July 26, 2006

Rise of Legends Balance Talks

Bridger's interview can be heard here: http://www.tsncentral.com/ondemand/250706534139/

I was hoping Cookies and Nut would have been more opinionated on some of BHG's responses on how they were going to resolve some of the known balance problems.

One of the most pressing concerns is the Mechanical Spider unit. BHG's solution was to lower the unit's Hit Points by 100. However, the problem isn't that it's difficult to kill, but that it kills much too easily because of their trample damage, and that the unit can be built much too quickly. Also, there's no unit before getting a Large City, besides the Hero units, that can trample except the Mechanical Spider. Not only that, it also does the most trample damage.

What was never brought up was that Giacomo's Augmentation can temporarily increase the Mechanical Spider's HP (I've been using the Doge with the Mechanical Spider, and it still survives quite well). This negates the proposed nerf, and the same problem exists.

The problem with the Mechanical Spider is the trample, and the solution should be to deal with the trample, and not it's hit points. One of the main benefits for BHG is to discuss balance issues with the online community and get their perspective. The reason it's an issue now, is because it wasn't an issue when it was just the MS and BHG balance teams playing each other.

Anyways, it was a good interview, and many issues were covered quite well.

July 24, 2006

Where are we going?

Taking some time to scope things out while reading some posts about RoL, I came up with an epithany. Actually, I came up with an online dictionary, and the word "epithany" came up later...

Ahem. There's always a critic.


If you registered to those sites and actually read through all that, my goodness, you're one dedicated individual!

What caught my attention wasn't the infrequent patches. While I'm on this subject, Big Huge Games doesn't have the luxury that Blizzard has to publish their own games, where they can dedicate all their resources into patching their own games and releasing them to the public as frequently as Blizzard does.

What did catch my attention was a reply showing the lack of support to the modding community. That perplexes me.

Blizzard came out with StarCraft and Battle.net, competitive play aside, I had the funnest time playing all these varieties of mods. Most of them were RPG related mods. Then came WarCraft III, and although I didn't get into it very much, my friends did, and they played more mods than actual versus multiplayer. The online community grew, because you bought a highly acclaimed game, and people around the world made hundreds of mini-games from it. What's not to like about that?

Then a brilliant thinker at Blizzard came up with an idea that, hey, if people are modding our Real-Time Strategy game to make their own Role-Playing Game, why not make one for them? World of WarCraft came to be, and they're raking in the dough.

Here's the rub, whoever's researching what's making money from games aren't gamers. I've seen people spout statistics showing that people buy games for the Single Player, not the multiplayer (of course, if the multiplayer sucks, they won't be buying the game for the multiplayer... duh!). I've heard that the few hardcore online players make up less than 1% of the buying base, or something to that effect.

They probably think:
1. Casual gamers are the bulk of the market.
2. They like explosions, graphics, and music.
3. They don't play online.

I don't know where everyone gets their information, but that's what I always see and hear. So I see all of my favorite genre's get geared toward the casual gamers, balanced toward the casual gamer... casual gamer this, casual gamer that. Hardcore players like me? It's not so bad. We get out of the gaming addiction and end up living normal lives by getting girlfriends, better paying jobs, etc.

Still... it makes me wonder what everyone's thinking. You have a blockbuster company like Blizzard work their way towards the eventual moneymaking game, a MMORPG, from mainly a RTS background. Everyone else? They're moving away from the online community to the confines of single player with no modding?

I remember StarCraft and all the different mods I played online. They were fun. People put a lot of imagination into the games they were able to mod. From one game, you could literally play hundreds of different types of scenarios. I particularly like the Godzilla one. Nowadays, that's all RTS's are... a hero Godzilla beating the crap out of everything, but it's not a modded RPG, it's the current state of our RTS.

July 23, 2006

Rise of Legends

I finally dug in and played Rise of Legends online this weekend. Of course, I was smurfing, but if you're a noob at a game, is it really smurfing?

Anyways, it took me a while to get back into gaming, but personal and technical reasons aside... a lot has changed.

Bridger on his blog http://tales.tsncentral.com/has some good stuff, and there will be a discussion on the balance on Tuesday, which will be interesting.

Here's what I got from it in 3 solid days of playing online. Note, these won't go into much detail.

1. The Mechanical Spider should do hardly any trample damage, or should be slowed down.
2. Research Labs built should only give +1 Research points instead of +2. When you have a Large city, they should give +2 Research points for every new one built. Great city, +3. This will slow down the Vinci gathering bonus just slightly.

Alin -
1. They can't raid early with their initial units while the Vinci and Cuotl can. They can pull off a suprising rush for someone that's not suspecting it, but they really need a raiding ability, as I think they'll end up nerfing the Afreets. Give their berserker mode for their melee guys extra damage to workers, or something.
2. They can't raid later with their air, but that's an overall balance problem.

Cuotl -
1. They don't get Wealth to buy cities and things... and when they do buy things, their units are damaged. The only chance they have are their anti-air air guys that shoot while moving and are ungodly unbalanced, and the slow laser shooting behemoths. Please excuse my inability to name these units. =p
2. Other than than, I don't see using Jaguars or Snakes except for early raiding/defensive measures.

Air Units:
1. Anti-air air units that shoot on the move... bad for the Alin. The Alin don't have that, and they don't get a 2 for 1 deal on turret-like defenses. But why bother when the anti-air air units take down buildings relatively well, and can run away if about to die?
2. I hardly use air-to-ground air units, as anti-air air units are so strong.
3. Raiding is cool, but with anti-air air units, it's too easy to do, and too effective if done right.

Anyways, I'll see what the real experts at this game are saying this Tuesday. As for the 100k tournament coming up... I really need to ask someone to see if I'm eligible or not!

Have fun!

P.S. Where'd this crazy rumor start that I was play-balancing RoL? I had nothing to do with RoL except for mentioning it on my blog and playing the single-player demo.

February 19, 2006

3vs3 Boom Psychology

Coming back from a 7 month break to play RoN:T&P, I've decided to show some of my rusty game playing abilities from today's games. I've already posted the 1vs1 with RTS_sonsi_gu, and this one will be regarding a 3vs3 game where I am positioned in the pocket as the Chinese. You can watch the game here.

Team 1:
El_Capitan (Chinese)
AU_tl (British)
GPU_ALPHA (Aztecs)

Team 2:
ElitE_El_Che (Egyptians)
ElitE_CrAsH_TesT_DuMMy (Inca)

The map is Amazon Rainforest, a typical non-fishing land map with a good amount of Rare Resources and a decent amount of Ruins. El_Che and I am positioned in the pocket opposite each other, while tl is matched with NAOTO, and ALPHA is matched up with CrAsH_TesT_DuMMy.

From knowing tl's abilities, and with him being British against NAOTO's Maya, I knew he wouldn't need much help unless he was doubled. With ALPHA being Aztecs and Ancient Age rushing CrAsH_TesT_DuMMy's Inca, I figured it would be enough to slow him down. My decision early on was to boom, due to the map type, my position, and the Nations my teammates had.

The Rare Resources available made my plan easier to accomplish. Now, rather than going into the game details, I'm going to explain why unprotected booming is safe and effective, as far as this game is concerned. It has more to do with Psychology than ability, as this is perhaps my 5th game in over a 7 month period.

Instead of a typical Military boom order with 2/1/1/2, or 3/2/2/3, where the SCI and MIL lines are researched to get to the next Age relatively quickly; I do an Economic boom order with 1/1/2/2, or 2/2/3/3. The thing with the Chinese, I'm not particularly vulnerable to a rush. Plus, as long as I am one to two Ages ahead of my prospective opponent, which was El_Che, attacking me isn't a viable option.

First of all, when someone gets an Age ahead of you, you can't attack them at that point unless you're ready to, and if you're in III while they're in IV... it's likely you won't be able to hold your position of attack and will get pushed back to military superiority. Secondly, if you are 2 Ages ahead, you still have the military advantage without having to have the 2 Age-Up Military... 1 Age-ahead is sufficient.

Therefore, when I reached Enlightenment when El_Che was just reaching Gunpowder, I knew I'd have enough time to create a sufficient force with the economy I had in case he decided to attack. By the time I reached Industrial Age soon after, he would only have enough time to upgrade his army, while I was already on my way to sack his Capital with a small army of Infantry and Commandos.

I wouldn't say it's all about how the opponent's react, but when someone has a two-Age advantage, attacking seems like a suicidal decision, and booming is the next best thing... but by the time they decide to catch up, it's too late.

Spanish vs. Dutch (Australian Outback)

Spanish is a better Nation. Their strengths are: getting an initial head start by finding Ruins; knowing where to raid the enemy's rare resource merchants; and on sea, displacing enemy fishing boats with their free Heavy Ship(s) from building a dock. Unique Heavy Infantry give them a particular advantage for early assaults from Classical Age to Gunpowder Age.
  • Weakness: Ruins. Unfortunately, their most important strength is also their weakness, since it is a bonus that can be influenced by their opponent's ability to scout.

Dutch is also a better Nation. Their strengths are: getting an early economic advantage; having self-defendable merchants against light raiders; and on sea, being able to influence the enemy's fishing by sending Light Ships (receiving one free for each dock built) to raid. They are particularly strong when left alone early, and should focus on booming when that happens.
  • Weakness: Time. Their economic bonus doesn't help them until they become stabilized in resource accumulation. Their Merchants and Caravans are effective against raiding Horse Archers, but not against Heavy Infantry and Heavy Cavalry. Keeping an army for defensive purposes is necessary, but having not enough or too much can be a detriment.

The showcase game for this article is where I play RTS_sonsi_gu on the Australian Outback. Watch the game here.

The map is Australian Outback, that means the Nations start closer together, and fighting usually begins on the sea. The Spanish have the advantage in the early naval battles, but the Dutch can protect their Rare Resources better from the more constricted land mass. The most important thing for the Spanish is getting their Ruins, as there are half the normal amount there usually is than on a typical land map.

My start begins with a SCI1, COM1, Dock, Market build order since I see that two very good Rare Resources are in my starting area; Silver and Dye. However, I don't put them to much use in this game. I send my free Heavy Ship straight toward my enemy's area, and catch a fair amount of unprotected fishing boats before it gets destroyed. This is the proper way to use the Heavy Ship, as the enemy must go up to Classical Age early to get a Fire Ship, or spend a critical amount of Timber for their own Heavy Ship in Ancient Age to defend against it. Light Ship raiding from sonsi_gu in Ancient Age does not do as much harm, and is easily defended by a Light Ship of my own.

In Classical Age, I build a Barracks first, expecting to defend with a Foot Archer and numerous Heavy Infantry while I prepare for an aggressive assault in Medieval Age. Sonsi_gu, spent too many resources in:
  • Building a Heavy Ship in Ancient Age
  • Building more fishing ships to replace the ones lost from my raiding at sea
  • Classical Age straggle raiding with a Horse Archer and a small army raiding force that gets ambushed by my Heavy Infantry
It would seem as though those resources shouldn't affect the outcome of the game as drastically as it did, but the Spanish on Australian Outback is a force to be reckoned with. Raiding the Spanish isn't as useful as being able to outboom them, and that's what I would have done if the Nations were reversed.

February 08, 2006

What's Sup? Com?

I'm back! Well... kind of.

I've stopped playing AoE3 two months ago, and it will most likely be that I won't ever be playing that game again. I have visited T&P and find that I still enjoy the game and the tight-knit community, but I have too much fish to fry (I'm a vegetarian, so that's definitely a figure of speech). I will clear up my blog if it's worth it in the next month or so... if I decide to come back to the life of strategic gaming. =p

Anyways, I did check out Supreme Commander from a wikipedia and went to Gas Powered Game's new site. It looks interesting, but let's just see how it turns out.

December 20, 2005

Another ES Flaw - Resign Design

In a comment from my ESO2's Poor Design article,
Van- said:
I just checked out ESO2 for the first time and I was baffled. Good god it's no Bnet. Anyway how do you play a ladder game? Or are all games considered ladder games? I played a three minute game where my opponent quit out, but I didn't get a win. Is that intended functionality?
Well, to answer this, there are two ways for a player to play a ladder game:
  1. Game Browser - Host or Join a Game Browser game. As long as there's no Computer player or the Handicap or Cheat is enabled, the game will count as a Ladder game.
  2. Quick Search - Play a Quick Search game, and it will be counted as a Ladder game.
I'm not sure on the exact time, but if a player resigns early enough, the game will not count. This comes as a disappointment for me as 3-5 Quick Search games a day, people cancel as soon as they see that they're playing me. I guess I can take that as a compliment of sorts, but it sure is annoying. As annoying as people who cancel a Matchmaking session when they see that they're getting matched up with a certain civ.

Anyways, the good thing about this feature is that if you get map screwed, you can quit out. However, that's another issue entirely... map generation flaws. But, there are instances of a bug where my vils get stuck on ruins. Again, that's another different issue... fixing known bugs.

As far as I can muster, the reasoning behind the early resign design (wow, I like the ring of that) was likely to prevent "point trading". Point trading was used back in the day when there was a thing called "Ratings". Two people would make new accounts and lose games to get their friend's main account to get it's rating up, and vice versa. However, with AoE3 allowing only 1 account per CD key, that won't happen. And if a person does buy 2 games to get 2 CD keys for 2 accounts to point trade for a rating that doesn't officially exist with another player that does the same thing, then ES just sold 2 extra copies and made more money. Alas, ES didn't think things through because there's no point for 2 people to do that because of this resign design... they just lost money on people with time to burn.

As for Game Browser games being able to be counted as ladder, I don't mind so much. If a person wants to use a civ on a map that favors that civ, then so be it. They still need a victim to fall for it (and there are a plenty). But would I let those type of games count as ladder game? No.

December 19, 2005

French Fast Fortress

While helping a player out, I ended up writing a build order for the French Fast Fortress. Normally I'm too lazy to write such build orders, as there are many players that have shared their own methods. Might as well pitch in:

Method 1: Put all vils on Food, 2 to each hunted animal (reduces number of shots, reloading wastes vil seconds).

1st HC card = 3 coureurs

With your explorer, get easy treasures, and snipe and keep track of treasures with Food or Gold. Get those early if you can.

When you reach about 15 vils, you should be able to go up to Colonial Age. When you do go up, put 3 vils on Gold (you want to make sure you have 300 Gold by the time you get your 700 gold crate from your 2nd HC card), and make sure you choose the 500 Wood politician. So 12 on Food, 3 on Gold.

Concentrate with your explorer on finding hunted animals and treasures, this time go for wood treasures if you see them.

When you get to Colonial Age, you should be able to use your 2nd HC card.

2nd HC card = 700 gold.

Queue 3 vils to put on gold, and have 1 gold vil gather the 500 wood crate. When your 700 gold crate arrives, send all your gold gatherers to gather from it. Go up to Fortress Age and get the 7 Skirms.

Once that's done, build your Stables and 3 houses, or 2 houses and 1 market. I prefer getting the market since I can buy/sell for Wood instead of gathering for it.

When you finish building your buildings, you should get enough xp to get another HC card. Don't wait to use it.

3rd HC card = 4 coureurs.

Place them on gold. So you should have 12 vils still on Food, and 10 vils on Gold. That's good, since when you get to Fortress Age, you can make constant vils while making Cuirassiers.

When you get to Fortress Age, it should be around 6:30 - 6:45 as an average time. Send your Skirmishers ahead to your enemy and cut off their gold supply. You should be able to queue 4-5 Cuirassiers by the time they're fully made.

After fighting, you should get enough xp to use your 4th HC card.

4th HC card = 4 Cuirassiers.

It should be over by then, as you're hurting your opponent's economy while yours is left unhindered. Just cut off their gold, and keep scouting for where their vils are at.

Against another French player, this is the best option to use. Kill off their Stable first, and the game's over. If you see enemy Cuirassiers, build 5 Dragoons. Kill their Skirms with your Cuirassiers (it's better to get the xp from them and that way they can't micro-kill your Cuirassiers).

Method 2: Stay tuned, will write up a 5:00 Fast Fortress strat soon. Either for Mercs or Cuirassiers at the 5:45 mark.