View Full Version : Difficulty

05-01-2012, 09:08 AM
I would like to know if there are different difficulty modes in the game. I always like a good challenge and a game too easy is less fun.

05-01-2012, 09:27 AM
Most of the game will play out in story choices, so difficulty doesn't really come into play---you either make good or bad decisions, that make your clan's life easier or harder, and that may lead you to making other decisions in the future. A difficulty setting is not really possible, in this respect.

As far as the tactical combat goes, though, I don't know whether a difficulty setting is planned.

05-01-2012, 01:47 PM
Kimberly, just because the story decisions are going to be a big part of the game doesn't mean that you couldn't have difficulty settings affect that portion of the game. I'm sure some decisions will be more complex than others, so easier settings could either only use simpler decisions and/or consequences, or reduce the chance of bad consequences, or even just dial down the frequency of the decisions.

Whether or not that's an approach that Stoic ultimately decides to take, I don't know. But I think it could be done.

05-02-2012, 01:22 PM
I'm sure you could have difficulty settings affect decisions - for instance, a risky decision might have a certain likelihood of turning sour (increased with higher difficulty), or place a penalty on your troops for the next fight or kill some of your people (more severe impact with higher difficulty).

05-04-2012, 09:18 PM
In terms of the difficulty in battle, there are a few things that I feel are very important and should be discussed. Many of these points are spoken under the assumption that the game will be level-based. Though I am obviously taking a stand on just one side of these points, I am bringing this up as a way to spark communal thoughts on what they like best in games of the genre. Don't be shy about speaking up!

1. Permanent character death.

This is a pretty touchy subject. There are games out there such as the Fire Emblem series that feature permanent death that catch a lot of heat from the player base due to getting "randomed out" and losing one of your most important characters due to taking multiple crits in one turn or anything else very unlikely. At the same time, it garners praise due to it adding a lot of weight to your every decision. You have to make real strategic decisions to make sure your team is safe to fight another day. As a result, the best apparent solution to appease both parties is to allow the player to choose whether to allow permanent character death or not (difficulty choices or "hardcore" mode, etc). That said, frankly I like the From Software approach of just picking a side and just sticking to their guns (it just so happens that they always pick the more difficult approach), as it tends to give a sense of, "We know what our fans want, and we're going to bring it in full." As a fan, you feel like they're always looking out for your best interests rather than what will reach the mainstream audience best or what will pull in the most sales. Anyway, I rambled a bit on this point, but the underlying message is that I personally favor permanent character death as a way to force strategic play and enhance difficulty through real consequence. From what Stoic has said thus far, it seems like this is what they're shooting for as well.

2. Forced character participation.

There's no positives and negatives to this argument. I feel that forced character participation in battles is a terrible decision that results in unnecessary difficulty ramping, especially when the game in question has a huge roster of playable characters. I can't even count the number of times I've had only a minority of my party leveled adequately (I'll touch on the issue of experience sharing in the next point) and have been suddenly forced to use some character that hasn't seen a touch of combat since he joined the war-band. Obviously, said character was an incredible hindrance and a major handicap, creating a really unpleasant experience. This doesn't apply if the mission is something on the lines of a protection or retreat mission, where the fragile one must be saved at all costs, as they're not expected to actively participate in the dangers of battle. Those types of missions, while sometimes frustrating in their own right if not implemented well, are completely acceptable.

3. Individual experience vs Party experience.

This is something that it doesn't seem like many strategy rpg developers put much thought into. The tried and true formula of "When x character kills something or does certain actions, they gain y amount of experience!" is just slapped on. And while it makes the most practical sense, as the character doing the action should rightfully gain the experience for the action, in a large scale game with a huge playable roster, it can easily lead to over leveling which just limits a player's options. Without being able to utilize your full roster of characters, it needlessly raises the difficulty by weakening your strategic flexibility to meet the varying conditions battle.

To illustrate this point, I'll compare two games of the same series: Spectral Force 3 and Spectral Force Chronicle. This is a traditionally low budget srpg series and most of the games don't even make it to the US, but they've done some interesting things over the course of the series. SF Chronicle is the less standardized of the two, with the majority of its gameplay mechanics heavily simplified (in a great way!). In it, all experience gained goes into a centralized exp pool that can be freely distributed to the entire army in whichever way you see fit. Characters also didn't have static growth formulas, so the player was free to raise stats however they wanted. It allowed for a really open-ended experience and I never really felt that anyone in my party was useless, as I was able to make everyone into a necessary role that kept the balance. The party size was always kept small in that game, but I feel the experience sharing mechanic would apply just as well on the large scale.

SF3, on the other hand, was much more traditional in its design. The roster was big, at a little over 40 characters. Additionally, only six characters could enter a battle and two of those were fixed for the entire game, leaving you with less than 1/10th of the roster available to join each battle. Characters gained individual experience, and the balance between experience gained as a result of a kill and experience gained from casting a heal or support spell was somewhat favored toward the kills. The game also did not allow for prolonged random battles for farming up experience, as it would automatically progress to the next story mission after a certain number of battles. These elements combined together resulted in a really limited player experience, forcing you to keep up with the constantly ascending enemy strength by using only 6-8 characters of the entire roster for the entire game. There was a small amount of shared party exp that would be gained with each battle played. Unfortunately, the entire game's worth of playing only provided about 10 levels worth of shared experience, which proved to be useless as end game characters were around level 70 and the 30+ unused characters would range from level 20-40. It simply wasn't enough to make any impact. At the end of the game, when things finally stalled indefinitely while it waited for me to play the final story battle, I didn't even have the remaining interest to attempt power leveling up the majority of the cast in an effort to make them usable.

To summarize this point, I believe there absolutely needs to be some sort of shared or auxiliary experience mechanic to support a large playable cast. I'm not sure how big the actual playable cast will be, but the war-band under your banner in the trailer looks to be massive, so I imagine this point will be extremely relevant.

05-04-2012, 09:36 PM
To summarize this point, I believe there absolutely needs to be some sort of shared or auxiliary experience mechanic to support a large playable cast. I'm not sure how big the actual playable cast will be, but the war-band under your banner in the trailer looks to be massive, so I imagine this point will be extremely relevant.

I can't agree with this enough. Not only does individual experience make it too easy for characters to fall behind if they aren't used enough, but efforts to keep all the characters up to speed can lead to some odd tactics. Such as damaging an enemy but holding off on killing it so that your least experienced character can get the final blow.

I also like the experience system you described for Spectral Force Chronicle. Distributing experience throughout all of your characters, including ones that haven't been in battle, might be too extreme. But I'd certainly like to distribute the experience gained from a single battle to all the characters that participated in it.

05-05-2012, 09:23 AM
I agree that permanent character death can add weight to your decisions. However, the more random combat is, the more incentive there is for you to quit the game and reload when an important character dies. Permanent character death is only a good idea if combat relies on few dice rolls, in my opinion, and is mainly about statistics and strategic choices.

As for forced character participation, I don't think that's good, either. In the single player game, it can tie into story: if your leader never joins the fight, he can be accused of cowardice, especially if you lose a battle. You have to make the choice between safety and keeping your reputation up, and in case the numbers are evenly matched you might choose to send out people and put them at risk so you can win the battle.

A combined approach to experience is best, in my opinion. Your characters should not stay at level one because you never bring them along, because obviously that means that you're going to stick to one set of characters and never ever bring the lower-leveled ones along. But at the same time, those who participate need to get real benefits and progress. Perhaps we could let certain abilities be improved by actually using them, while general statistics go up for every character, regardless of use?

05-05-2012, 04:54 PM
Heck I'll just be satisfied if the AI isn't completely stupid and exploitable in combat.

Difficulty levels aren't really going to make any difference if the core mechanics of the game are broken. You can give them more HP or make them faster in a higher difficulty, but that won't really matter if AI controlled units make stupid decisions either way.

05-05-2012, 07:16 PM
The free multiplayer combat demo will serve as a showcase for the game. Its purpose will be to reach all potential players, and the press. So, it's pretty safe to assume that Stoic is confident about this part of the game.

As for the difficulty, my bet is that it won't have the complexity of something like Dominions III, or even maybe Age of Wonders, but it will stay far away from casual boredom.

05-07-2012, 06:50 AM
To summarize this point, I believe there absolutely needs to be some sort of shared or auxiliary experience mechanic to support a large playable cast. I'm not sure how big the actual playable cast will be, but the war-band under your banner in the trailer looks to be massive, so I imagine this point will be extremely relevant.

That holds even more necessary as The Banner Saga will not have random encouters to "grind levels" for all your troops.

On permanent character death, even if it may be harsh and require much carefulness, I'm for it. I remember Tactics Ogre with a rather harsh way of doing it, but for a mature "realistic" TRPG I feel it must be part of the dangers. the caravan is on the road because the village has been burnt and ou have to make tough choices along the way, death of your warriors is one of those.

05-24-2012, 09:36 AM
I have mixed feelings about permanent character death. It certainly adds some difficulty and tension toward the game, making it interesting and a challenging. But it also could become bothersome, if you constantly have to fear losing your character.

Real life is stressy enough, and decissions carry enough severe consequences if you picked the wrong choices. Honestly, I am not masochistic enough to like punishment dealed by a game, just because I had a bad day ;-)

Don't get me wrong. I love dark sinister games - Silent Hill for example - and they don't always have a good ending.
But I don't like my favorite fun hobby taking over habits of real-life. If I really wanted absolute 100 % real-life worthy action, I'll go LARP with real weapons and not rubber-coated fakes :p

I know.. some don't care if they lose their characters. They just start over, again.
Others, however, put more than just time and effort into their characters - and losing them to a senseless death is like having wasted your time and feeling cheated - just look at the reaction of the Mass Effect 3 Endings... and that was even the "End" of the entire story - so there was even supposed to be an end... but the end was unworthy and painful...

Another point is...

For people who work in a stressy job all day, time is precious, especially freetime where they can relax and have some fun. Now imagine, you come home, stressed and tired from work... you sit behind your screen for some gaming fun, start to play... And because of being tired like hell, you make a lousy decission or didn't react quickly enoug, and all your effort and time you previously invested in that character/game is lost permanently.

I know I would be heavily miffed and not very motivated to invest even more time into that game, again.

Something compareable happened to me with a game that was actually very entertaining, and it was a game where you could save and load - no permanent death.

My harddrive crashed and all my data was lost - so the game wasn't to be blamed. But all my effort and time I invested into that game went down the drain - permanently lost. Like perma-death.

I didn't have the nerve to start over again, starting a new character and playing through all the stuff and turn based fights again - investing so much time again for the stuff I actually did already.
Took me six years to pick up that game, again, playing it until the bitter end - the game is called Wizardry 6 - The Bane of the Cosmic Forge (yes I am old)

If there are consequences to bad decissions it rather should be some sort of "experience" loss, losing equipment or whatever. Not getting to see cut scenes or whatever.. something a player would miss, but not make him stomping the game into the ground.

Some MMORPGs do that - just painful enough to demand attention... but not severe enough to make a player stop playing.

05-25-2012, 07:30 AM
When I first made that post, I wasn't sure what to expect from the game. I just thought they were important things to bring up to begin with. Generally I'm also one who finds the loss of a character in a game unacceptable. It's because I feel that way that permanent chara death is a strong source of natural suspense in battles. Without character death it doesn't matter how perfectly or sloppy you play, because as long as you win, the results are the same. With character death, every risky move, lucky and unlucky event, even just mundane combat is super important and has me on the edge of my seat. It brings more emotion to the table, which makes it feel less like a game and more like a...meaningful experience, I guess?

But that doesn't really apply in this situation. With what Stoic has exposed through forum posts around here and through the interviews, I'm 100% certain that permanent character death is in the game. And what is important about that is that the entire game is designed around making choices and dealing with your results and just moving forward the best way you can. There's never going to be a perfect result, from how they make it sound. And I'm also very confident that some losses, even a large sum of losses, aren't going to completely cripple you the way losing a single strong unit could in any other srpg.

Anyway, not trying to get preachy on the matter. I basically just want to say that I don't think you'll have anything to worry about in this game.

05-29-2012, 05:03 PM
I dunno if you should be 100% certain of anything.

As I understand it, characters/units which are knocked down to 0 health in battle will be "unconscious" and not available to be used in subsequent battles unless the caravan camps to allow them to recover. The team (if I understand correctly) wants you to need to be careful in how you conduct your battles and provide a motivation to conserve your units' health.

If you play poorly and several of your units are severely damaged, you won't be able to use them for subsequent battles without halting the caravan. If your caravan wastes time, things become more rough, and you may miss important plot-things. If you try to press on with a crippled army, you'll be less likely to survive the next encounter.

But they don't want to punish the player in such a way as to force perpetual re-loads of previous saves. That's the big flaw with games like Fire Emblem. You lose a well-liked character, replay the battle, lose him (or a different one) re-load, replay, rinse, repeat. It becomes tedious and awful.

Their goal for TBS is to keep you playing the same save file, and just try to figure out how to press on despite having some casualties. After all, those convalescing units will become available again a little while later.

See the distinction?

05-30-2012, 09:59 AM
Wow...I could have posted exactly what you wrote. You've apparently been reading our responses, nice stuff.
On a note not related to combat (hint), there will be perma-death in TBS.
By the way, this is a great thread that I have really enjoyed reading.

05-30-2012, 11:15 AM
Oh word? Thanks, guess I've been reading into certain things wrong.

On that note, I feel that as long as there are real consequences to the actions taken (in battle or out), then I should be satisfied with the experience.

05-30-2012, 11:35 AM
Word! I went in to this totally stoked for perma-death, but I think that the solution the Stoic guys are offering is more elegant. You get the same short-term horror at losing your mans, but now you have a hope that you'll be able to catch up in a little while, just hold out (which promises for an even more tense combat experience, I think) until your heavy hitters/weavers/favorites are back on their feet.

One of the really awesome things I see in games today are the emergent stories that occur in games like Skyrim, in which amazing things happen because of the free-form game design. I'm looking forward to losing, say, all of my varls in some intense engagement in TBS, and then having to play cautiously for a few maps while they recuperate, and I make that last push to the next city with just a handful of axemen and a weaver or two.

Because I know that there's a chance to make it, I'll be less likely to reload my last save. I'll try to keep going, and therefore not miss out on an epic part of the story that I'm creating for my own caravan.


05-30-2012, 12:28 PM
On a note not related to combat (hint), there will be perma-death in TBS.
Halfway through the game, the player character dies and the game becomes an animated movie? :p

06-05-2012, 12:42 AM
Halfway through the game, the player character dies and the game becomes an animated movie? :p

I would not mind that at all :D

06-06-2012, 10:04 AM
Another great post from Oktober, I concur. Lolisauce, we want perma death to be something that had meaning for the player. We don't want the player to lose a main character to some random arrow that they didn't account for. All that would mean is the player would reload the game after combat. In TBS combat will be a battle of attrition of sorts. You DO NOT want to lose a character in a battle because it weakens you for some time to come, but it's not the end of the game for them...keep moving forward, time is of the essence!

06-08-2012, 10:48 AM
So I lose more more less "only" some of my soldiers but not my Main? Will the main participate in the battle, or will the main be like a "watcher" giving orders where the troupes have to move?

That's something I could live with, because in the old days of Strategy Games like Master of Magic, it was more or less the same.

06-08-2012, 11:25 AM
This is something I've been wondering about as well. Whether TBS will follow the Fire Emblem/Shining Force approach of having most of your fighting done by unique, named characters; or if it'll follow the King's Bounty/Heroes of Might and Magic/X-COM approach of you mostly relying on semi-generic, pseudo-anonymous "units" that you'd "hire".

06-12-2012, 02:18 PM
Either way, hopefully they let us name the grunts!

I want my very own varl-Fafhrd and a Grey Mouser to mix it up with some Dredge...

Tsuga C
06-18-2012, 05:40 PM
Now that's a pair of names from the past!

08-12-2012, 02:26 PM
Well I really like what I'm reading here, if your units "die" in battle they may not permadeath, but this will still bear real future consequences! And then, via the storyline proper, you will have permadeath. It's a very elegant compromise between the gamestyles offered so far in games.

What I would love to see in games regarding difficulty, is to have "advanced" gameplay options. So you have the "Easy", "Normal" and "Expert" or whatever as usual, but if you want you can click on "advanced", and tweak and personalize the innerworkings to your liking. This would be especially fitting in games with high replayability.

08-16-2012, 09:22 AM
Really great thread. Difficulty is something we've been talking about for months now and I feel we have some interesting ideas. I can give you some foggy insight by reminding you all that TBS is not a black and white win/lose scenario. There may very well be ways to shame your forefathers and kin by leaving a battle before all enemies are dead so you can both keep the caravan moving AND some of your most valued characters from getting too run down. If you're an advanced player or just trying to keep your viking honor then, by all means, battle to the end and perhaps be rewarded...but remember your characters could possibly be wounded quite severely from the effort.
We're also throwing around the idea, for those that love story but have no interest or skill for turn based strategy, to enable a mode where you may quick play combats and basically leave each one at the earliest possible moment. Sure you may miss out on not only the fun of combat and some plunder, but it would let you concentrate on the story.
A little something for everyone.
Sorry I'm not giving too many details but we're currently laser focused on The Banner Saga: Factions and I'd rather not talk about systems that are still in flux for The Banner Saga: Chapter 1.
We're reading all these threads even if we don't respond as often as we used to.

08-17-2012, 01:03 AM
Thanks Arnie. Right now is probably the most difficult part for most of the fanbase as it's right in crunch time and you've already revealed just about everything that you can until beta drops, yet here we are used to all the constant updates and fiending for more.

I imagine I speak for more than myself when I say that we're just really excited! Hope we're not throwing down the pressure too hard on you guys.

08-17-2012, 04:57 AM
I like the idea of a more story focused "mode". I would probably play the game "properly" for the first time, but after that I think I'd like to see all the different possibilities without sacrificing so much time on the combat.

11-04-2012, 12:20 AM
Arnie, any chance we'll have shared xp among the party, rather than individual xp? (as discussed above)

Fire Emblem, FFT, et al. used individual xp, and I agree that it gets really tedious mid-game. (Especially after new characters join the entourage.)

11-04-2012, 11:24 AM
Given how upgrading units works in Factions, I'd wager that you will have a shared pool of Renown with which to upgrade your units. But there might be story events that give units abilities above and beyond that renown pool, which new units would obviously miss out on - a good encouragement not to let your people die if you can help it!