Let's Talk Combat


#1

Alright so I don’t post often but when I do its usually on the one aspect of the game I find lacking, combat. To be perfectly honest the game is done for me in every aspect except for this. The new builder is smooth as butter and so fun and easy to use. Farming has a good verity, Hearthlings seem to act very alive, and the same goes for the environment. But every time I see the words “Invaders Approaching” I sigh. Now, I know this is not a combat game, that is just one of three flags / paths. But come on, we all have to fight. I know it is a bit late to get a combat update since the game is about to come out in like 20 days but I can still hope.
What I want to see is a combat system the feels involved. Right now it’s “You go here and please do well.” I would like to see some skills that the player can activate on the combat Hearthlings to help them in combat. So like a power shot for the archers, a shield for the knights, and a AOE cleave for the footmen. I would hope for like 3 skills a class to be honest but once again time. Since I believe Radiant got bought by Riot maybe they could get some help from the League of Legends crew for this aspect.


#2

I wouldn’t want this in SH. This goes entirely against the philosophy of being an overseer for your town and not a micromanager. If you do want to buff your troops when they enter combat, use the Herbalist’s potions; that’s the best you’ll get, I think.


#3

Overseer and tactician seem to be the same to me, just combat vs city planner mode. Besides nothing says you can’t have a toggle that changes manual verses the heathlings using it. Right now it feels like watching someone smash action-figures together. It might as well be like a natural disaster.


#4

The hearthlings already have the exact skills you describe; it’s just that they use them automatically rather than on-command. If you watch closely, you can see footmen making cleave and whirl attacks which are dramatically different from their normal attacks (cleave does much more damage, and the whirl targets every enemy nearby – not to be underestimated against hording enemies!) Archers meanwhile have a “power shot” passive which increases their damage, and also a double shot active skill they use every so often. Knights have a passive “taunt” ability, and will buff courage of nearby hearthlings (when combined with the Cleric’s buff auras, and either Rising Courage from town alert or the buff from a Courage Potion, you can make your entire town basically immune to panic.)

The skills and systems are all there, they just don’t stick out because the game emphasizes a set-and-forget approach. You can, however, get a LOT of mileage out of parties and their commands – try putting a couple of archers in a separate party to the main army, and targeting them on a high-value enemy (e.g. enemy archers or clerics) while your knights and footmen hold the line. If you have 'Lings to spare, a roving party of clerics can also have a huge impact, since they’ll seek out wounded allies rather than piling into the front lines with the soldiers.

You can also use the move command to hustle your army into position, or pull them back if they’re getting overwhelmed.

I’ve found that a party of 2 archers, a footman, a knight and a cleric will easily defeat any enemy party without its own cleric though; so a lot of the work of ordering them around seems like a waste of time in the skirmishes you get most days. Even when an enemy cleric does show up, simply targeting it first and then letting the party do its own thing is usually enough. Of course, against the final waves of the Orc campaign or against the Titan you’ll want to use the party commands; but for those fights you’ll also want a proper army and not just one squad of guards (although in all honesty, I beat the Orc campaign with just that above “mixed” squad of guards, all it took was a bit of attention and sniping the key enemies with my two archers.)

If we were going to get any kind of combat overhaul in the last few days, I’d rather see some ‘side grade’ equipment over any new mechanics. Something like the choice between a longbow and recurve bow (i.e. long range, high damage vs fast firing), or some more footman weapons (one-handed axes which are slower than swords but do more damage, give clubs a chance to inflict a stun debuff and then give a large warhammer for major stunning attacks), so you could equip your army for a variety of situations. Of course you still can’t select who gets what, but the simple solution is to make each branch of weaponry available in each tier (e.g. bronze sword, bronze club, bronze axe), so that it comes down to what you build/buy/loot for your soldiers to use. Then we could choose between a balance of weapons, or min/max a specific area in conjunction with other factors (e.g. someone might go for all clubs on their footmen and use courage buffing to ensure their footmen + knights form an impenetrable wall to stop enemies in their tracks, while someone else might equip their footmen with all axes and put them in a separate party as part of a “hammer and anvil” strategy where the knights taunt enemies and then the footmen rush in to smash them apart.)


#5

Honestly, all I want is smarter AI that takes terrain into account. It doesn’t form a strategy of attack at all. Run here until target is in range, try to kill it. That’s all the game knows how to do.

If you fixed JUST that aspect of the game… gave the classes strategic preferences (archers love higher ground whenever available, as just one example), the combat game would be MUCH more serviceable.

Another example: Intelligent guard duty when set to defend an area (one man on duty at all times, rotation through the squad for R&R, alert the squad to muster when hostiles are approaching, etc).


#6

Yeah I know some of what I’m asking for is already there. That’s why I’m asking for it to be manual if you want and for it to be expanded. Here is the thing the game is not as automated as you all keep saying it is. You just chose to play it that way. I’m the kind of person that carefully marks crates and micro manages the crap out of my food, levels, and resources. I like control and to have fun managing my town closely. That’s why combat is so bad to me because its “You here please do what I want.” Equipment would be nice and I would love that addition, but that could get really micro since each heartling would need a fully intractable equipment page or it would get really bad really fast since you wouldn’t know who has what. Going half hearted on an equipment system is worse then not having one.


#7

I’d take that. That way you could do strategy by building actual functional guard posts. Put archers in towers, or just make it so you can plant a unit and make them stand there no matter what. So bridges become a much better defense.


#8

Me asking @sdee for combat system overhaul about a week before they announced the end of development: Improved Management of Combat

Not gonna happen, sad to say. It’s on the priority list for @DaniAngione and team to tackle as part of the community ACE mod, but the team is just barely forming and organizing its roadmap, so stay tuned.


#9

Actually I micro a ton of aspects in the game, and sometimes that includes combat. I just find it’s normally not required for combat, since our hearthlings become so much more powerful when they’re stacked together, buffing each other. My level 6 knights have as much health as the early ogres or mid-sized Varanus (it probably helps that I levelled them up all the way through footman before switching over, but that’s really only because it took me ages to get a blacksmith this time), but way more armour and about the same attack. My archers can 1v1 the Kobold archer generals and come out on top. Yeah the combat AI isn’t smart, but it doesn’t really need to be. If things are taking too long, or if another enemy shows up, I’ll often manually intervene to speed things up; but 90% of the time my soldiers have nothing to do anyway so I’d rather “set and forget” when I can get away with it.

All that said, I would still LOVE to see more combat enhancements – archers manning guard posts, footmen trying to flank/surround enemies, clerics staying back rather than running in to slap enemies with a book… all these would be wonderful. A proper system of patrol points would be the biggest thing on my list; and it would allow even more of the “set and forget” for those who absolutely hate micro while giving “active commanders” plenty of tools to defend their town effectively.

As a pragmatist, though, I’d much rather see the team focus on other things in the time they have left. Not just because combat is already “good enough” (in the sense that the job gets done even if it’s not pretty), but more importantly, because most players aren’t even going to run enough soldiers to make improved combat worthwhile. If people are expected to run between 30 and 80 hearthlings, that’s going to be between 10 and 50 soldiers (once you get one of each crafter, it’s really just a couple of cooks + farmers per 10 hearthlings, with maybe some duplicate masons/carpenters/potters if you’re doing major construction and want lots of furniture built quickly, so past 30 hearthlings you can run a LOT of soldiers easily.) The thing is that 10 soldiers in a party will pretty much wreck face, and if you have 50? Just let them loose, nothing is going to stand up to that. But, if you felt like it, you could divide them up into, say, 2 main “front line” parties and then 2 “support” archer + cleric parties. And yet, in that situation, I’d absolutely expect most players to run ~40 workers and 10 guards rather than a standing army of ~50 with no enemies coming even close to being worth fighting against.

The reality is that most people come here for the building with some storytelling sprinkled on top, and the game is focussed around that. I say that as a player who comes here for the storytelling first, and the management aspect second (both micro and macro – I love building a well-oiled machine and watching the gears tick smoothly from a distance, but also diving deep in to listen to their music up close.) Combat offers a lot more of both the story and the management than building does, so in theory I should be watching all the fights to see where the moments of heroism and triumph occur. But with a limited set of enemies, the story gets repetitive real quickly – they come, I intercept at the closest chokepoint, my knight tanks while everyone else lets fly with DPS and the cleric keeps everyone healthy. Once every so often, the archers get a special mission to snipe an enemy cleric or a particularly annoying archer.

There’s really not much which can be done with the current system, barring an overhaul of not just combat but serious chunks of the game engine. We’d need fundamentally better AI (of the sort which doesn’t really exist yet) if we wanted the soldiers to act any “smarter” than they currently do, or else some real variety of enemies (flying, leaping, climbing, varied buffers and debuffers to both boost enemies and dampen our soldiers, fast enemies which know to flank/kite/taunt and pull our guys out of position, enemy generals…), more encounters and different types of encounters (raids, sieges, invasions/“take and hold” camps; various attacks which apply pressure in different ways and pose different threats), and then we’d need campaigns to introduce all of these mechanics so that players don’t feel hopelessly lost. All this adds up to years and years worth of work.

This is the reason that Team Radiant haven’t expanded combat, and they haven’t been shy about telling us either. Everything I’m saying here is just a rehash of ideas that were already brought up, chewed over, and then written off as “great idea but not practical”, and that was before a deadline was set.

I’d love to see more nuanced combat, but the game just really can’t support much more than already exists. Now, if modders can add some fundamental improvements such as flying creatures, an AI which can react to enemies (e.g. an AI smart enough to go “this enemy is running away, I should get around behind it and cut off its retreat before engaging”, even if it’s based on a set of pre-set tags for enemies rather than the AI dynamically figuring that out), or separate the archers’ ability to aim from their pathing system… then it would be worth talking about expanded combat.

Adding more buttons to press isn’t going to improve the experience for the vast majority of players though; because at the end of the day if we have control over when footmen use their cleave attack or when archers use their double shot, then 99% of us are just going to rush towards the most important enemy and spam that skill as often as possible. Which is exactly what happens now if you set a particular enemy as the target, rather than setting the flag on the ground. There’s no advantage to using those attacks less, and honestly, making it up to the player to use them just means the player can miss the opportunity/forget to fire off the ability in the heat of battle. Again, if we want to make sure the ability is used on a specific target, we can already do that by simply paying attention and switching targets when the ability is about to recharge.


#10

I can see what they’re saying though and what they desire can likely be granted without even messing with the default experience if you take a page from the Warcraft book and make the skills available to the player but “autocast” by default.
This way they can micromanage if they so desire and for most others they won’t even bother with the added skill buttons.
This could open up the page for other more heroic skills from some modded classes to be something that requires the player intervention if they want to turn their SH experience into a more combat oriented one.

I don’t think it is a bad suggestion but this is likely not one the devs will approach, this is a suggestion for our modders to think about and see if they want to tackle that kind of idea as the most difficult encounters in the game are going to come from said modders who desired more varied and strenuous fighting in their gameplay.


#11

This would be great for the HOBA. Now I want it.

If we could just select who got what, that would open the door to more diverse weapons and armor (which I’m sure modding could handle) and allow the player to make more interesting decisions before combat. As well as, of course, the ability to dress up outfit your Hearthlings however you want, which is something I’ve wanted since forever.

It would add very little micro - maybe Hearthlings could still automatically pick the best item if they haven’t been assigned a specific one - and in general be the sort of set and forget thing the game generally has for combat, but I think it would add a lot to the experience.


#12

I have to disagree with the OP. I don’t want to need to activate hearthlings skills myself. I’m already bussy supervising combat and telling each soldier which targets to attack. That, is being a tactician and involving enough for me.
If the automation/manual use of those skills is optional then ok. But, for me, the hearlings skills should be under hearthling control. We are here to order them around and supervise. Not to control. The hearthling have always been autonomous in the way they perform the tasks we have given them. Our control has always been indirect. Manually activating soldier’s skills would go against the idea of the game.

What I would like to have is more control of the gear the soldiers use. I would like to be able to decide what each soldier has and not to be restricted by class. The only limits should be soldier’s level and whether you can craft it or not.

Have fun, Kyth.

(PS: I hate the RPG un-holy trinity, but well…)


#13

There’s nothing preventing mods from doing that already though; Team Radiant wouldn’t need to add anything to make it possible.

My reason for continually rebutting the idea, though, is that to me it seems counter-intuitive – combat wouldn’t be “improved” by making it more manual IMO, it would just mean more work for the same (or a lesser) result. The only time I can imagine that this would actually improve the soldiers’ efficiency would be if the player consciously cast all the damage-boosted skills on the largest targets and the ones who are one skill-hit away from death (think MOBA style last-hit priority.)

I’m not against more micro as a rule (if anything, where it’s meaningful I’m in favour of more options to micro), it’s just a matter of whether it’s meaningful or not. In this case, the maximum impact of the skills is already being achieved, taking the control away from the AI and giving it to the player actually reduces efficiency because it adds delay (reaction time, input time, and in the worst case UI lag too.) If you need the AI to focus all the boosted damage from skills onto a single enemy, there’s already a button for that. In fact, you can get to that button multiple ways – from the party screen (either order the whole party to attack, or go into party members and select the one you want), from the hearthling screen (again, select the hearthling you want and then issue an attack order), or by directly selecting the hearthling in the midst of battle (it doesn’t get much more RTS/management than that!)

It’s a case where the intent of the change is far more important than the change itself. Here, the intent is effectively “make combat more interesting”; but adding more buttons would actually make combat more tedious in most cases. Sure, the first couple of times it feels cool to order an attack and watch it be carried out; but that wears off quickly. I know, because that’s the way various other games do it. Active skills are present in most games which have a combat element, even a lot of RTS games have some kind of manually activated skill. Think about which games really benefit from that, though? Most of the time, the ones which work well and which are remembered are either “commander” skills, or games where that skill tips the balance of a combat. In the first case, it works because the commander is the “cinematic focal point” of the story (and usually is also representing the player within the game), so it feels like you get to make a badass move and see the results play out. In the latter case, the enjoyment comes from the sense of watching a carefully laid plan come to fruition, as enemies are caught off-guard.

Stonehearth doesn’t have the first case (unless you get really heavy into roleplay and follow a single character who you’ve chosen to be your avatar – I know at least 1 player who sometimes does that. Paging @Kittyodoom for the opinion of someone who has played that way – would casting the abilities in direct control of an avatar lead to more immersive roleplay?) As for the second case, again, it can already be accomplished with the existing buttons to move or attack a specific target.

I reckon that focussing on manual control is putting the cart before the horse here. We don’t need more precision, because the hearthlings are basically blunt instruments. That’s not just true of combat, it’s across the whole game – we tell the hearthlings what to do, and they do it; the how isn’t super important.

If we need to, though, we can restrict the options of the how, in order to force the hearthlings into a desired (usually optimised) path – for example, we can use “disable all storages by default” and micro-manage the storage to ensure that items end up where we want them. I do that already, and the OP does it as well, and it works great. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always best to micro-manage things down to the nth degree – for example, when Malley added “accept this category” to the input bins in addition to being able to set them to accept only specific items, a few of us absolutely lit up that thread with dedications of our love and excitement. In that case, we had complete control over the micro and it actually turned out that a more macro solution worked better in some cases (e.g. fiber for weavers to use), while in other cases it still paid to keep tight control on which specific items were stored where.

That’s the core issue behind any combat overhaul we want to look at (whether it’s right now, or as a community in the future – you can be sure I’ll be suggesting combat improvements for the ACE project!) To be a true improvement, and not just more buttons to press, the new system needs to give capabilities which we don’t already have.

So, to bring up some examples (again) which would give us those new capabilities: selecting which gear hearthlings use, improved patrols (set routes, maintain guard with R+R periods/shifts), variant default tactics based on what enemies are present (e.g. mob-rushing clerics, or attempting to surround archers before attacking them.) Those sorts of improvements would add a lot to the experience, without increasing the tedium or complexity that players have to deal with.


#14

YES, PLEASE!!! :heart::heart::heart:

Have Fun, Kyth.


#15

Yeah, you got in and ninja’d me with a more concise but similar point.

More micro for its own sake is a detriment rather than an improvement. New tools, on the other hand, can either be macro’d or micro’d based on player preference so everyone gets something.


#16

I would love to be able to choose what type of weapon someone should use and for different types to be good and bad at different things and have different effects (like stun). It would add to the preparations for players that want to care and give tactical options of who should attack when and where.

Whether or not to let the player order special actions depends on what kind of actions they are. If it’s just double damage with not downside then the ai can spam that more effectively than the player. If it’s actions that are more about timing and placement then the player has a more important role to play. If the double damage attack leaves the soldier undefended for several seconds then you only want it on special occasions. Actions that are more about crowd control and AOE-attacks most likely need a human to be the most effective.

I do understand the argument that ordering special actions is too much micro management. However, if the hearthlings can still manage good enough without the player then it shouldn’t be a problem. In the early days of the game there was the design philosophy that the game should reward the player for giving extra attention to a certain part of the game (the farming mini game and stuff like that). I’m not sure how much of that is in the current version but by having more options for the players in combat the extra attention is automatically rewarded by needing less soldiers and having less injuries and casualties.

An alternative that is halfway to ordering special actions is if the player can set a soldiers tactic to normal, aggressive or evasive (stolen from Homeworld). If aggressive they attack more often and might hit harder but will also have less defense and are less likely to dodge. If evasive they attack less often but are harder to hit. Aggressive archers move closer and are more likely to hit and the evasive do the opposite.

I agree with @YetiChow that a more complex combat system needs more varied enemies to motivate it.

Aaand… I think that’s all I had to say. I had some thought about breakable armor, to open up for weapons that are better at that, but the same effect could be done with debuffs, which is already supported so never mind.


#17

The Kitty-cat’s input on micromanaging units:

Sure, that sounds like great fun, right? I mean, play a game like Baldur’s Gate, where you control a team of 6, and can pause to make it turn based, and-

Team of six might be a good reflection of early game.
What about once you have/need a dozen, or three? Do you really want to control the game on that level once you have big armies?

Most that do that sort well, are TBS. Granted, I effectively play Stonehearth that way - pause, issue commands, unpause. But it might be well noted that I also have never finished a play through, at least in part because of how time consuming my level of perfectionist playstyle is, and how likely I am to scrap a save over a small mistake.

If you try to stick it RTS… you seriously need an option to have an auto-attack for your troops, even if you do direct them. Warcraft, Starcraft, etc; even if you could control your units, you could also just tell them to go attack a spot and let them do their own thing. And that is what most people ended up doing once numbers were involved - which is the long term objective even in Stonehearth. You’re aiming for a city and army, not a small colony and warband, right?

If you keep it on, say, League of Legend level of controlling attacks and units… well, what happens in games like that if you’re AFK or lagged or such? You get killed. So if you forget to pause and get attacked, and your Hearthlings aren’t getting your commands telling them how to fight back and defend themselves, you’re going to return from the loo or dinner or whatnot to a town even city that’s been wiped out by entlings or goblins or whatnot.

Personally; I’ll pass. If it’s a mod for people that want that, they can have it. I know my limitations better than that.