but with wesnoth in particular, because if you make the mistake of trying to play wesnoth like some other fantasy game, you will lose hard. I made that mistake, too. I played it like it was warcraft 2 or fire emblem or something. I made battle lines out on open ground, because that's how you play computer strategy games (except wesnoth, and maybe civ). Warcraft (1 and 2) after all, has no terrain influence period. Advance Wars is more a game of "winner strikes first!" Wesnoth isn't like these games, and even though every other fantasy strategy game I'd played had trained me to make these shining, impregnable battle lines, damn the terrain, that does not work in wesnoth.

So you only play normal after you've actually learned how to play wesnoth according to wesnoth's rules. You can't win at it and mostly ignore what makes wesnoth so radically different from other games. You can't just dive in, you really have to be a competent player and get some practice.

Hard is intended for when we want an expert player to have a hard time (without, say, save-loading).


We're unusual in that we at least try to be rather difficult on the higher difficulties, so that an experienced player has something to keep coming back to. A lot of games nerf their difficulties so players can feel the (false) accomplishment of mopping the things at their highest difficulties. Difficulty is bad marketing because it's frustrating at first taste. It's bitter like coffee (a drink known for its appreciation amongst connosieurs). But difficulty makes a game more interesting over the long term. We're more in the school of thought done by bungie and id - easy is actually meant to be played, hard is actually really hard.
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Re: Why are the campaigns designed to be so hard?

Post by Caphriel »

Another one of those surprises appears in the second mission of Flight to Freedom (I know it's not mainline, but it's relevant to the discussion), where, to the best of my knowledge, any of your units moved into a certain segment of the map switch sides to an enemy faction. No warning given, and it's also not immediately clear what triggers it.

Generally, I like some triggered surprises, because they require the player to play cautiously, rather than calculate just what they need to win, which I feel provides a better strategy experience overall (dealing with the unknown is important!), but this particular example of your own units switching sides I found particularly frustrating, because you could easily lose units you had been grooming for higher levels. Also the collapsing floors in the Scepter of Fire mission of Heir to the Throne. The first time I played that mission, I lost a bunch of level three units to the first collapse and had to start over. There was no warning that I remember, and the floor disappearing and killing a bunch of my units was something I had no reason to anticipate.

So, I feel that in general, surprises that result in unexpected resistance (more enemy units, a new enemy faction) add flavor to the game, but surprises that take away my units don't add anything to the game, and the perceived arbitrary nature I find annoying.

I would rather lose units to surprise trolls in the caves, for example, than to a surprise floor collapse. I suspect this is because I can somewhat control what I lose, and that I'm unlikely to lose high level units without a fight.
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