Suggestion: More Info on Zombie Movements


#1

Current Problem: Zombie intel is extremely short-term, when it’s available at all. Zombie movements are only revealed for the next league. If the zombies aren’t moving, there is no indication when/where they’ll start moving (or how many reinforcements they’ll pick up first).

Current Solution: Brute force recon- check the game as often as possible. Check the game when zombies reach the end of their path. Check the game just before your forces assault a graveyard.

Ultimate Goal: Make it possible to play Blight to nearly optimal levels simply by checking in every 8 hours.

Gameplay Debate: I can see people arguing the current lack of intel on zombies is useful for keeping the game difficult through unpredictability. While technically true, I believe this is the wrong type of difficulty because it lets constant check-ins influence the game more than actual strategy. Let me use an example from one of my current matches:

A large horde is heading for my settlements. Either of those 2 adjacent settlements could be its target. I have a Mountain King in my army, so I can reach Quietspire in time if the zombies head there. The zombies have enough strength that I’m nervous about splitting my army; I want to focus all my defenses on one city. Unfortunately, I won’t know which city they’re targeting until they reach the next league in 4 hours.

The problem? I checked this at 10 PM; I would need to check the game again at 2 AM to know where it’s heading. This leaves me with 2 options:

  1. Choose a city to defend and go to sleep at a decent time, but have a 50/50 chance of losing a city.
  2. Stay up until 2 AM solely to get accurate intel on their target. I’m guaranteed to defend successfully, at the cost of losing sleep.

It’s not a question of strategy; I already know how to guarantee a defense and what steps I would have to take. It’s a question of how much I’m willing to let the game interfere with my schedule. (A friend likened the current state of the game to “constantly being on-call”.)

The randomness of the graveyard spawns (and when the zombies choose to leave) is another ornery thorn best dealt with by brute force recon. You can either send an overwhelming force at it to guarantee victory… or check in just before a smaller force reaches the graveyard and pull them back if the zombies have gotten too powerful. Any threat from the unknown randomness is easily defeated by brute force recon, thus that is the type of play it’ll encourage. This is bad for the game because not only does it drive off potential players who don’t want to devote that much attention to the game, but constantly refreshing the game when something interesting only happens once every few hours is tedious.

Proposed Solution:

  1. Zombies lumbering towards a settlement have their entire path to it revealed, not just the next league. This removes the need to check in every time a threatening horde reaches a travel node. (Zombies affected by move compulsions only have their next league of movement revealed, since their next destination can change based on the compulsor’s movements.)
  2. Display when a graveyard’s next spawn will be, and how large it could be. (Don’t need an exact number, just a maximum possible value.)
  3. If a horde’s gathering at graveyard, display when they’ll start moving, what target they’ll head towards, and what path they’ll take to it.

These 3 changes should give players enough information about zombies to accurately plan ahead 8-12 hours.


#2

I actually really like the unpredictability of the zombie movements. I find it very flavorful, and it adds tension to otherwise mundane moments in the game (such as your example: it’s not a noteworthy battle at all, except for the fact that you don’t know what to defend!).

Doing as you suggest–making the game closer to a perfect-information scenario–reduces risk. That risk is, in my opinion, a large part of what makes this game so enjoyable. Sometimes, you make the right call and save everything. Sometimes, Zombies eat your citizenry. You won’t know which has happened until morning.


P.S. Abandon Forgotten Stone; you’ve got practically no villagers left there so it’s barely worth defending! :wink:


#3

You said you have 2 choices, choose a city for 50/50 chance or get up at 2 to play.

For me the 2am option is not even a consideration, I only have one option, and it never really occurred to me that people would consider 2am an option.

In an early design document for the game there was this idea of a Day Night cycle where the zombies were tougher in the night and weaker in the day. I gave up on the idea because it was never going to work with people in different time zones and whatnot.

But then it occurred to me that the game kind of does have a day night cycle, when I’m sleeping the zombies are more dangerous!

One of the things that is compelling about the real-time side of the game is that every time you alt-tab over to it, there is some new information, something to tweak and fiddle with. Spend some gold, move a unit, cast a spell whatever. I dont really want to make the game less compelling to tab over to all day at work. I know this kind of sux for people who just don’t have time at work or school for this kind of game.

I think perhaps we should consider a more comprehensive turn based mode like Neptune’s Pride has for those people who don’t enjoy, or just can’t check the game regularly. It could even incorporate the SP mechanics of alloying the team to choose how far the turn jump should be!


#4

I’m a former EVE player; there were times I was “strongly suggested” to show up at late-night or crack-of-dawn times for an important defense or attack. And back when I was in college, I could do that. I still feel tempted to do it sometimes, even though I have a job now, and I usually pay for it the next day.

True. The problem is that it relies on real-life behaviors instead of in-game mechanics to implement. The brute force solution to that is to adapt your real-life behavior to the game. And when you’re playing a team game with other players, there’s a pressure to do whatever you can to avoid letting them down.

How could that be transferred to in-game mechanics instead?

Possible Game Mode: Nightfall
A 16-hour window is set for the game. During that window, players can play as normal. During each 8-hour “rest period”, the game still progresses but players can’t view the map or change their units’ orders.

Depends how often you alt-tab to it. Also depends on what you’re tweaking and fiddling with. If it’s simply to tell a unit to claim X Settlement and move on to the next one, it can be rather annoying or humdrum. The main reason it’s interesting is when you see new messages from your teammates. Requests for resources, offers of resources, hashing out gameplans, that’s the heart & soul of Blight. Long-term information & the ability to queue commands shouldn’t hamper the thrill of seeing something new on every refresh if you can figure out how to increase player communication/interaction as well.

As for people who have limited time…

Possible Game Mode: Evening Play
The host chooses a 6-hour window that the match can be played each day. (For example, 5-11 PM EST.) The game can only be played during that window, but time goes 4x as fast (so you fit an entire day in-game into 6 hours in-real-life).

Perhaps, although for all the irritations it can cause, I like the slow-RTS feeling of the game. I would rather focus on adapting it to fit numerous potential schedules.


#5

Yes, it does reduce risk, but it reduces a bad type of risk: the kind that is tied solely to how often you check the game. That means the game’s difficulty is inversely related to how much time you devote to checking on it. This can be bad on both ends of the spectrum: casual players are frustrated by how hard it is if you only check it 3-4 times a day, while hardcore players are disappointed at how easy it is if they check it 20-30 times a day (including in the middle of the night). There are ways to inject uncertainty into the game that doesn’t rely on a player only checking it sporadically to remain uncertain.

(Appendeum: If my army couldn’t travel a league to the 2nd city before the zombies could, then it would be a legitimate in-game risk. However, thanks to the Mountain King, they could cross that league in 6 hours compared to the zombies’ 10.5. Therefore it’s only a risk if I don’t respond soon enough to it, aka any time in the 2-6 AM window I could see where the zombies are heading but still beat them to it.)


P.S. I ended up splitting my forces between the 2 towns because I punched numbers into my calculator and realized the horde’s strength would drop to 3000 in the mountains. Splitting my forces leaves 3500 strength in both towns, and since the number of casualties is similar no matter the size of the army…


#6

Personally, I think zombie hordes are TOO predictable because they always go to the nearest settlement. If you map their routes, you can set up a zombie death trap at one of your fortresses.

I would like more risk/uncertainty, with two different suggestions on zombie movement…albeit making things even worse for the OPs problem:

1) Sometimes target units

At the moment, it is easy to park a unit right next to a zombie horde with total invulnerability - there is no chance the zombies will turn on your unit, they will always go to the nearest settlement. My Dark Witches usually sit between vertices in the heart of the enemy swarm with impunity.

2) Sometimes pick a further away settlement

I like that element of randomness, even though I live by Jay’s rule too - no 2am checks!


#7

I guess I’m relying on an unstated assumption, specifically that I will not be waking up in the middle of the night to manage my armies. As far as I’m concerned, the biological necessity to sleep is as much a “rule of the game” as any that Jay implemented in the actual source code.


(In fairness, this has not always been the case. For those people still willing to show up at all hours, I say let them enjoy it!)


#8

Heh, I actually pondered a similar effect from move speed earlier. Namely, goblins & elves move so fast they require more checking in than other races. Similarly, if you’re fighting zombie elves/goblins, you have to check in more often.

I suspect crowd-control overall will be heavily nerfed soon. It’s a bit absurd how a 200g unit & some mana can indefinitely tie up a horde. (In our last game, I had that murderous 40-Giant stack constantly rooted with a Wizard and 24 mana a day. Not to mention you’ve personally shown how a couple Dragonhelm Knights + Wizards can indefinitely neuter several hordes.)


#9

The problem is I (we?) don’t enjoy that particular aspect. We enjoy the game as a whole, but feel obligated to “show up at all hours” to win or get the highest score feasible. We just don’t have another way of doing the same thing yet.


#10

I am reminded of the idea from roguelikes of optimal play should be fun
http://www.roguebasin.com/index.php?title=Optimal_play_should_be_fun

even if its not 2 am say, what about when its just a few minutes past when you want to go to bed? half an hour? an hour? …
I think for every player there will be a cut off for I should do this even though its not fun
I can also say it removes some of the enjoyment for me when I’m playing worse because I need to sleep - I would like to play at my best (regardless of if my best is bad compared to everyone or brilliant)

I think for the right group of players this would be amazing, I’m unsure how it would work in practice for random groups joining together.
I wonder if each player selecting how many hours and getting the valor cost/bonus, then only allowing the players who’s hour it is would be play would work or if in a 6 player that would be too slow.

Side note - would the admin having a I want to put this game on 10x normal speed work (or some multipliers that make sense)


#11

And you call yourself a game developer? But seriously some gamers are like meth addicts, they are always going to be there at that critical time to make the next move. In fact I did something like this the first few weeks I was playing.

That said…

I think you’re going to have a tough sale here. Certainly an aspect of the game is learning to plan ahead. For me the answer to your situation would have been clear, mainly because I would have made sure to have a CC helping to defend those two towns. Tree Whisperer is one of those cards that lets me sleep at night knowing I’m not going to be attacked.


#12

This actually sums up a lot of my thoughts and concerns on the game very well.
The humans, elves, trolls have cards that can let the player sleep well. (humans=wizard/ houndmaster/ dragonhelm knight, elves=tree wisperers, trolls= bridge witch)
The dwarf, goblin & orc players don’t get to sleep?

To me the solution is adding more cards like those cards (with different trade offs), or weakening them and trying to find a balance around that. I think it will be hard to satisfy both groups at the moment.

I shall make no comment we except for an extract from twitter


#13

Or please prioritize an autopause function. That would allow game creators to designate “sleep friendly” times.


#14

Agreed, I would love telling the game to autopause from midnight to 8 AM nightly.

Also agreed, the combination of an auto-pause and a time accelerator would make it much easier to fit games into different schedules.


#15

somehow missed this earlier. I kind of agree, but I am very concerned at the route it will take. The dancing round using abilities + predicting where the zombies go are kind of the key to why this game is interesting to me. At the moment it feels overpowered to me but I would hate it to lose it as an option - it could accidentally take away so much of the game. I think it depends if you want to leave controlling the zombies in as an option (but make it harder) or make it impossible to fully control (make say 20% of the zombies stick on the original path), and try to add more interest elsewhere.

I really like how hidden away behind the game (for me) is a logic puzzle of how to move the zombies into the precise right locations and make sure they will do exactly what you want including
forcing them to merge into larger swarms.
moving a 5% step to the side to force drag them the way you want.
making sure the shortest path isn’t through the town you are trying to save.
calculating where you will need your knights 24 hours + off to drag them further.
figuring out how to maneuver your troops to take advantage of gaps you can make.
and generally juggling more units than you have dragonhelm knights. (via controlling what the new nearest city will be)


#16

My biggest issue with CC currently is its cooldown is equal to or lower than its duration, which means if you have the mana you can just spam it. Could interesting if you have to be a bit more picky about what you used it on.


#17

This has been a problem for me in a lot of games. If I don’t use any ranged abilities, I almost always have the mana for CC, but since I do use heavy ranged abilities, I very often have to choose between an attack or CC because I don’t have enough mana for both.

Starry, That “hidden puzzle” you refer to is something I enjoy quite a bit out of this game as well.

I think having the amount of knowledge we have now makes sense. You have the troops to defend, but you have to outguess or outmaneuver your opponent to do that, since you don’t have enough for both contingencies (or so you thought). That is a level of strategy and choice and gets a little deeper when you look at other things. Like you eventually noticed, the zombies were going to lose some strength so that you could choose to split your force (I think noticing that and accounting for that is an extra little bit of skill; new players often don’t account for that). Even if we had the squared damage thing in place, you might risk doing that so you can make sure to save your towns. That also goes into Eshal’s comment about planning ahead. You could keep some CC handy for situations like this, or you could split your army (after all, you chose to move them out of that town and to put all of your chips in one pot to begin with). I like to split my army and have a fair amount of ranged attacks nearby (so I either need fewer troops to defend, or so that more troops would survive even with the army split (in the case of the squared damage thing)). These kind of choices happen a lot in real battles and why scouting and frequent intel updates are so important; that army might surprise you in the turn it makes and throws your primary plan out of the water. Maybe they smell all of that iron armor and iron weapons at town A so their instincts turn them to town B because they smell flesh there without all of the iron. This can demonstrate that you should not see their full path because they don’t know it yet either and/or because it is going to change when they reach the fork in the road. That’s were the choice of planning ahead or getting frequent updates can come in. I tend to choose the former rather than the latter.

I’m not looking for perfect realism, but I don’t want omniscience either, which I feel that this is getting very close to. I like the current compromise of knowing where they are currently going at all times (without needing to worry about intelligence blackouts because I don’t have a “scout” or unit or something nearby) but not knowing where they are going after that.


#18

That still leaves the initial problem untouched: that short-term recon encourages constantly checking the game at all hours for optimal play, which turns off players who want to play without feeling like they’re crippling themselves unless they’re constantly “on call”.


#19

Zombies lumbering towards a settlement have their entire path to it revealed, not just the next league

I would concur with this. Since the whole route is mapped out anyway, being given this information would allow players to plan further ahead without sacrificing any strategic depth.
In fact, if any in-game problem can be solved purely by logging on more often or longer, it should probably be removed, as it becomes a very unenjoyable and disruptive part of the game.

Display when a graveyard’s next spawn will be, and how large it could be.

I would consider this one a bit more dubious. Giving an exact number, or even an exact maximum might allow for a bit too much exploiting of the information, as people could send over juuuuust enough troops and know they will win.
Perhaps a set of ranges would be better? Like 1-10, 10-20, 20-50 etc.
Likewise for the next spawn (although that is a bit more subjective i think), but giving a rough estimate would indeed be helpful when you are attacking a graveyard.

I also like the idea of the pause, but it should probably be configurable by an admin or by consensus, as different time zones mean that everyone has their own preferred sleeping times.

EDIT: Interestingly, this also ties right back into the order queuing discussion from a while back.


#20

I feel like the solution here (warning: potentially unpopular opinion incoming) is actually less predictability, not more.

The problem in question is that players are able to gain an advantage by being online 24/7. What if, instead of simply giving everyone that advantage for free (full zombie pathing info), we removed that advantage from the game entirely? Hear me out.


Crazy Proposal

  • Zombie pathing is no longer revealed to players. Instead of the full path, all you get when you click a zombie stack is an indicator of their most recent movement direction.
  • Zombies may (if not otherwise compelled), rarely:
  • Decide to move toward a unit or different settlement (abandoning their current target).
  • Stop between waypoints.
  • Avoid a large army.
  • Walk in a random direction (potentially not towards the closest settlement) for an hour or two.
  • Split up.

What this does is effectively formalize the risk assumed by players who choose to work/sleep rather than gather intel all day every day. There’s no longer an advantage to be gained by waiting until the zombies hit a certain waypoint and checking their next destination. Even if they walk to within half a league of some city, they might still turn around and go kill your spellcasters at any moment. You can’t know their next destination, and therefore everyone takes on the same risk (which I find one of the most compelling parts of the game) of sending their troops to the wrong place and losing ground as a result.