Soldiers, experience, delusions, and wasted time

Hello there. I didn’t see anything discussing this at all recently; apologies if I’ve missed something and am doubling up on posts.

Soldiers gain experience when patrolling, but not when defending an area, it seems. This doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me, since it specifically penalizes using terrain to your advantage - if I’ve set up a chokepoint with walls, moats, and natural features, then letting my soldiers patrol means they’ll be farther away from where the enemies will be coming than they need to be. You can still practice and train if you’re set up to defend an area; patrolling shouldn’t be the only way to passively gain exp. Given how dreadfully slowly passive exp gain comes, the current setup makes it all but impossible for Hearthlings who have done one job for a few levels to pick up a soldiering job and advance at anything resembling an acceptable pace.

If, however, Radiant’s design concept is such that soldiers should only be gaining exp on patrols as a sort of cost offset for losing ideal positioning, then at least let defending soldiers perform simple tasks in the square that they’re defending. Let workers transplant some berries near the soldiers and set up a tiny food stockpile, so that there’s no need to ferry stuff from the farmland way back in protected territory. It’s not much to ask that your army make use of the stuff in their immediate vicinity so that they don’t starve to death.

Herbalists don’t seem to get experience from healing wounded units. They really should; sure, brewing potions can make you better at brewing them, but if you’re a healing class, you should also get better at healing from doing actual healing. I know that at present, Herbalists are essentially just a rest stop on the way to Clerics, but it feels like they should have a secondary exp stream, particularly given that their crafting requires rarer materials at low levels than most other crafters.

My hearthlings keep mining out stuff in such a way that they leave strips of rock or dirt floating 5 cubes up. Then, the only way to get that stuff is to come along and build ladders - usually several, since hearthlings are always in a mood to paint themselves into corners if possible. It might be a little depressing for the poor lads and lasses, but could they be reminded that they cannot, in fact, fly? Even such a simple rule as “in any contiguous area, mine from top to bottom” would reduce how often my special little helpers lock themselves into pits or leave levitating debris all around.

Levels come fairly slowly, overall, so it doesn’t seem like a hearthling with levels in two or three jobs would be inexplicably overpowered. Could there be some small advantage to levelling a hearthling in other jobs? For example, could a hearthling that had retired as a mason or carpenter retain the ability to build the “no level requirement” items? At least the stacks of logs and stone? At present, if the workers have nothing to do then they just sit around and, indeed do nothing. Obviously that’s part of a feedback loop to improve aggregate efficiency through choice of classes, but it seems like at present there’s no reward mechanism for playing out a longer game and allowing your hearthlings to diversify. Just get level 6 in one job and never do anything else. That’s actually a little boring in the long run.

Forgive the wall o’ text. I quite enjoy the game and don’t regret backing it at all, I’m just noting a few things I’ve seen over the last week or so of playing. Thank you.


Just a few more things I don’t understand or wonder about, if anyone knows if this stuff is in the works or the pile of discarded ideas.

Gold doesn’t seem very useful after the first few in-game weeks have passed by. If you’ve got carpenters and masons turning your spare resources into sellable items (wooden swords and stone tables/tower braziers/gargoyles seems to have the best RoI but anyone find better choices?) then you’ve probably got tens of thousands of gold just laying around collecting dust by the time Rainmun starts. Since wandering merchants don’t seem very reliable, and the sorts of things you would want aren’t usually held in appreciable quantities, could one of the benefits of the Township questline be that you can finance trading caravans? Like, every day with the daily update see if you want to spend x gold to send a caravan of [surplus_item_a] to sell and come back with [widget_b]? If you’re running a fully recognized town, it could make sense to have benefits for the town economy as well. There are no good gold sinks in the economy at present, which by corollary means there’s no reason to have gold in the first place. A couple dozen reasonably expensive items held for barter will do to allow you to buy up all the leather or cloth or ore or whatever you want from the wandering merchants.

Speaking of the township questline, could becoming a town offer a modest increase in item limit? By the time you’ve become a proper town, you likely need to have things stockpiled for efficient building progress, or have enough workers that you can harvest wood or stone by the thousand between setting them to other tasks. Perhaps just a 500 item increase, to help offset the storage space “cost” of food needed to grow your population above 26-28 or so? As it stands right now, if it takes a game month to finish the township quest (not a crazy amount of time), you can already have a population well above 25. An item limit bump would really help that second growth phase.

Could we get Blacksmiths or Engineers to create a better mining pick for Workers? I think I understand why you went with a 4 block height limit for worker reach, but given that your “stories” of elevation in the world are 5 blocks high, a worker should really be able to reach that fifth block. It would also cut down tremendously on the ridiculous problems workers have with trapping themselves or leaving floating blocks all over the place.

Would it be possible without too much change to force a few commands to a globally high priority? It’s so frustrating to watch a worker decide to run a quarter of the way across the world to pick up an item that an enemy has dropped, and get ganked by popping-in orcs.

Which brings me to the part of the post that makes me sound like a jerk. I spent some time considering your combat system while playing over the weekend, and I sincerely cannot think of a single change that could be made to your combat system which would make it worse. Literally every option has been designed to be optimally bad, and that’s crazy impressive since some of those options require multiple decisions to work in harmony to create an ideally terrible system. Is the combat system past the “good idea” phase? I know I should have been active way back when you kickstarted this to have opinions matter, but I wasn’t, and, oh boy. This combat system is so bad it makes the rest of the game unattractive unless in sandbox mode.

But, hey. You’ve got a sandbox mode, and so combat casuals like me can play that instead :wink:

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While I don’t really disagree with your notion about the combat, what is it exactly that makes it that bad for you? If you come up with great ideas about how to improve it, chances are that they will be implemented if feasible.

It’s several things. I don’t blame you if you skip this wall o’ text; I’ll try to summarize each paragraph in its opening sentence.

First problem with combat is that since it exists it needs to be important. That makes sense, but it creates some problems. First, in order to make military jobs meaningful, the non-military types need to be ineffectual in combat; therefore, any combat which happens where the military units are not, is a very bad combat (we’ll come back to this when we talk about spawning). Second, then, in order to give a standing military a cost so that we don’t just make everyone a footman, those units need to lose usefulness that they would otherwise have (more on that later, too). This then means that there are two subgroups of Hearthlings that have different roles and that we need to act and react differently, but don’t reliably do the “right thing” in a situation (in detail below, micro vs macro). Finally, because combat stresses Hearthlings differently than non-combat situations, there are very specific and narrow requirements to have a hearthling be a good combatant. In order to make good combatants reliably, players need to game the system by rolling and rerolling their starting seven until they get two or preferably three with the ideal starting stats. I don’t think combat should be removed (though with current implementation, no combat might be better than combat), but a lot of things could be improved.

The second problem then is that combat sticks out from the rest of the game because of how decisions are made. Stonehearth is generally a macromanagement game - tell your people what to do, and they’ll do it how they want. For the most part, you can’t dictate their exact actions. Combat, however, specifically requires micromanagement unless the combat is so lopsided that it’s not worth your attention. By itself, this isn’t a problem; having two game modes switches things up and can keep it interesting for a broader audience. But the macro rules of stonehearth don’t go away in the micro of combat, and that leads to real problems. Hearthlings have no trouble ganging up on a single orc knight and leaving four clerics completely alone as they heal the knight indefinitely; a hearthling will gleefully break from the main combat to chase after a kobold archer, all across the known world, picking up additional groups that should never have gotten involved (class balance next paragraph). Guiding your troops to prevent these bad behaviors requires a sudden, and presently unavoidable, focus on micro in a game that was otherwise macro focused. Also, those individual macro decisions make your military progressively less effective as it grows in size, because combat teams are not in fact teams at all, they’re just random individuals who sometimes get similar orders. I think this could be improved with a few changes. First, make groups act like proper groups. They should not merely walk together when they patrol; they should eat at the same time, sleep at the same time. In combat, they should stick closely together because a team of four is more useful than four individuals. Radiant has given us the ability to have several groups; there’s the flexibility that combat requires. Teams should stay together, because that will make them much more useful in combat. Second, and I’ve mentioned this before, the current system of “patrol vs guard” is clunky. Patrols should be customizable, or else they exist independently of terrain, buildings, and whatever your civilians are doing. If I have a stockpile of logs far outside the town center and I don’t care if goblins steal from it, I shouldn’t have to accept the cost of my patrolling military being too far from town to be useful 40% of the time because they want to check on a few sticks out in the middle of the woods. Similarly, if I set my troops to guard a specific point, they shouldn’t have to forfeit their passive exp gain just because I’ve put them in a better position. Third, given that micro is going to be necessary for combat, soldiers need to be better behaved than civilians. By this I mean commands given by the human player need to always override (or be able to always override if you don’t have an aneurysm every time someone says “just make a toggle”) whatever ideas the soldiers have. Currently, in combat, if all the hearthlings decide they want to attack a thing, the only way to get them to stay put is to give them a movement command, overriding their combat and wasting time when it matters most. Tethering groups should be independent of attack commands, even though as classes are currently implemented, that would lead to additional inefficiencies.

Class balance, then - right now, on paper, your footmen, knights, clerics, and archers all fulfill coherent roles and do it well. In practice, however, you don’t want anything but clerics, archers, and one knight to tank. The reason footmen are utterly useless is that you have a free movement mechanic that is not well-adjusted to the attack mechanic. To hit an archer, first a troop has to run to the archer. Then, the unit can begin a swing. But archers are quick, and they can run away before the swing is completed. Even a speed-boosted footman can only get one swing in at most between sprints, and after getting to a safe distance (at the speed-boosted panic sprint archers get when engaged in melee) an archer can shoot off one or two arrows (a high level archer, two or three), which may also ignite - or, worse, slow - whatever is chasing it. Then the cycle repeats, with the melee futilely running all around the world after one single archer. If you keep your group tethered to one area, then the archers will never get close enough for your melee to engage them, so you need archers of your own to kill them. And of course, for raw power, archers are dominant since they pierce armor, can shoot two arrows at once, and have quivers that give very nice additional effects. This could be in part fixed by allowing melee units to “pin” enemies; either a hard pin where the enemy can’t move, or a soft pin where the enemy suffers movement speed penalties and even attacks of opportunity (which would be harder to implement, I would guess). Using archers would require a more diverse party, because if the enemy got to melee your archers, they’d be in real trouble. This would then be a cost which would help to justify the raw output that archers currently have. Movement penalties would even help with a few of the more irritating civilian combat scenarios.

Sending out workers to gather things far from the village is unnecessarily dangerous at present. Because military jobs have lost all non-combat usefulness, after a fight, civilian hearthlings need to go out and pick up whatever sparkly things were dropped. There is no way to arrange, say, six hearthlings at a time to travel in a group, which would allow a military team to travel as escort for protection. Still worse, your spawn system makes it nearly certain that if a line of hearthlings is gathering stuff after a large fight, some giant group of ogres or ninja orcs will pop up right in the middle of the line and murder several civilians before anything can be done. This could be very easily fixed in one of two ways. First, military types could be allowed to carry things. After a combat, unless directed otherwise, that team is going to go back to town and begin a patrol again (or eat or sleep, of course). There’s no compelling reason that strong, healthy hearthlings (like you would choose to make up your combat teams) can’t just pick a few things up and carry them back to near town, then drop them in place when the AI restarts patrol mode. Then your workers would have a much shorter distance to travel to pick up the goods, and would travel in a safer environment as well. If that’s not desirable, then the spawn mechanism could be changed. No enemy should ever pop-in right next to a hearthling; you’d see them coming. If you need them to spawn like that (presumably because you’ve already coded it and understandably don’t want to change the whole shebang), then at least apply a short (15 second?) stun period, followed by a slightly longer (30 second?) period of slowed movement, unless the enemy has spawned within some small number of squares of the fog of war. This allows civilians to go into town defense mode and haul butt away from the things that are going to eat them, and gives the combat teams a few moments to intercept and do their job. This is even more important given how frail non-combat jobs are, even with a retired mastery or two.

As it currently stands, there’s no real benefit to levelling a hearthling once they can do one job well. Radiant has - correctly, I believe - given footmen and knights large (huge in the case of knights) health bonuses to make them useful in combat. For footmen, it’s ten levels worth of health; for knights, twenty. Since exp gain for combat classes is very slow when passive, and only active when engaged in actual combat, it’s probably correct to boost them relatively early on. I know I can get one crafter hearthling to master three jobs before my first knight can hit level 6. But why should we even do that? Hearthlings never improve their stats or attributes as they level (though they may get class-specific passive bonuses, obviously). That means that if you get a hearthling with the bad luck to roll 1/3/3, that’s always going to be a useless hearthling. It would be nice if that weren’t necessarily the case. If every time a hearthling mastered a job, they gained one stat point (and maybe 2-3 attribute points per level), you’d have reason to spread around the training. Right now exp gain is about right that a 6 mind hearthling can reliably master 4 jobs before everything’s done in the normal/hard mode quest lines. Keeping the stat cap at 6 would allow your hearthlings to flesh out a little without becoming exceedingly strong; those crafters could maybe pick up a little more body from all the hard work they’ve been doing, which might allow them to take a hit if they caught in combat. Your combat troops might actually benefit from taking a break from combat and spending a few weeks hammering ingots at the forge or growing crops. Most of the starting group hearthlings have 10-14 stat points, so a single stat point at mastery would only be about a 20-30% improvement across a longer game. And as this is a building sandbox, a longer game could be something that many players might like to try.

Generally speaking, combat units are almost useless. They’re only valuable in combat, which is only a small part of the game on Normal and not present at all in sandbox. So they really only are worth their weight on Hard. In order to make them more worthwhile, it would be nice to either allow them to perform simple gatherer tasks (ask anyone you know who has been in the military how many hours they spent in working parties) while following their specified orders, or give them a much broader range of commands, and at greater detail, such as specifying patrol paths. It might even be neat if after retiring a job at master level, hearthlings kept 0th or 1st level abilities for that job in their new job. Why not let soldiers do normal, albeit simple, work around town when they don’t have to be out stabbing things?

Anyway, that’s a ridiculous amount of text so I’m going to stop. Apologies if you’ve read all the way to the bottom here. I know you had better things to do :wink:


Late to the party, but an excellent post. I’m trying to give a short summary of your main points of criticism. Hope it’s a fair representation to warrant further discussion.

  • Military Hearthlings mainly rely on one stats leaving not much of a choice
  • Combat needs more micro management thus making it feel different from the rest of the game
  • Assigning multiple warriors to a group that acts together could ease some of the troubles
  • Manual patrolling points would be useful to prevent unnecessary patrol routes
  • Player commands should have priority for attacks in order to have one’s hearthlings not act chaotically during combat
  • Attacking fleeing enemy archers is a nuisance which could be solved by having some sort of pin attack or an attack of opportunity
  • Groups would be useful for expedition teams as well, e. g. for faraway item retrieval; guards should also be able to carry goods
  • Random enemies appearing while picking up faraway items are a nuisance
  • Improving stats by leveling up could prevent Hearthlings from being totally unusable due to RNG
  • Combat units should be able to do more than just fighting, if only light manual labor
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You’re not wrong, and maybe your summary is even better than my points, but there are two things that I would like to emphasize that aren’t as clear in your summary:

Groups just aren’t groups at all. Each individual in a team does their own thing, on their own schedule. This means that over time, you will very likely have less than half your combat team ready at any given moment since some of them will have gone to bed and some will be eating. When you assign them to go somewhere, they’ll move at their individual movement rate so those lightly-armored footmen will get to a distant combat with plenty of time to die before the rest of the group arrives.

There’s no benefit to having a Hearthling gain levels after their first job mastery, since the per-level health gain is so trivially low. In a city builder / ant farm like Stonehearth, there should be incentive - even in the later game - to keep doing things, because doing things is literally the whole point of the game. Since the hearthlings lose access to their retired jobs when they change, there should be some other reward system in place to make it worthwhile to have that lvl6 Carpenter put down the saw and pick up a Mason’s Chisel instead.

Otherwise, yeah. Nicely summed; thanks on behalf of anyone who gets your brief version and can skip my overwrought wall :smile:

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All excellent points. I haven’t Posted anything yet, but I’ve played over 230hrs and my longest game is in Azuremun with constant invasion. I very much would like to be able to micromanage my troops. I absolutely love Stonehearth. It is by-far my favorite game to play and has been for the past six months.

All of these points reflect something myself or one of my friends has brought up in our gaming circle. I really hope they get addressed.

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Welcome to the Discourse, @applemason! :slight_smile: