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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: Does Factions need engagement incentives?

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    Junior Member Esth's Avatar
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    Does Factions need engagement incentives?

    So, I know this topic will be controversial, I don't even know if I want it. Basically I think it is probably optimal for two skilled players to get in a good formation and pass until the other makes a mistake and moves forward, at least in some situations. This generally is not a problem because turtley players tend to be less skilled and with the advantage of first strike a good player will win anyway, but if 2 tournament players really want to play to win I think it will happen. This is because there is no reason to attack in Factions. There is no mid-map objective to take to incentivize a player into taking the first move. Really, this has been a good thing so far. It is hard to create such a scenario without granting an advantage to the first player, limiting game length, or having an objective that only matters at the end. Still, I think that in the future stalemates may become common, or at least leaves room for griefers to force a concede. Discuss? I really don't know what, if anything, should be done about this.

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    I think it does (need engagement incentives).

    For two reasons, the first related to the math of the game, the second to its widely accepted enjoyment: (1) As you say, when the two opponent skills & builds & formations are even, then the "first hit principle" fundamentally applies; meaning that, whoever gets first hit (be it AB or STR), usually has an advantage. (2) Not engaging, e.g. turtling & waiting, kinda delays the matches and annoys casual players who are more interested in mid- and end-game, i.e. head-banging w bloody axes and the like

    So, there have been some proposals that would help teams engage faster. I'll just name a few, not claiming its my own ideas.
    • Smaller maps, e.g. like the Wall one -- The problem is that the (randomly chosen) player-who-acts-first might get a big advantage.
    • Start match with some bonus WP that disappears after the first round -- That way, you have some free WP to spend, particularly aimed for exerted movement, that you will lose if you advance slowly, not attacking etc -- The problem is how to seamlessly introduce this new mechanic. We could use the existing Horn, starting with it full and having it deplete by one point at each turn you take.
    • Give a bonus to movement-range, when starting off far from enemy units -- The problem is to establish clear rules for this type of exerted movement. On the bright side, clicking on units reveals their movement range, so you'll know it in any case. Some other grid-based games (e.g. Card Hunter) have a similar mechanic, where walking by an enemy-occupied tile "slows down" or "terminates" your movement.
    • Overhaul initial deployment. For example, you could deploy your units one-at-a-time (or in pairs or triplets) taking turns with your opponent, so that both see each-other. You might start with your Varls or your first-to-act, according to the preset initiative. We could also open up the entire map for deployment. -- Obviously, all these are very big changes, that profoundly affect the existing strategies & metagame...
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 11-02-2013 at 04:39 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    I don't think that it needs engagement incentives with the current set of units. I'm pretty sure that with perfect play, turtlers should always lose - because they'll concede the first hit advantage.

    The only exception is what you might call 'snapping turtles' where the player forms a turtle, lures the opponent in, then breaks out of the turtle to take the first hit. It's technically not turtling at that point (because the unit will be exposed).

    I'd distinguish both from the highly positional play where each side manoeuvres for an advantageous first hit. The manoeuvring takes a little while, but it usually shortens the mid-game and late-game. If it goes on for a really long time, it probably indicates a problem with each side's build more than anything.

    That said, the proving grounds map can be a bit of pain...not so much because of turtling, but because it can take forever to move units into place to engage each other, even with two players who are keen to fight.

    This will likely change with the new classes - the hunter and landsman classes in particular look like they'll shift the metagame on turtling.

    Anyway, are we so sure that casual players are interested in mid-game and late-game to the exclusion of early-game? Whom do we class as a casual player?

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wordplay View Post
    I don't think that it needs engagement incentives with the current set of units. I'm pretty sure that with perfect play, turtlers should always lose - because they'll concede the first hit advantage. The only exception is what you might call 'snapping turtles' where the player forms a turtle, lures the opponent in, then breaks out of the turtle to take the first hit. It's technically not turtling at that point (because the unit will be exposed).
    lol Yeah, the "snapping-turtle" technique is what I had in mind as potentially OP. From my pov, the only way to beat it (and assuming the opp knows what he's doing), is to come up with a relative unit order (and deployment) so that your breakers act (and engage) right after opp's breakers. For instance, you=[2SM 2BM 2RM] -vs- opp=[2RM 2SM 2BM], and you arrange to engage with your RMs. This effectively reduces the life-cycle of opp's breakers by one round (or forces his BMs to waste precious WP on AB, or chance-shots).

    Quote Originally Posted by Wordplay View Post
    This will likely change with the new classes - the hunter and landsman classes in particular look like they'll shift the metagame on turtling.
    I'm not sure how Hunter will eventually turn out because, from what we've seen, he's definitely too OP for Factions! Walking up through already-engaged high-STR allies, to give them one more attack is... frightening! On the UP side, with his ability relying on allies being in-range, it's practically useless when pillaged -- similarly to FA.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wordplay View Post
    Are we so sure that casual players are interested in mid-game and late-game to the exclusion of early-game? Whom do we class as a casual player?
    Judging from my early experience (note: I started out as 100% casual, and I consider myself still ~50% casual), I really liked mid/late game! I used to dash straight in with 2RMs for one big 6AB, followed up by 2BMs for a puncture/archer-maim/extra break, finishing it with 2WHs. It was usually decided by who made clumsy mistakes. Good matches went to close archer-archer standoffs and matches lasted 12-15mins, max.
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 11-03-2013 at 11:13 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    Agreed on countering snapping turtle. It will be much easier to counter if you have support units - strongarm or warleader. Backbiter might be a soft counter under certain scenarios, and raidmaster could also be useful - push him into range with a strongarm.

    Another possible counter might be to try and push the opponent into a corner. All much easier said than done.

    The main strength of the landsman in turtling, as I see it, is that if your opponent wedges you with their positioning, they can still move through your own units.

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    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    There's been enough feedback for me to consider that camping is and can be a real problem to the game. I mean the good thing is, majority of the time and thankfully in the higher levels of play players have been good mannered enough to not be wusses to do turtling or snap turtling to the extreme.

    I chalk this up to elements of the game design which creates natural openings/incentives to attack, good player manner, and player experience.

    However, it still does occur to me that there is a potential advantage (which we could verify easily through tests) for players waiting and baiting. There's just so much of a positional advantage when you can form a strong position and wait, compared to having to charge and have your front line sync up with your back-line keeping up.

    Even mechanics which make attacking easier (aggressive RM positioning) also happen to be the same tools at a turtles disposal (who would use less willpower because they can rest/not move).

    The issue with introducing map objectives is that this could tip the scale of the match too early, leading to pre-determined outcomes and play just going through the motions until a decided conclusion.

    To keep things variable, I think allowing an attacking player to gain position more easily would be the way to go. Or well, anything which you do want both players to fight over on an exchange basis (i.e. not a single claim).
    Last edited by raven2134; 11-03-2013 at 11:02 PM.

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    Superbacker netnazgul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raven2134 View Post
    To keep things variable, I think allowing an attacking player to gain position more easily would be the way to go.
    We now have a character who benefits from not moving (archer and puncture). What if we bring a character whos ability will do the opposite? First thing that comes in mind is cavalier/champion who gets +5% damage per sqare covered before attacking.
    If you don't know where to put it - put it in the pillage

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    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    Engagement incentives would certainly make things more explosive early, which I'm sure many people will have mixed opinions on. In my opinion, I'd like to have an alternate mode of play that introduces them, but still have the completely straightforward basic battles with only routing the enemy as your objective.

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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raven2134 View Post
    The issue with introducing map objectives is that this could tip the scale of the match too early, leading to pre-determined outcomes and play just going through the motions until a decided conclusion.
    What map objectives did you have in mind? Like tiles that give benefits to whoever occupies them?

    Quote Originally Posted by netnazgul View Post
    We now have a character who benefits from not moving (archer and puncture). What if we bring a character whose ability will do the opposite? First thing that comes in mind is cavalier/champion who gets +5% damage per square covered before attacking.
    Very interesting, thought I'd say more like +1STR per-1tile or per-2tiles.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoliSauce View Post
    Engagement incentives would certainly make things more explosive early, which I'm sure many people will have mixed opinions on.
    I agree. As you say, it might fall better as an optional case. However, these "optional battle modes" segment the playerbase which is an issue on itself.

  10. #10
    Superbacker netnazgul's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aleonymous View Post
    Very interesting, thought I'd say more like +1STR per-1tile or per-2tiles.
    damn, self-editing made the message unreadable
    I've meant Heroes of Might and Magic III unit, Cavalier/Champion (from Castle towns).
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  11. #11
    Junior Member Esth's Avatar
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    A unit like that would be better implemented with bonus damage for distance between start and end than actual tiles covered. Sill, one unit that won't (and shouldn't) be in every build isn't an answer if you really think this is a problem.

  12. #12
    Superbacker LoliSauce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Esth View Post
    A unit like that would be better implemented with bonus damage for distance between start and end than actual tiles covered. Sill, one unit that won't (and shouldn't) be in every build isn't an answer if you really think this is a problem.
    It wasn't just a suggestion to counter another unit, but more of a suggestion to put in more units that benefit from offensive moves than setting up defenses and remaining stationary. As it is, there aren't many units that benefit highly from offensive action that can't also benefit defensive turtling, making the safer option gel best with most of the current cast. Balancing that out with some more units that benefit more from offensive action could give more motivation to play in other styles.

  13. #13
    Senior Member roder's Avatar
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    I definitely agree with engagement incentives. Not sure if you can make it inherent in the current gameplay mechanics, or you'd have to introduce other variables.

    I don't agree that turtle-y players are less skilled, playstyle doesn't dictate skill level, and in fact skilled turtle players are the hardest to beat.

    As everyone likes to compare this game to chess, Chess has a lot of engagement incentives, or objectives. The most important thing in chess is to control the center, that is one objective. As for engagement, gaining tempo or initiative, is basically gaining momentum over your opponent. The person on the offensive usually forces the opponent into defensive, or forces them into a counter-offensive in which both players are trying to kill each other as fast as possible instead of trying to block each others offense.

    I wouldn't mind an alternative objective mode, where there are other objectives on map to promote engagement and movement. It also depends on unit types, there are, IMO, more defensive-formation units than offensive units. Archers promote staying back, Shieldmasters promote defensive formation, and raider shieldwall makes units stick together rather than promoting movement. If there were more backbiter-esque units, you'd see a lot different style of games.

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    Superbacker StandSure's Avatar
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    I haven't encountered very many turtle players in my experience. Is this a big problem? Maybe a tournament issue, since I don't play there.

    It seems to me that there are a lot of units that can attack a turtle effectively...SA comes to mind in a big way, especially promoted. WM can do a big damage to huddled units with his ability...WH even worse if he can do a Tempest that double-hits and double-shocks neighboring units. As already mentioned, BB can at least get to the back lines. Any of the archers can sit back and hit. SRM can literally break up a turtle. TS can afford to put himself in harm's way and still be threatening. Heck, I could see a RM using his ability to safely move around a clump of units.

    I would think that the incentive is to get kills, which already translates to the only real valuable asset in the game - Renown. There is no bonus to keeping the most units alive, only getting the most kills. There is no one unit to protect (the chess king), nor does territory matter. Is turtling really an effective way to get kills? If it's not, should we be worried?
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    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodereve View Post
    As everyone likes to compare this game to chess, Chess has a lot of engagement incentives...
    Also, half the units in the chess army can only move in one direction... Forward! And they have a very good motive for that. They can become Knights or Queens!

    Quote Originally Posted by StandSure View Post
    Is turtling really an effective way to get kills? If it's not, should we be worried?
    I see it more as an annoyance. I know that this match is gonna take longer than normal, almost two rounds to actually engage, versus one round if both are moving forth. Also, as rodereve said, skilled turtlers are really difficult to beat.

    Apart from turtling another similar and equally annoying strategy is moving one step forward then one back, or moving sideways. The psychological play is the same -- Waste time and frustrate the opponent into opening up to engage you, while you're sitting comfortably in the back with all your units cross-covered.
    Last edited by Aleonymous; 12-03-2013 at 04:20 AM. Reason: typos
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    Senior Member roder's Avatar
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    Well, its not always hard turtling (basically just not moving), its more often soft turtling, which is essentially just shuffling around units but around the same vicinity, like Aleo said, moving forward then backwards or sideways. Re-shuffling your formation is always present in every game, but I've played some games where we just shuffled for 5 minutes before any action occurred lol You can understand how some players would find that frustrating, non-engagement is a bit boring too.

    I have to admit that was one quality I hated when I first started, but I don't mind it as much anymore, its sort of like shuffling back and forth until your opponent moves up too far or makes a weak point in formation, similar to how football (soccer) is where they just pass the football around until someone slips up or passes through. But other players will mind, especially newbies. The tactic is particularly effective against new players actually, because many just move a unit too far ahead of their team, and it becomes a target. Just turtle and wait for them to advance their units.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Wordplay's Avatar
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    The tactic is particularly effective against new players actually, because many just move a unit too far ahead of their team, and it becomes a target. Just turtle and wait for them to advance their units.
    I think a more effective tactic against new players is aggressive all out attack. They will walk a Warhawk right up the coals in the Mead Hall, use Bloody Flail on Shieldbangers, including Shieldmasters with a Return the favour active, and prioritize taking down a crippled Varl over a well placed archer, or a full strength raider.

    Sure, you'll create lots of openings with an all out attack, but the new player won't know how to capitalize on them. Even if they do, you can generally rely on them to make enough mistakes that it doesn't put you too far behind.

    Turtling can be positively benevolent against beginners, as it gives them some time to get used to the interface, and maybe gives you time to give them a few hints, and answer some of their questions. They'll usually still lose, unless you throw the game, but they may get more out of it.

    Then again, I suppose I've always favoured fast, aggressive builds and tactics. I would also say that my positional play is sub-par, and it's the thing that really lets me down when playing the veteran players. Generally, it's 5 mins of me trying to establish position, failing, and conceding advantage. I can think just enough moves ahead to appreciate the fatal blow that puts me behind, but not quite far enough to stop it.

    At this point...I suspect I may not be a good enough player to know whether we need more engagement incentives or not - but I'm pretty sure that it's not a problem for novice vs novice, or novice vs expert.

  18.   Click here to go to the next staff post in this thread.   #18
    Developer raven2134's Avatar
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    I would say it could be an issue novice vs novice. The minute a novice picks up that they can wait and take it to the extreme by turtling it becomes no fun for the other player.

    Granted, just as many novices complain that first strike wins...but I think I'd rather have more people complain about first strike than people turtling.

  19. #19
    Senior Member roder's Avatar
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    Well in terms of engagement incentives, I was thinking that there would be some objectives on the map. Possibly they'd appear as items on the map, they'd be on squares in the center area, to promote movement of both sides towards each other. This is pretty far fetched, but i'll put it out there

    Scroll of Wills: Would give +1 willpower bonus to whichever unit lands on this square first. On a randomized center square, to avoid one side always getting closer distance or formations being placed near known squares. Disappears after first (5) turns.

    Shield of Strand: Whichever unit is standing on this square gains +1 armor, unless they move off it or are pushed off.

    Pilgrim's Horn: Would give +1 willpower on the horn of whichever player lands on this square first. Appears during the middle of the game. Disappears after (3) turns only.
    -at first I thought this item would be too good, but its double edged. you might have to send a unit far off to obtain it, which would make it out-of-action. also one turn of moving is one turn of not damaging, which is important during mid-game.


    And of course, there should be more terrain squares as environmental obstacles, also promoting player movement to use it as an positional advantage. Fire terrain, Tundra terrain that act like RoA traps, Acid Rain terrain that dissolves -1 armor.

  20. #20
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by roder View Post
    Scroll of Wills, Shield of Strand, Pilgrim's Horn
    Interesting proposals, that +bonus to stats; they also seem relatively easy to implement. The terrain diversity is also interesting. Presently, we have just obstacles and coals. Other negative-effect tiles would flavor up the map, i.e. penalizing movement, doing damage, potentially limiting LoS of archers (?). Another idea would be giving a extra active/passive ability to the unit occupying the tile, but that starts to sound unbalanced

    Anyway, the main point is to have a symmetry/fairness to those map-objective positions. For instance, note how the minimum tile-gap between the deployment zones is an even number (4 or 6). That means that if the bonus-tiles are in the middle, they're bound to be closer to one player or the other. If the gap is odd (5 tiles), it doesn't help either because the first-to-play gets an advantage. Perhaps always place two such objectives, one for each player?
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