Scepter of Fire: rebalancing?

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dtw
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Scepter of Fire: rebalancing?

Post by dtw » April 8th, 2005, 9:18 am

What is the fun a of a level that can actually be impossible? I have great evidence of a game I played where i really did all i could but ultimately ran out of turns. Some of the following aspects of this level I think warrant a rethink of the whole scenario for two reasons:
  1. it can be frustratingly boring and time consuming
  2. it can be depressingly expensive – i rarely start A Choice Must Be Made with more than 200 – but maybe that is the point? Although with the removal of loyal that may not be so great now.
So, here's the list of “issues�
  1. The map is random
    1. Some enemies leaders have abnormally abundant access to villages and therefore can produce an almost unending supply of troops, this is exacerbated when these leaders are hidden in the farthest reaches of the map.
    2. The random map often creates very serious choke points, combined with point 1 this can be a nightmare
    3. As many people know the placement of the scepter isn't entirely random but the area it lies in may be huge
  2. Upkeep
    1. The number of enemies and sheer size of this level requires a significant force. Due to the high cost of dwarfs it is almost always best to recall dwarf units – however, with the removal of loyal as these units level up they become extremely expensive, you might be looking at at least a 15 gold loss each turn.
    2. Depending on how the map generates you may have access to VERY few villages and due to the high number of enemies you can't go village collecting, you have to stick together
  3. Movement
    1. The dwarves are slow and other units suffer significant movement penalties in caves,. Given the sheer enormity of this level it could take 20+ turns simply to move konrad or lisar to the scepter unopposed. Some simple upkeep math gives you -300 gold with no major delays
    2. Kalenz is a constant burden on this level – his speed of 2 per turn renders him a complete liability – he cannot maintain the pace of the other units. Leaving him behind is ok if you advance along both possible axises but again this bumps up your costs, as does using a rearguard to protect him
    3. Healers – I'm lucky enough to have a quick shyde and a quick white mage but even then they cannot keep pace with the main units. Combined with the lack of villages and the high number of enemies this presents a good tactical challenge but combined with the other factors mentioned here it is another annoying burden
  4. Alignment – it's always dark so chaotic units i.e. the enemy, have a huge advantage. If you skip Isle of the Dead you have no units to recall from there
  5. Bonuses and Penalties
    1. No early finish bonus – understandable due to the hugely variable amount of time needed to find the scepter
    2. You still lose 20% of your gold at the end – talk about insult to injury!
    3. As the previous levels are hardly a picnic either, from Dwarven Doors to this point you are pretty much on the run and losing cash like GW in Iraq. I am lucky enough to have a significant cash pot but this is the first time i have reached this point in such a position
  6. Generally - it can be 8 turns before you even see a village or an enemy – YAWN!
Proposals?
  1. addressing general difficulty
    1. Obviously rebalancing of units is not possible – i would propose no such thing
    2. A better type of random map generation that ensures more predictable placement of villages, thus thinning them out for the enemy and making them more common to the player?
    3. The substitution of Kalenz for a dwarven guide at the end of Plunging into the Darkness until A Choice Must Be Made where he rejoins you (maybe even at home of the North Elves)? He really would be best sitting this one out! Ideally the guide should be from a branch that you can't recruit from and at least level 2, which again makes it a bit more fun. How the hell they find their way without a guide is beyond me anyway!
    4. A smaller map
    5. Only 3 enemy leaders
    6. Less villages period, they only really benefit the enemy after all
    7. Clues incorporated into the map design (unlikely)
  2. Reducing the financial burden
    1. Remove the 20% level completion tax
    2. a reverse completion bonus? A bonus for the turns you took rather than the turns remaining. “But people will wait till the final turn to collect the scepter!� I hear you cry...so the bonus should only be for the turns you take to reveal the scepter – I find it hard to believe that no-one actually says “Look, the scepter!� when it is revealed – at that point the bonus should stop being added and some one should say “Let's grab it and get out of here sharpish!� - taking the long route to the scepter or similar actions to maximise such a bonus on this level would be massively risky – i find it hard to believe that anyone doesn't grab the scepter ASAP anyway! Still have completion tax
    3. bounty – a promise (possibly from your dwarf guide) of gold for each enemy head (bounty gold = killed unit level), this could again cease when you reveal the scepter “We must be quick, we have no more time to waste on collecting troll heads!� - this makes actually killing leaders more worthwhile and generally just adds to the fun! Dunno about completion tax the bounty isn't going to be that huge!
    4. A treasure – possibly in a chest, in the area opposite (East/West) the scepter of fire area, or just a cash horde with the scepter (200 pieces less completion tax is 160 extra on the next level, which is plenty.
Rather than quote each issue/proposal you can refer to them by point :)

philippe
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Post by philippe » April 8th, 2005, 9:52 am

just use 2 teams one dwarven "fast" team and set them in a narrow passage and one slow team who is "hunting" after the scepter,and remember ,this is a good exp map (nice challenge:kill all leaders)
take advantage of it,i did and i still ended up with like 800 goild in test of the clans
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dtw
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Post by dtw » April 8th, 2005, 9:58 am

this isn't a request for tips - these are suggests for altering the scenario - if i wanted tips i owuld have posted in tips - thanks

js138
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Post by js138 » April 8th, 2005, 11:53 am

However what you perceive to be a problem might be down to faulty tactics rather than a bad scenario.

The first couple of times I played this I ran out of time. The next time I came in with not much more cash, but much better leveled units (a fast white mage is very useful for instance, and having replayed from the start I made sure I had one - actually several fast mages can be employed in this scenario). With these you can plow through the hordes of whelps much faster.

That said the randomness of village placement can affect things. One time I had practially no villages in the half of the map I could quickly reach. The next I had about 15 which got me into a positive income state very quickly. A few more tied to each starting castle might mitigate that.

(and should this thread not be in scenario and campaign development?)

stillnotelf
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Post by stillnotelf » April 8th, 2005, 2:46 pm

I REALLY like the idea of the Dwarven guide, I was dissappointed when none of the Dwarves wanted to join as characters. It would be inappropriate to keep him after "A Choice...", but I think giving the characters a higher-level Dwarf (steadfast line?) would improve the cave levels.

I came out of this level with a ridiculously negative gold count; thankfully you don't need too much on the next level.
Usque adeone mori miserum est? After all, there's always a continue...

dtw
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Post by dtw » April 9th, 2005, 10:08 am

i'm sure my tactics might improve but they are far from flawed - i can successfully complete this level without any problems - whether it is in a manner acceptable to me as a plyer is another matter :D

I've now played this scenario around 8 times in a very recent CVS version, where loyal has been removed, and i have played it many times before. I have yet to finish this scenario with 200+ gold and, if the replays weren't all corrupted, I could clearly demonstrate to you that there can't be much more I can do.

My suggestions are based on this experience.

As a last note:
and remember ,this is a good exp map
whoopee - i finish this map with approx 9 level 3 dwarves anyway - i'd happily trade 2 in for 200 gold seeing as they are of little use to me once we leave the caves

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Post by Dave » April 9th, 2005, 3:02 pm

I agree that this scenario is probably a little too difficult.

I think the best improvement is to make it a little smaller.

David
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js138
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Post by js138 » April 11th, 2005, 12:14 pm

Whereas I've finished this scenario with 800+ gold (having started it enough to recruit/recall about 25 units).

Making it a tad smaller would be best (adding time would have much the same effect but it's quite a long slogging match already).

I found I had to mitigate my conservative insticts a bit - trying to keep every unit alive takes a long time - sacrificing one now and then can speed progress up considerably (especially if you can trap overagressive leaders).

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Post by Assasin » April 11th, 2005, 4:38 pm

I've never liked it because it was always random. You don't know for sure who's gonna get the secptar until you see it. Maybe it simply needs to be made smaller, and with less enemy leaders.
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xtifr
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Post by xtifr » April 11th, 2005, 10:39 pm

Assasin wrote:I've never liked it because it was always random.
I like the randomness; it really makes this one of the most interesting scenarios in HttT, IMO. On the other hand, I agree that it can be a little too random at times, especially when it comes to village placement. If you don't have enough villages near your starting location, it becomes all-but-impossible, and if you have too many villages nearby, it becomes too easy. The placement of the scepter can also be too random. I've played where it was quite close and easy to grab, and I've played where it was essentially impossible to even spot (let alone grab) within the time limits.

I think this scenario should be hard; it's the center of the whole story, and one of the two most important scenarios in the campaign (the other being, of course, BfW). I would experiment with toning down the randomness (and thus eliminating both the easiest and hardest variants) before making any more drastic changes. But it is followed up by some relatively easy scenarios to help you recover and regroup a bit. I think if you make SoF easier, you have to make the following scenarios a little harder to keep the balance.
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Shade
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Hi

Post by Shade » April 11th, 2005, 10:51 pm

Hi,

I've been working on this leg of HttT. In the .8.11 to .9.0 timeframe I did a lot of changes to HttT (These should be transparent to players, they were mostly cleanups.) Since the string freeze has lifted I'm back on to tweaking and re-tooling.

Now what i have resolved to do for Sceptre, and the Lost General is to make the maps smaller. In the case of the Lost General it was because dirt was being used (and that was bugging me) to make elves quicker and have better defence, AFAIK.

I've worked out a Dwarven subplot that integrates the mystery chest (From that stretch of scenarios), and will reveal a little of the shroud immediately around the Sceptre...

Oh, and if you think that Sceptre is hard now back before my difficulty tweaking the AIs were getting 40+ income on medium and 80ish on hard... That is quite a bit lower now... (Back when I was a n00b I recall thinking, "Wow this is Hard". Now I know why...
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Post by Assasin » April 12th, 2005, 12:37 am

Can't wait for the next version to come out!
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dtw
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Post by dtw » April 12th, 2005, 10:55 am

glad people can see some scope for my suggestions anyway

i have to say i like the leave kalenz at home and get a guide idea!

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Post by scott » April 12th, 2005, 12:32 pm

Assasin wrote:I've never liked it because it was always random. You don't know for sure who's gonna get the secptar until you see it. Maybe it simply needs to be made smaller, and with less enemy leaders.
It wasn't always random. Back then, once you played it you knew exactly where to go to get it. The problem was you had one cavern completely fill up with L2 trolls and the other was full of orcs and goblins you had to completely hack through to get to the sceptre with 2-4 villages to support you. It was like digging out of prison with a spoon. Knowing that the sceptre is down one of two forks with each fork being managable with the gold you have at the time is much better. Having it be like an open-ended adventure I think is a nice change of pace.
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Re: Scepter of Fire: rebalancing?

Post by Jetrel » April 12th, 2005, 4:49 pm

dibblethewrecker wrote: Kalenz is a constant burden on this level – his speed of 2 per turn renders him a complete liability – he cannot maintain the pace of the other units. Leaving him behind is ok if you advance along both possible axises but again this bumps up your costs, as does using a rearguard to protect him.
Actually, I don't think it would be out of line to make an exception with him in terms of his movement in the caves, but then - perhaps we need to reexamine the entire situation with elves in caves?

That is - I can understand them getting bad defence, and going slow in areas of rubble, but going slow everywhere is a little harsh. If we were going to impose such a penalty, I would make it only to 3/4 movement speed, not 1/2 movement speed (of course, this is not possible).

It would be nice if we could expand the terrain selection up from what it is - right now we just have cave floor, and, uh - cave floor. There had been a project to do this, back in the day, but it sorta petered out.

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