Hollistic Combat Control

Well there’s been a few threads where I’ve touched on these ideas so I’m bringing them together here. Probably going to make a few edits eventually as well, depending on how long I can focus on getting this stuff out.


  1. Combat feels too dissimilar o the rest of the game
  2. The granularity of unit control and agency of hearthlings are too contextual
  3. Combat could inform other aspects of the game further


  1. Get combat interface to work like economy interface
  2. Help Hearthlings maintain autonomous decision making in combat
  3. Preserve importance of tactical decisions while broadening their scope
  4. Reduce failure consequences below the ‘save-scum’ thresh hold
  5. Share core more mechanics between economy and combat


  1. New life system
    I propose we allow hearthlings to resurrect. My ideal implementation of this solution is a three-strikes-your-out system. Instead of spawning a tombstone they would spawn an item which retains their characters data. That would be used in lieu of a wood item when the next fireplace is lit. The hearthling would then return with 1 health and a removed life.

  2. Zone and Harvest controls for combat.
    This would be better illustrated with a mock-up. I’ll try to convey the idea anyway. I’d like combat to be treated more like the economy - preserving some autonomy for the Hearthlings while giving the player broad tactical decisions to make. Here’s my favorite of several ways to do this.
    Zones: Guard zones are similiar to fields. Under the combat menu there should be a button to drag out a guard zone. When the field is created / selected you will have the option to chose a ‘crop’ just like in the farm zone. However, this time you’ll be choosing from one of the four group flags. When a flag is selected each member of that group protects that zone. (The AI tree will be described in a later post)
    Harvest Instead of directly saying which Hearthling chops which tree, we just designate all the trees and let them sort it out themselves. I propose a similar approach to issuing combat commands. These are options available to each or all groups.

  3. Sword > Drag a sword around a group of enemies and the footmen will attack them. If there are no Arrow or Shield designations then those units may also assist (?)

  4. Arrow > Same as above, but with archers, and other classes will not pitch in. Lets you focus down particular units. This is especially useful if you want to focus down a wall-breaker without opening the door with your melee units.

  5. Shield > This could get more complex, but it asks knights to create aggro on those units. This may mean switching targets until they have each designated targets attention. Other variations on this idea will be elaborated later

  6. Cross > Clerics will stay near targets (including Hearthlings) under this designation. This is a suboptimal solution, and can be retooled depending on final complexity budget.

Before I elaborate on more possibilities for this sort of thing, I’m going to solicit comment from any modders or develoeprs who have experience with this sort of thing. Are there any brick walls you see in any of these ideas? Is there a particularly arcane API I’ll have to work with at any point? I’m really interested in prototyping these ideas.



These are some interesting ideas and I would love to see a mod or something to implement them so we can all test it out :slight_smile:

Just one thing I would say that is completely off topic, maybe tone down the super complicated “I’m trying to make my research paper sound fancy” type of speak.

What does this even mean?

I’ve been speaking English in England all my life and even I can’t understand some of your sentences.
There are quite a few people on here that English isn’t there first language that could help but can’t understand you because of your fancy and frankly silly words.

It’s just food for thought :smile:

P.S Holistic only has one L :smile:

I would honestly like to see the cleric be able to resurrect your dead hearthlings. But it should be limited by a cool down or something to regulate it

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Maybe have it so they can’t heal during it’s cool down because I can see it getting way too overpowered

The scale and specificity of your control vary between different parts of the game. Economic control is about setting general goals and seeing them broken down into specific tasks then assigned to which characters are most convenient to preform them. Specifically choosing tasks and actors in combat is a pretty substantial gear shift.

I used to use this : http://www.simplish.org/ to translate my posts to simple English and back and make sure they were comprehensible to non-native speakers. However, this post is also to organize my own thoughts. So I’m opting for accuracy over accessibility. If you want me to explain or paraphrase something for clarity I’d be glad to.

This was hurtful. This is the language I think in, and I don’t think its especially fancy. In my day-to-day life I’m biting my tongue and second guessing everything to avoid giving people this impression. Its like I’m being told I’m fake for not faking hard enough. :disappointed:


I have a hard enough time using the terms ‘former’ and ‘latter’ in everyday conversation without having to do this as well :frowning2:

Yes exactly just something that limits it.

I’m sorry, it was meant to be to stop you writing in a manor that is difficult to read, I have a reading age of a 12 year old and it took me like 20 minutes to decipher your post. It makes it physically difficult to read, which is sad because you had some great points and ideas.

The problem I have with people that write in complex English is not the complex English but that the meaning it is given when it is written and it’s meaning when it is read are rarely the same. It just adds unnecessary confusion to ideas that are normally quite complex in nature.

This is obvious when you read the first quote and response of your post, you have written [quote=“Ludocrat, post:5, topic:22308”]
Specifically choosing tasks and actors in combat is a pretty substantial gear shift.

“actors” should be actions, this tiny slip up changes the entire meaning of your sentence and makes it sound like you are going round in circles with reference to the sentence before hand. And this is why this type of English is confusing.

You have to pay way too much attention to what you are writing and people rarely pay enough attention to get there point across effectively.

Actors was used correctly in that sentence. In that context, actors refer to the individual combat classes which we are given direct control over. This is unlike the crafting classes which we have very limited, macro level control over.

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Ah i understand it now, thanks. It’s not how I understood it when I first read it. This is what I read.

General goals of an economy in stonehearth are Food, Armour, Weapons, Decorations, Building materials and that sort of thing.

The Different tasks are the classes, Farmer, trapper, carpenter etc.

This is you the player assigning the hearthling with the best mind/body/spirit stats to that class.

Then read the second sentence,

This refers to giving them orders in combat as a unit, tasks has a different meaning to earlier.

Then this means you choose the right hearthling for the job with the right mind/body/spirit stats.
If it said Actions would make way more sense because I already assign the hearthling I think is the best to each job.
And actions would mean that I’m giving individual hearthings orders, I actually like that bit about the combat but it’s just way to difficult to manage effectively with the current UI.

All this does is solidify my point that it’s pointless to write in complex English because it is way to hard to write it well. Me getting a different meaning out of what you have written doesn’t mean I’m bad at reading, it means you are bad at writing.
Being able to communicate clearly is a life skill and everyone should communicate in a way that is clear to the most people.

The other problem with complex English is that if you go up to someone on the street and say something in it to them, you are way more likely to get a negative response from them. Most probably f**k off. People think you are insulting there intelligence when you use words they don’t know. This is not your fault of course, it’s just people generally fear things they don’t know, it’s a natural survival instinct.

Though I concur with the first part of your statement regarding communication as an important life skill, I must disagree with the latter portion. The clarity of a conversation is contextual to the subject being discussed and the intended audience.

I study quite a few subjects that could be considered esoteric, martial science being a prime example,and I would be degrading the meaning of topics if I were to try and explain things in a way anyone could understand. Word choice can be extremely important.

Not saying this is the case here, but at the same time, Ludocrat has the freedom to speak in a way that is natural to them and has graciously offered to explain in detail anything that you do not understand. I think this is a win win situation if anything. :smile:

(apparently this subject/argument has been lurking in my subconscious for awhile. :sweat_smile: Sorry for hijacking your thread @Ludocrat )

For a variety of reasons combat requires added granularity and control vs. the rest of the game because the consequences (in both the immediate and long-term scopes) are so much more dramatic than the construction and economic elements of the game.

At the moment the only other mechanic that can overtly lead to a fail state is food, which is trivial to functionally “win” insofar as failure is concerned (food is far more relevant as a gating mechanism for bringing in new hearthlings, but that’s out of scope for this conversation).

At the moment combat still largely consists of pointing all your units in the general direction of a threat and just letting them go, which is actually pretty close to what you’re suggesting. It does, however, allow for additional micromanagement, which is important for a couple reasons.

  1. it increases the skill cap, which in turn benefits players who want to engage in more skillful play, using fewer troops better than just using more troops.

  2. it relieves the AI of a sizable degree of complexity, as units can be directly controlled by a human rather than being expected to behave organically in a way that a human wants them to behave. Note how big an issue it is in these voxel-building-games to get builders to not dig themselves into a trap or wall themselves off like it’s an Edgar Allen Poe story.

Both of these have a huge impact on the overall tuning of the game. Where a stuck worker simply needs to be un-stuck in the hour or two of play time that it takes a hearthling to starve; an AI that’s too clumsy to fight smartly is going to lead to an awful lot of frustration, especially since Hearthlings are not nearly as fungible as, say, StarCraft units. This is felt keenly in Stonehearth due to the practical numbers involved. 30 Hearthlings is pretty substantial and represents 10+ hours of play on a good day. It’s fairly standard for the player’s army to consist of 2-5 units, with 10 or so being exceptional. Even at the upper extreme it’s still a really small number, and any single unit loss represents a loss of 10-50% of the total fighting force.

Now, on the plus side, unless things really go to hell, once you’ve reached a population breakpoint you’re likely to stay there, so replacing Hearthlings is just a matter of waiting. The caveat is that you only get 1 per day, which is about 10-20 minutes of actual play. The end result is that Hearthlings, especially combat Hearthlings, just aren’t fungible enough for a less controlled system to feel fun. The less control you give to the player the smarter the AI needs to be at executing what the player would theoretically want OR the more diluted the consequences need to be.

All of that is a long way of saying that I think the current military controls are more or less on the right track for how combat currently fits into the game as a whole, and that smaller issues like patrols paths, general tuning, additional units, and guard posts are a more pressing issue than a philosophical overhaul of the combat system.

From reading your paraphrasing I can tell there’s still major miscommunication. The chain of Goals > Tasks > Assignment - every step of that chain besides Goals is part of the AI. This might clear up my word choice.

Player) Goals => build a table
AI) Tasks => get wood from stockpile, take to workstation, create item, optional => take to stockpile
AI) Assign to characters => AI distributing said tasks between hearthlings to accomplish the goal

I usually only take the effort to accomodate for that level of insecurity when I’m within striking distance of said people.

NP man, it’ll get back to the topic at hand soon enough. I’m really looking for a modder to tell me how hard the reviving method would be to prototype. I know its doable.

Thanks for such a thoughtful reply! :smile:

I agree that the death penalty makes abstracting the combat controls a hard pill to swallow. Changing the death penalty allows more wiggle room with this. I’d like to see losing the battle be the fail state for a combat rather than losing a single Hearthling. (That’s just a fail state for that encounter though, you might still be able to pick off the remaining enemies with the militias.

I feel like allowing micromanagement is demanding in given the severe consequences for losing a single Hearthling. I can tell from other threads that I’m in the minority on this - keep in mind I’m usually playing in hard mode (should have mentioned that earlier)

I think I’ve talked about this before. The biggest gain you get from tight micro play is that you can get by on fewer soldiers, freeing up more of your economy to tech up faster. In the other thread I brought up how I think this can be viewed as the absence of a penalty more than a reward. Your reward for doing well is avoiding the punishment for failure. Doing that more efficiently helps your overall game, but specifically excelling in combat doesn’t go beyond that. If there were a system that rewarded some bonus for good tactics then I think the skill cap would be raised regardless of the interface.

The AI could just run an intermediary step in target assignment that runs the potential target through a filter of designated targets. I could write some mock code to explain what I mean. But I think getting the death mechanic tweaked would be more important for now, since as you said the consequences for AI mishaps are too high if the death mechanic remains in place. The knights ‘aggro-these-dudes’ designation would be tricky, but I can imagine how it could be done with an additional filter. Besides, it would still work pretty well if it just meant having the knight attack those groups.

Well, tiered growth and challenges have yet to be introduced. I want to bring up one more time that this system would have a foundation on a more forgiving death mechanic. It would allow at least one dead hearthling to revive each day. The set up I’m imagining is 3 lives a piece. Revive 1 per fire per night. You could take the 1 life remaining soldiers and ‘retire’ them to a civilian job to further ameliorate the consequences of an AI mishap.

My one argument against that is this: You just got done directing a fight exactly unit by unit location to location. You designate the spoils be looted. You might want to direct your worker unit to that location to do that job right then, but you can’t, instead the AI assigns your mason step off and take care of it. Thats what I mean by dissonance between the combat and management parts of the game.

I’m just exploring these ideas because I think there’s something interesting here. Early access games never take these sort of proposals seriously anyway.