I’m a type of player that is completely fan of RTS games such as Age of Empires. But, I do understand that StoneHearth is a lot more than a simple RTS. It’s a new type of genera mixing RTS/RPG style with SandBox what is totally amazing for me. However, I believe most of players have a feeling that the combat commands aren’t so satisfying at all. I mean, the banners selection of “ Stand Still “, “ Attack “ or “ Come Here “ are pretty basic and sometimes even annoying in my opinion.
I would find it really awesome. If you guys simplified all those commands in something similar to Age of Empires or Diablo commands. I mean, select the unit right/left click to command them or just press a button/hotkey to make some function. It would probably be way faster and cleaner ( in a coding aspect ) then the banner mode.
I really do like this game; I’ve been playing for 200 hours on Steam. And, it’s easily one of the most amazing games I have ever played. Really, you should be impressed I’m a pretty hard player to conquer! I know and I respect that you guys are currently working on other stuff and that this part is one of the last parts to check on a ALPHA game. But, please, let the combat more dynamic! I can wait to see that. I really do, but I just want to have this feeling of “OMG” they are attacking me and my walls/towers are just rushing flaming arrows and my soldiers are holding the gates!
Sometimes I expend hours building walls, towers, bridges and even small little windows for my archers to shoot the bloody goblins and trolls ( damn trolls! ). And, it feels kind of frustrating to see it end up as a “ astatic ”/ “ artistic ” rather than an advantage against my enemies. I do understand it as ALPHA game and I have been following since alpha 10. I just want to feel more that epic battle feeling.
Thanks for your time analyzing my suggestion. I hope it be useful for you guys. I fall in love for StoneHearth in the moment I saw it and when you guys finish it. I bet a 1000 bucks it will beat Minecraft and other games. It’s pretty huge this idea and I hope I can get in to Modding so I can express my Lord of The Rings feelings. #TolkienNeverDies
Thanks, Henrique Fadoni
The problem with battle commands is, the devs outlined several times they want to avoid direct troops control. That’s the point of the whole SH battle system.
If we take a step back, however, I do agree that current system of controlling troops is far from being perfect. It is not flexible enough. To overcome current drawbacks you have to micro your soldiers anyway (something you’re not supposed to do), and without proper instruments to do it combat sure enough leads to frustration.
So while giving direct control over troops is not something we can expect, I believe combat controls can and should be improved, both conceptually and in terms of usability.
I do understand the hole system of “squads” that they wish to build. But, I don’t agree with you or the devs for one simple reason. It will have direct troop control you wishing or not, controls such as “move” or “attack” are already included for squads and UNITS. That’s the point, you can move your archer/soldier only by clicking in him and putting the green banner in the place you want to he moves. This is direct troop command no matter what you want it to be. If the devs are looking for something similar as Dragon Age commands I do agree partially. Because, they will need to think in PVP/Multiplayer and you can’t have 50 citizens and 20 troops to command in the way they are thinking.
So, one more time, I’m not suggesting a copy and paste age of empires/dragon age command. I just want to things be more fluid and funnier to use. By now, combat system is pretty basic and I do respect it because it is an ALPHA GAME. I just want to be sure where this combat system will be heading to. Maybe a more elaborated squad combat can be fun or something point and click command. I don’t know and It’s not me who decides. I just didn’t enjoy the commands that were presented for us. It’s pretty boring to use and you can’t easily make troops to regroup. You may need to command them to walk in a circle in order to regroup which is king of a silly thing to do.
Then we want different things. I want direct control commands for separate units to be mostly removed, replaced by “tactics” or something like that. For example, when archers are set to “hold ground” they should automatically seek higher ground (and get bonus from that), using the fortifications you’ve built for them. They should also recognize the borders of fortifications and not leave walls to pursue a retreating enemy if told to “hold ground”. Melee fighters should also follow tactics by, for example, focusing on a single enemy and pursuing the wounded (aggressive), trying to surround enemies when available and choose good defendable positions automatically (defensive) or performing an organized retreat when overwhelmed, trying to pull the enemy towards archers or traps. Kinda like Dungeon Keeper 2 combat, only way better.
Gave it some more thought.
Introducing tactics is only one of the ways to do things. But the thought that came to me was "okay, if hearthlings handle most things ‘intuitively’, automatically, what’s the player’s role in combat?"
I see several ways:
- Selecting the tactic to use
Since tactics are a limited set of “rules”, their flexibility is not boundless. Some are more optimal to the concrete situation, and it’s up to you, not to the AI, to define which to use in each situation.
- Selecting who fights
The number of fighters as well as their level, their class is important and can influence tactics. Archers without support will be overwhelmed and fall back soon enough. If there are too many wounded for your healer he can complain about that, hinting what can be improved, etc.
- Selecting where to fight
While tactics can be of great help, they won’t build fortifications. So it’s up to you to prepare a defendable position, then “show” it to the AI is some way to have it recognized as such
- Supporting fighters with everything they need
Including armor, weapons, healing tonics and books to read on a cold night at guard duty.
- Some kind of “indirect control” to influence critical situations
I don’t know how to do it yet, but I’d like to see some controls that could be viewed as “emergency”, allowing some troops arrangement in difficult situations. Still, I’d like this instrument to NOT be used regularly to babysit your fighters.
Maybe someone can suggest more?
If there’s a way to micromanage your troops, and players believe it gives them an advantage, they WILL do it. And if you just punish them for this, they won’t like it either. I think the question here is, how could the game reward just stepping back and letting your Hearthlings deal with threats as best they can?
- Selecting tactics is a good way to give fast and general instruction, yes. It does however still give the AI a lot of room to make bad decisions.
2, 3 and 4. I count this as preparations and not a “role in combat”. They’re still important parts, but they won’t make the player anything more than a spectator during combat.
- Not sure what you’re looking for, but if there is a way to babysit your fighters in case of emergency, then a lot of players will babysit them regularly as well. Sure, build the game so they shouldn’t have to, but if you somehow try to discourage the use of the babysitter tool, by not making it user friendly, it won’t stop them from using it, only make them frustrated.
Stonehearth is based on indirect control and it should stay that way. However, if you have to always rely on the AI to make the right decision (especially if it’s a dangerous situation) then you will have situations where the player thinks they lost because of bad AI. Even if you actually manage to make an AI that always makes the right decision the player will still think that they would have made it better. It gets even more risky in a game like this, where you are supposed to care about every hearthling, so the “bad AI” gets questioned and blamed every time someone dies.
Even if you set up an advanced system for planing tactics in advance I think most players would fell handicapped if they can’t change it on the fly, and the easiest way to do that is to give direct control. And the most user friendly way to give direct control (that I know of) is the rts standard of left click or drag to select one or more and right click to move to position or attack specific enemy.
I think the game would only be rewarding to watch the fight rather than actually control it, if the AI was so good that you could never do better than it yourself. What Radient seem to want the battles to be is the computer fighting itself where the players indirect actions before and during decide the battle.
I tend to dislike these sorts of battle as I can generally judge the situation better than the AI can and therefore watching the AI fight is just frustrating.
So there are roughly 2 solutions, the first and easiest, give the player full and easy control of there hearthlings, like in games such as Supreme Commander and C&C.
Or secondly make an AI that is so good any player is happy to just sit back and let it do it’s thing.
But the thing is a normal AI will never be better than a human. And you can argue all you like about Artificial Neural Networks but they won’t work in stonehearth. As they rely on a set of FIXED finite starting parameters, the more starting parameters the harder it is to train them.
And the starting parameters in stonehearth are so far from fixed it isn’t funny.
I have a lot of faith in team Radient but just don’t believe they can make an AI that is better at micro in every situation than I am given I had full RTS control.
In the current state of combat I don’t think it should. If they add a way for you to make plans and tactics before combat however…
My first thought was that it still shouldn’t be rewarded. If you’re the kind of player that likes to plan ahead then it’s a reward in itself to see it work out and if you’re not that kind of player then you shouldn’t be punished for it.
On second thought, what are the benefits of having a plan? For the player it is that they don’t have to micromanage things. For the hearthling however, having a plan can make them more confident and effective = giving them more courage, speed and dealing more damage. It could also make them happier outside of combat, because they feel more prepared. The player could still intervene, either by manually switching to another plan or by micromanaging (with rts style controls), but if they micro they loose the plan-buff.
To stop the player from creating new plans in the middle of combat (as a sort of tedious but optimized micromanage) the hearthlings might need time to learn and practice before a plan becomes usable.
Third option: having a “combat planner” where you can set up rules like "when the enemy is in area 1 I want archers on this wall, knights over here and clerics behind them. The footmen should hide in the secret door. When the enemy enters area 2 and start hitting the knights, the footmen should run out and attack them from behind."
And the benefits of planing this in advance instead of doing it manually could be various buffs, as I described in my last post.
The problem with this is you are assuming that the player builds there town in a specific way. i.e a way in which all the fights tend to happen in the same place. I do not do that when I play so my plans would go out the window as soon as combat starts.
It’s an interesting idea but what you are saying is basically let the player in game create the top level AI but that would be so complicated to catch all the edge cases nobody would do it properly and then they would complain the system is bad.
Another thing I thought about is the use of potions. Right now they are practically area-effective spells, and they are also triggered manually. However, I don’t really use them that much, so I didn’t mention them at first.
I agree. Then again maybe we can find a balance between player controls and AI controls.
Dungeon Keeper (and War for the Overworld, for that matter) has several instruments to give you a degree of control:
- Area-wide potions, crafted in advance
- Spells that cost mana to cast, including healing spells
- Hand of Evil that lets you pick and drop units, allowing some micro.
Still, one may notice there is no “direct control” in a sense that you pick some warriors and select a concrete target for them. They are governed by their own needs and thoughts. I guess that’s what’s important for us here, not a “cool AI control” per se. In RTS all units lack personality, they are identical and thus expendable. Every two tanks are practically the same, simplified mechanisms to blindly do your bidding. Latest RTS games allow you to customize them to some degree. For example, equipping NOD Marauders with additional gear or getting them ranks makes you care about them more because you’ve invested your time in them. But still, they are pretty much robots. They have no personality, no desires, they feel no fear and die for you without second thought.
Stonehearth is a different story. Radiant tries to create attachment between us and hearthlings we guide, so seeing them as automatons misses the point. So yeah, I’m very interested in ways to make battle more interesting and less a chaotic mess lacking proper instruments but I’m not sure about how to do it.
No. If it’s based on setting up “trigger areas” that tell your hearthlings to do certain things when enemies enter them, then you can have any number of them around your town and inside of it, making your hearthlings adapt to where the enemy is right now. Setting up priorities and maybe relations between trigger areas (“if there are enemies here but non here then do…”) could be an “interesting” design challenge, but as with most things like this it’s about boiling it down to the most basic parts so the player can make simple rules or go nuts and make a super advanced murder machine.
Again, boil it down to the most basic parts. Let the players that like that sort of thing use their ingenuity to try to catch the edge cases and if you get to a situation where your plan doesn’t work then disable the plan and let the regular AI take over, or micromanage it yourself.
And of course, there is probably better (easier) ways to set up plans. This version was just from the top of my head. The point is that having some way to make plans for combat would be a good way to give the player control over combat but still keep it automated, which I think is in line with the game.
Here are my two cents at the subject of indirect control for combat.
First, it is a fresh idea, (or maybe I am ignorant, that could very well be the case). Most games I know of that allow you to sit on top of the combat, allow you to micromanage the combat, as if you were the military commander. If the role of the player is preparations and manipulation of the circumstances (policy, fortifications, gear, troop composition), then the players role becomes that of the governing politician; not in charge of the battle, but having the power to tip the balance with tactics and strategy. This is an approach I haven’t seen all that much.
Second, (and also a strengthening of my first argument), is that this is basically how the rest of the game works as well. You guide a band of settlers to create a (hopefully) flourishing town. On all other aspects, from planology to logistical economics to emotional welfare (also economics) and trade, the player is the policy setter, where your policy determines how well the society you lead deals with the problems that it needs to deal with. The game here, is to watch the consequences of your actions, learn from it, and react strategically to the circumstances. The indirectness of the solutions (as supposed to brute micromanagement) make this less straightforward to do, which is the core of the game. It asks thought of the player. In that light, approaching this way combat to fit into this picture is not a weird thing to do.
(Sidenote, diplomacy, which was promised in the kikstarter, fits into this picture as one of the tools in the players arsenal. Certainly in this day and age, tensions are often fought off with the pen, rather than the sword.)
However, the more I write this, the more I realise that I am wrong. On the whole, the game works this way, and it should, because the player could not deal with all the complexities in such detail (much like, a real politician on his own would). However, I can’t help but notice that in all those aspects I mentioned earlier, the game does allow you to go all crazy on the micromanagement. A few examples:
- The game allows you to dictate building blueprints in voxel precision.
- The game will allow you to (although indirectly) control how happy individual hearthlings are. (By pursuing appeal mechanics and other living standards).
- The game allows you to determine exactly what is traded and what is not.
- Ditto for crafting (although again indirectly), albeit in future alpha’s.
And I think this is part of why stonehearth is such a good game. It allows players to focus on the aspects that they like, whilst keeping everything else up and running.
So how do we deal with these two forces. How do other aspects of the game solve this problem.
One thing I can think of, is that the game discourages micromanagement because there are lots of things to do, lots of aspects to govern. At a certain point, it isn’t worth it anymore to minmax on one area, because the gain you get is less than the loss of not focussing on another aspect. But this doesn’t stop poeple from micromanagement, so that there is that player choice again.
I think on the whole, we need to be able to watch the fight happen without interference. I also think that we should have the preparations arsenal to our disposal, and have that be major tools for shaping combat. This falls in line with the rest of the game, where that posiibility is always there.
Whether we need more micromanagement of individual troops, I don’t actually know. I think it depends on how well the preparation tools work (how well they can stand in for micromanagement tools). I think many players are used to the micromanagement in other games, and might expect that from stonehearth as well. So it will also depend on how well the game manages to tell the player that this is the way to go about it, preferably.
So i’m interested in how the game conveyes this sort of stuff (how you indirectly influence outcomes) with things like moods/thoughts/friendships, crafting and the environment. Maybe the same tactics can be used for combat, maybe not, we’ll see.
Now, getting down to the specifics:
You could add a ‘chaotic battle’ debuff when the player does this. Maybe you could even run both plans for a short while onder the hood, leading to the exact miscomunication you’d expect when suddenly changing plans plus the chaos that ensues. But it might also go to far.
Maybe not a specific way, but requiring a more specific way to build a town is not necessarily worse. So long as it is in generalities, you can get away with it. You also do not need to make a town beautiful (from a hearthlings perspective, not to get into that argument), but it can be a good strategy to solve an emotional problem. Similarly, a player could decide that building a town such that combat is more likely to take place in one spot (the gate, for instance), is completely valid. That, as long as
- there are ways for the player to handle combat outside of that context, and as long as
- enemies attempt to create combat outside of that context, and as long as
- there are multiple (more=better) of such strategies a player could pursue.
The game is mostly emergence, and having planology affect combat is not a weird thing, i’d say.
(You still make a good point, I don’t want to discard your opinion.)
To adress your concern that in some cities combat might take place in all kinds of places, you could have a different plan, which is not fixed to a place in the way trigger zones would be.
What I mean is the option for formation plans, in which you design troop formations, and plop these formations onthe ground when combat arrives. This way, you can choose how your fighters act ahead of time, as well as where you fight. Something like this.
“The knight goes in the middle and front, footman to each of the sides, slanting backwards. The clerics go behind the knitgt, shielded in the flanks by the aforementioned footman. The archers go int the back, keep distance and search for height whenever possible.” (You should be able top design these yourself.)
Also, a trigger area can be as broad as entering the home territory, maybe with a line (or multiples), that the player can draw themselves. I’d say the combination of small trigger zones and trigger territories is the best.
I haven’t read your hole posts yet, but just as a quick reply.
As a general rule it’s better to reward the behavior that you want the player to have than to punish them when they do something else. So in this case I think it’s better to give buffs if they prepare than to give debuffs if they don’t or have to leave the plan. Even if the numbers would add up to the same thing it’s a friendlier experience.
Fun idea, but it would have to be super obvious that that’s what’s happening, so the player don’t just think it’s a bug or bad AI. You would probably need a set of confused animations or something like that, to show that they are actually doing what’s intended.
The thing that I probably find the most amusing is that in reality it doesn’t happen.
Real direct control is mostly limited to squads. The more soldiers you have, the less control over single one you possess. A local commander can choose a place to hide a couple of mortars, but when one has two dozens of tanks no sane commander will pretend he can control each step of every one of them. Combat tends to be chaotic. You analyze the situations, you give orders (most of the time quite “vague”), then you see people follow them in their own understanding. Kinda “define tactics and hope for the best” approach, with some emergency controls thrown in the mix.
Steering any sufficiently big and complex system tends to be like that
I totally agree with you. Stonehearth is a RTS/RPG. Therefore, it should do more than just " babysit" your fighters. And, I do agree that the AI could/is blamed for most part of fights. I mean, there is some bugs and it still annoying in the battle. I’ve lost many battles just because my units decided to have " dinner " or because they decide it was better to go home than fight the trolls and goblins.
I do agree with the " combat planner ", but i still want to fight my own battles. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible with the bugs that we have in Alpha 22.5 . Archers still not attacking when they are in towers/walls. Warrior/Tanker still going back in battle. It’s kind of messy, but what i was looking for is a system of battle that let me have fun with my own army. It could be a Dragon Age system or more like an Age of Empires thing. But, it still boring watch the AI do everything for you.
As some of you said, there is no point to be watching the AI fight itself and you be only ordering to produce things and build. I want to see some challenge, I want to see my towers falling a part and my soldiers stay in their line when it is required. Thus, we are the commander of the army!