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View Full Version : How might combat be different in the single-player game?



quartex
12-16-2013, 10:54 PM
I've been reading some previews of The Banner Saga recently where reviewers comment that they thought which units they select or what abilities they use didn't really matter because of the overwhelming odds they were facing. One reviewer commented that it didn't matter if hit unit did 2 damage, if the opponent did 9 damage in return. The units they were fighting were so strong, that winning seemed impossible - and that was obviously frustrating.

I realize that some of this may be a result of new players not understanding how to take full advantage of their units' strengths, but it got me thinking that combat in Factions has been based on the idea that both sides are roughly equal. The matching system is carefully designed to try to match players against opponents of equal strength and skill. And Factions veterans have been practicing getting that small advantage to defeat their opponent, because even if 5 of your units are knocked out, a win is a win.

But what if your opponent was twice or three times your strength? What if you were fighting a battle you knew you would probably lose? How would that change your strategy? Would it make sense to only fight with a few units, because if you were going to lose anyway you would minimize your losses? What if in the long term, a draw or a defeat in a small battle was better than getting your best fighters knocked out (and thus incapacitated for a number of days) Factions veterans may be very good at combat tactics for individual battles, but along with the new units and new abilities, I'm looking forward to seeing how the other considerations of the single-player game affect the stragies used in combat.

Aleonymous
12-17-2013, 06:55 AM
Hello, Quartex. A very interesting thread.

Looking at the battle-snapshots from most of these reviews, it seems that the players don't have any experience in Factions (or have simply not understood how to best make use of the units and the combat mechanics). You see units scattered around the map, enemies that have broken through their lines and all those signs of what we call "bad play" in Factions.

I'd like to point out some obvious differences I have noted:

No timer! -- This is a very important factor. We get to think out our moves and strategy without time-pressure. Ain't that great? :)
Ally knockout -- This was barely an issue in itself in Factions; as long as you won with one unit, that was ok. Here, it seems that getting units KO'd will cost recovery time or penalize you in consecutive battles. So, preventing ally KOs seems pretty important.
Stat-vs-Turn Advantage -- As you said, in Factions the battles start on equal grounds; same number of units and approximately equal stats. Here, both of these balances have changed. So, I think it'd be typical to be outnumbered (by lower-stat enemies) or face fewer but stronger enemies.
Deployment -- In Factions you deploy on fixed zones, and can't see your opponents layout. From the images we've seen in the SP game, the deployment zones are much more varied. I have identified 4 types so far: typical-Factions, encircle enemies, surrounded by enemies, diagonally-opposite corners. Finally, another important thing is that the enemy units are already placed, so you can really tailor your deployment according to the specific situations.
War-mode options -- It seems that for every battle you are given options as how to approach your foes (before going into the fight/match): Charge, defend, retreat. This probably affects both the difficulty of the battle (number of foes, enemy unit types, deployment zones) as well as the outcome (caravan casualties etc).
Enemy team's AI -- Last but not least, this is perhaps the most crucial parameter of combat. Is this a vicious AI that optimizes all stats in order to win? Does it incorporate "lore" features? For example, do Dredge prioritize Varl over human targets (cuz they hate em more)? Do they prefer to kill maimed units (cuz they are savage baddies) although this might grant privileges to you (turn-advantage, expose other units etc)? Is there an "error/unpredictability" factor in the AI? One a side-note, from the preview videos, we saw that the AI acts almost instantaneously, so no more annoying opponents that use up all their turn to make obvious moves :)


All in all, I believe that --as in Factions-- practice and trial-and-error are your friends to master the combat difficulty. It shouldn't be expected that you plunge in the game and with 1-2hrs of play you beat all battles single-handed. I personally prefer hard & challenging battles. This gives you so much joy when you actually make it!

Slimsy Platypus
12-17-2013, 09:51 AM
Combat is definitely going to feel much more fresh I'm sure.

I think the biggest difference is going to be from the additional goal of preventing any units from meeting their doom. In Factions, putting a shieldbanger up front to soak up damage is certain doom, but in the single player that might be a much more viable strategy. Especially if the Dredge are breaking much less than 5 armor each turn. Additionally the single player AI will shake things up a bit, making some active abilities a lot better than they are in Factions. Specifically, Rain of Arrows, Tempest, Bring the Pain, Slag and Burn, and Stone Wall are all going to be much more valuable if the AI doesn't have checks to avoid those abilities.

On top of that we're going to be introduced to a host of new passive and possibly even some new active abilities that our enemies will use. In Let's Play 1 we see the dredge use a special ability where he channels something. An article written by someone who played the PAX demo stated that that ability summoned additional dredge to the fight. We've also seen the Dredge Slingers run away after being struck (possible passive), and the large dredge have the armor of their adjascent friendly units get struck when an armor break was used against them (possible passive) . There will be a ton of additional learning to do when we are able to get our hands on it :)

I am super excited for the single player. I love factions, but I have always preferred multiplayer play only cooperatively as competitive PvP can feel overwhelming when you're learning and losing. In only a matter of weeks we'll get to finally play!

Arnie
12-17-2013, 07:58 PM
Wow…we have really been surprised at this feedback. It's difficult to make a game that people can just jump into with two feet and win every time. TBS does have a bit of a learning curve, though I consider the mechanics as simple as they can be. We've been going through some balancing/re-balancing trying to find a sweet spot for 'Normal' mode. From there we're making a 'Hard' mode (I.e. Factions mode for this who've been playing for months) and on the opposite end of the spectrum an 'Easy' mode, for those that really just want to enjoy the story/world and don't want to get involved with overly thinking about turn based mechanics. We get it.
So I'm playing a good swath of the battles on all 3 settings and if I can win a battle on Hard mode, with my tough crew outfitted with items, then it's good…even if it takes me a few tries.
We're pretty pumped to get this to you all, it's shaping up to be much more than we set out to do.

balnoisi
12-17-2013, 08:46 PM
So I'm playing a good swath of the battles on all 3 settings and if I can win a battle on Hard mode, with my tough crew outfitted with items, then it's good…even if it takes me a few tries.
We're pretty pumped to get this to you all, it's shaping up to be much more than we set out to do.

you guys rock. i am really curious about how that combat finally shapes up.

i think Hard mode should really be hard. games nowadays tend to present their Normal mode as a "you will never die" experience for the casual player, the average player in the best cases; therefore the higher difficulty is actually a normal game, sometimes even not demanding at all.

most games get programmed with fear that casual players will die once then quit the game go play another. the difficulty levels afaik since i started playing videogames in the early 90s have seen a dramatic evolution. i was never a Difficult mode player until the last 10 years or so when it became ridiculous to keep playing in Normal. now i don't ask to go back to old spectrum / msx games practically impossible to finish, but the VG industry is dumbing down its audience.

personally i'd love if in Normal mode most gamers die once or twice. that would probably mean a demanding Hard mode, a challenge. but i can only imagine how tough must be to program those things properly and set the right level, so good luck with that !

raven2134
12-18-2013, 03:35 AM
There's a LOT of focus that's gone into balancing and more importantly fun. I think people will be happy with the final shape the game takes at the varying difficulty levels. Coupled with the story I'm pretty sure jumping into hard, even for the toughest of the tough Factions veterans, will see people getting whooped here and there.

The nice thing I think is that even when you get the hang of things and discover more of the story (for re-plays) the game is still challenging and fun.

Early previews of the game have been pretty consistent that the game as a whole story+combat, won't be a walk in the park :).

balnoisi
12-18-2013, 01:15 PM
Early previews of the game have been pretty consistent that the game as a whole story+combat, won't be a walk in the park :).

and now that i read you say this in other thread :
.. Although because the Ai acts instantaneously, you'll find the game runs at an even more enjoyable and convenient pace compared to Factions. More so because while the Ai takes no time to act, you can take as long as you need or want to ..

just out of curiosity, i wonder if the AI you are reffering to consists of a decent program, will it read into players ? try one from many different approaches to battle .. or does it just perform a couple basic straight routines and increases difficulty by the numbers only, ( i.e. adding more enemies to battle ) ?

raven2134
12-19-2013, 06:36 AM
That's a difficult question to answer haha.

I think I'd compare it to a different game (and genre) and one of my favorites, Dark Souls.

Dark Souls' AI/enemies had readable patterns and behaved in relatively simple ways. However, the challenge and difficulty in playing the game came from recognizing the patterns, applying skill, timing and technique to best the game's AI. Command/player execution was critical, and putting all these things together was great fun.

Like Dark Souls, skill, timing and technique are GREATLY rewarded in The Banner Saga. It's not about having a near human opponent, but having a combination of many factors that can create adverse situations and make interesting and fun situations and battle conditions.

Some of these are stats, number of enemies, enemy unit compositions, semi-random deployments, story decisions which affect overall difficulty (did you lose people?), and items and promotions (who did you promote, what do you have equipped?).

Make no mistake though, the AI is pretty competent. It doesn't have the ingenuity of a human player, but it does it's work well.

Aleonymous
12-19-2013, 07:40 AM
just out of curiosity, i wonder if the AI you are reffering to consists of a decent program, will it read into players ? try one from many different approaches to battle .. or does it just perform a couple basic straight routines and increases difficulty by the numbers only, ( i.e. adding more enemies to battle ) ?


Make no mistake though, the AI is pretty competent. It doesn't have the ingenuity of a human player, but it does it's work well.

Having played Factions, and understanding the basics of {positioning, range, stat- and turn-advantage}, its fairly easy to understand when a Saga battle is gonna be hard or easy. What adds a lot to the Saga battles (compared to Factions) is alternate deployment and unknown enemy-order. So, you might take the risk to place your big Warrior close to the enemy's Warrior if yours acts first... But, if not?

I think it's much more different (and hard) to build an AI for the Factions-scenario, where teams start with equivalent numbers & stats. The hard part is making it fun and, at the same time, "adaptably challenging" to play against. From my experience the Saga battles are both fun and challenging with the current implementation, playing at your skill/difficulty level. I'm sure they're gonna tweak it if/when it comes into Factions.

What I would like to see is (we've discussed this in one of Yth's threads) different AI tactics and behaviors attached to different units/characters. For example, Dredge could/should act as mindless suits of armor, so its ok to have large packs of them. But, fighting that archenemy and his elite-guard should be much harder, even at the same stats & numbers. Deceivingly hard battles would be real fun: "Oh, look at that old dude in the back! I wonder what his wooden staff does..." (fireball staff :p)